Governing Risk, Reuse, and Reclamation: Water Pollution Control and New Water Resources in the Southwestern United States
AuthorOrmerod, Kerri Jean
AdvisorBanister, Jeffrey M.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe potential to supplement the potable water supply with highly treated municipal wastewater, or sewage, is of increasing interest to water managers and planners in many parts of the world. Seen as an option of last resort as recently as the late 1990s, today engineers commonly consider potable water reuse projects to be as safe as, if not safer than, conventionally sourced drinking water supplies. Nevertheless, only a few cities across the world intentionally augment drinking water supplies with highly treated wastewater. The objective of my dissertation is to examine the governance of potable recycled water planning to better understand how potable recycling projects emerge as a water management strategy. Political aspects of planned potable reuse are often recognized, and even lamented by water planners and industry experts. However, there is a paucity of research that empirically analyzes the political aspects that influence public decisions on potable water projects. This study asks: how are potable water projects made, shaped, and frustrated? To examine the governance arrangements of this emerging water management strategy this research project considers three critical issues: (1) public values and social pressure, (2) the political, legal, and institutional contexts, and (3) the role of subjectivity in defining facts, themes, and solutions. As part of this study I use Q Methodology to explore shared attitudes regarding the principles that should govern the future of planned potable reuse. The overall analyses support the notion that there is more than one way to understand and approach potable water recycling, and that socially-held viewpoints are informed by social-spatial practices. The results reveal two distinct "common sense" shared ways of thinking that pivot on ideas about the appropriate technology and reflect contested visions of ideal society. My dissertation is the first to apply Q Methodology to water recycling in the United States, and I use it to examine the subjective preferences of people who participate in water recycling operations or planning. Results indicate that there are at least two commonly held viewpoints concerning the future of planned potable water recycling, which I have labeled "neosanitarian" and "ecosanitarian." Drawing upon tenets established in the Progressive Era, neosanitarians strongly believe that potable water recycling is a safe, feasible, and appropriate way to expand urban water supplies. Drawing upon tenets established in ecology, ecosanitarians are not opposed to potable water recycling, however they are also interested in radical alternatives to the sanitary status quo. Both neosanitarians and ecosanitarians want to see a more sustainable approach to water planning, yet they disagree on what a more sustainable approach actually looks like in practice. For example, neosanitarians favor microfiltration and advanced wastewater treatment, while ecosanitarians prefer composting toilets and preventative actions. Both neosanitarians and ecosanitarians accept potable reuse as a workable solution, yet there are deep divisions between the two regarding the appropriate scale of technology, the proper level of public participation, and the root cause of water scarcity. While there is wide-spread agreement on certain ends (e.g., sustainability, potable reuse), there is serious disagreement about the appropriate the means to getting there (e.g., appropriate technology, level of public participation). The results illustrate how different "ways of seeing the world" contribute to the technological choices that define appropriate behavior, which, in turn, produces different kinds of communities and environments, and conditions the range of political possibilities.
Degree ProgramGraduate College