Of floods and droughts: The uneven politics of stormwater in Los Angeles

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Stormwater is a complex political and geographical problem. It is at once bound to land-use decisions, tied to geographical features such as lakes and rivers, and capable of flowing across different political boundaries and jurisdictions. In this paper, I empirically focus on how disparate understandings of stormwater are forged through different institutional arrangements and the ways multiple actors interact across scales of governance in Los Angeles. The results indicate four discourses influence decisions on urban stormwater management and are articulated through different forms of knowledge and power in environmental governance. The discourses diverge over contrasting perspectives on infrastructural interventions, the role of economic approaches, and the need for new institutions and rules. I suggest that disagreement may not deter integration and collaboration across different scales of governance, but without addressing conflict over key discursive claims about how stormwater governance should proceed, broadly accepted outcomes may remain elusive. With current trends in environmental governance moving towards hybrid forms that bring together groups that transcend traditional organizational structures, this paper reveals how more sustainable outcomes are being devised through current configurations of knowledge and power.




Cousins, J. J. (2017). Of floods and droughts: The uneven politics of stormwater in Los Angeles. Political Geography, 60, 34–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.04.002

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