Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Environmental Resources & Policy
The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate, and cities are dominantly and increasingly becoming hubs for agglomerations of human population and economic activities, as well as major sources of environmental problems. Accordingly, humanity′s pursuit of global sustainability is becoming increasingly reliant on urban sustainability. Unfortunately, the traditional approaches of urbanization and urban stormwater management are inappropriate from the sustainability standpoint. By removing vegetation and topsoil and creating impervious structures, urbanization destroys natural biodiversity and hydrological processes. As a result, urban societies are disconnected from nature and deprived of ecosystem services including flood control, fresh air, clean water, and natural beauty. Due to disrupted hydrology, an urban landscape transforms most rainwater into stormwater runoff which is conveyed off the site through a system of curb-gutter-pipe, called gray infrastructure. While gray infrastructure efficiently mitigates the problem of flash floods in urban areas, it results in multiple other adverse environmental consequences such as loss of freshwater from urban landscapes, transfer of pollutants to receiving waters, and an increased potential of downstream flooding. Green infrastructure (GI) is regarded as a sound alternative that manages stormwater by revitalizing the natural processes of soil, water, and vegetation, and restoring ecosystem structures and functions. Thus, the approach re–establishes the lost socio–ecological connectivity and regenerates ecosystem services. However, despite being inevitably important for urban sustainability, and despite being the object of unrelenting expert advocacy for more than two decades, the approach is yet to become a mainstream practice. To widely implement GI, cities need to address two critical challenges. First, urban stormwater managers and decision makers should be ensured that the approach can adequately and reliably manage stormwater. In the time when flooding problems are rising due to climate change, this concern has become more prominent. Second, if there exist any other barriers, they should be replaced with strategies that help expedite the use of GI. This multidisciplinary research dealt with these two challenges. The study consisted of two major parts. In the first part, a computer model was developed for a combined sewer system of St. Louis, a city in the US state of Missouri, using U.S. EPA SWMM. Simulations for historical (1971-2000) and future (2041-2070) 50-yr 3-hr rainfall scenarios were then run on the model with and without GI. The simulation results showed a significant impact of increased precipitation on the system, which was considerably reduced after adding select GI measures to the modeled system. The following 4 types of GI were used: bio–retention cell, permeable pavement, green roof, and rain barrel. In the second part, a survey of relevant policies and governance mechanisms of eleven U.S. cities was conducted to identify potential barriers to GI and determine strategies to address them. The study also included the assessment of relevant city, state, and federal policies and governance structures. A total of 29 barriers were identified, which were grouped into 5 categories. Most of the identified barriers stem from cognitive barriers and socio–institutional arrangements. A total of 33 policies, also grouped into 5 groups, were determined to address the barriers. The investigation on governance revealed that current governance is highly technocratic and centralized, and hence has less opportunity for public involvement. Therefore, it is inherently inappropriate for GI, which requires extensive public involvement. This dissertation proposes a two–tier governance model suitable for implementing GI.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.