Date of Award:

6-2-2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Advisor/Chair:

Douglas Jackson-Smith

Abstract

Much of the past research and policy analysis on issues of western water has focused on inter-basin river agreements, large infrastructure that captures and distributes water, and conflict between agricultural and urban water demands. My dissertation asks a set of different questions:

How is water governed and managed within communities of Utah?

How are the organizations that manage water responding to changes in population, water availability, and water quality policy?

The answers to these questions are essential for understanding the ways in which changes to water quantity and quality will be addressed in the present and coming years. To better understand the ways in which local water management organizations, including irrigation groups and municipalities, manage water in Utah, I conducted three major types of research activities. First, in 2013, I attended 18 meetings of local water management organizations and conducted 18 interviews of organization representatives that managed water within the Heber and Cache Valleys of northern Utah. In 2014, I built upon the knowledge learned in the 2013 observations and interviews, and conducted an online survey of stormwater managers throughout the state of Utah. To build upon survey responses, I then conducted 30 follow-up interviews of stormwater managers that represented municipal stormwater programs. This research was funded with a combination of support from the National Science Foundation’s iUTAH EPSCoR project (iutahepscor.org) and funds from the Utah Storm Water Advisory Committee, a group that represents municipal stormwater programs at the state level.

My findings suggest that local water management organizations are already responding to growth and expansion in urban land use, rising uncertainties in water supplies, and shifting responsibilities for stormwater governance and management toward local governments. To cope with these changes, organizations are using a combination of strategies, including working with private consultants and collaborating with one another. With increasing pressures from environmental change and added responsibilities through decentralized water policies, it is expected that these adaptive strategies will persist or even spread to other local water management organizations yet to take on these behaviors.

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