Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Future of Water: Trends in Local Water Sustainability Practices

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 3:30 PM
Gautier (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sung-Wook Kwon and Daniel Bailey, Texas Tech University
The need to implement sustainable development practices is becoming more and more important to ensure the continued social and economic success of most regions in the United States.  Threats from increasing temperatures and erratic climate patterns stemming from climate change, as well as economic competition pressures from outside the United States require that public officials turn their focus to enhancing efficiency and natural resource protection.  In fact, in many ways local governments are at the forefront of developing sustainable economic and development policy.  Cities like Austin, Denver, Portland, and Seattle have established progressive, future-oriented development policies that will allow them to grow in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner possible.  However, as some scholars have found, most cities in the United States have not formed nor implemented comprehensive sustainability policies; they are ad hoc at best and do not include social equity in the sustainability equation (Saha and Paterson 2008).  The impact of this haphazard and inconsistent implementation of sustainable practices has been enhanced by the extreme drought under which a large portion of the United States is suffering. Under these drought conditions, a number of natural resources are affected, the most critical of which is water.  Water is necessary for both sustaining human activity, in general, and economic growth, specifically.  Without a reliable source of water, human society cannot thrive and, in turn, economic development cannot prosper.  This study, then, addresses the variation in the implementation of water conservation/sustainability practices in municipalities across the United States.  More specifically, we hypothesize that four critical factors will affect the level to which municipalities conserve their water supplies.  First, cities suffering under drought conditions will be more likely to implement conservation policy.  Second, those cities whose leaders view environmental protection as a policy priority will be more likely to support increased water conservation.  Third, cities operating under council-manager forms of government are more likely to adopt water sustainability practices than those using other forms of government.  Fourth, those cities with greater financial resources will be more likely to support water conservation policies.  We test these four hypotheses using an enhanced ICMA Local Government Sustainability Polices and Programs survey from 2010.  Our initial findings from four logistic regression models and one ordered logistic regression model indicate that drought conditions, viewing the environment as a priority, and form of government influence how municipal leaders respond to questions concerning aquifer conservation, water reuse, limitations on impervious surfaces, and water price structures.  Interestingly, financial resources do not seem to matter in water conservation decisions for local officials.