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Stormwater Management as a Tool for Urban Greening

New research supported by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the National Science Foundation demonstrates how local stormwater management efforts can contribute to wider environmental protection work. Managing stormwater is an important task for cities as runoff from heavy rain can cause flooding and pollute waterways if not managed properly. So how do water managers — such as engineers, public works employees and others who make decisions about water — choose among different stormwater options? In the new study, researchers from the Luskin Center for Innovation, UC Davis, Kent State University and Colorado State University surveyed 185 stormwater professionals from Cleveland, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado, to find out. The researchers identified two main types of water managers: “traditional technocrats” motivated by human-centric priorities, such as property value, aesthetics and recreation, and environmental “champions” who favor urban greening projects such as rain gardens, which can replenish groundwater supplies, among other benefits. This distinction can be useful to policymakers who want to advance urban greening goals through stormwater management. “Cities often use stormwater management regulations as an entry point for broader greening goals, leaving on-the-ground decisions about how that happens to professionals,” said lead researcher V. Kelly Turner, co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. “This indirect approach to land management is more likely to be effective if water professionals prioritize urban greening.” The study was published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

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