Abstract

Integrated water management (IWM) is widely regarded as a key strategy in achieving a variety of urban sustainability goals. Despite the promise of this strategy, however, uptake of IWM practices has generally been slow. A central reason for this lies in the divergence of action recommendations in the literature and actual water management praxis. In this paper, we explore how action taken by governments relate (or not) to IWM dimensions found in the literature. We do this by combining a corpus of actions taken by local governments in Arizona with a systematic review of the IWM literature. More precisely, we identify a confined set of IWM action dimensions particularly relevant to current praxis and apply these to water management practices reported by local governments in Arizona. We find that governments in the state systematically use IWM strategies to complement or enhance traditional water management approaches. Uptake differs across management spheres in terms of magnitude and form and is informed by contextual characteristics. Overall, our study indicates that transition may be guided by bottom-up experimentation, context-sensitive selection, and incremental change. This is in contrast to how IWM is often understood in the literature – as sharp shift and break with old traditions.

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