Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1393–1400 | Cite as

Adaptive exchange of capitals in urban water resources management: an approach to sustainability?

  • William D. ShusterEmail author
  • Ahjond S. Garmestani


With water availability increasingly restricted by deficiencies in quality and quantity, water resources management is a central issue in planning for sustainability in the Anthropocene. In this paper, we first offer a definition of sustainability based on the ease with which capitals (e.g., natural resource, social, cultural, financial, etc.) can be exchanged or substituted, and apply this to urban water resources management. We then examine barriers to the free exchange of capitals that can hinder the realization of sustainable water resources management and show how these barriers may be recognized and reduced through targeted data collection campaigns that are used to inform adaptation strategies. Next, we discuss the possibility of internalizing costs previously externalized to the environment (e.g., combined sewer overflows) through the cultivation of green infrastructure as a generator of ecosystem services, and discuss its pertinence to sustaining the contemporary urban water cycle. Finally, we contend that there will be opportunities to use monitoring data and interpret it in a way that is meaningful for governance and the benefits of gray and green infrastructures arranged in a hybrid fashion. This conclusion underscores the relationship between data that is brought together with social and governance capitals to unleash the potential widespread implementation of green infrastructure, and in support of a governance-level bridge between aging and new infrastructure.


Sustainability Water resources Exchange of capitals Adaptive management Green infrastructure 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (Outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Office of Research and DevelopmentU. S. Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA

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