As in other industrialized countries, many urban water social-ecological systems in the United States are characterized by frequent discharges of contaminated runoff, catastrophic flooding, and near-complete severance of the hydrologic cycle. Recent advancements in stormwater best management practices aim to push urban water social-ecological systems into a more sustainable regime that reconnects the hydrologic cycle and utilizes ecosystem services, such as infiltration and evapotranspiration, to improve the quality of urban and suburban water bodies. Collectively, these approaches are termed green infrastructure. As a decentralized approach, green infrastructure requires implementation on, as well as access to, property throughout a watershed, which poses particular governance challenges for watersheds where most land is held privately. We argue that green infrastructure on private property has a strong potential for creating a more sustainable regime through Citizen Stormwater Management, a participatory form of governance with strong citizen influence and engagement. We develop a classification scheme to assess policy instruments’ degree of government intervention, citizen participation, and engagement. The paper explores how various policy instruments encourage Citizen Stormwater Management across the United States on both public and private property. We then conduct a textual analysis of ten years of publicly available data from Onondaga County, New York (USA) to assess the implementation of applicable policy instruments. Findings indicate that incentive-based (carrots) along with outreach (sermon) policies can play an important role when regulatory instruments (sticks) are lacking.
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