How water quality improvement efforts influence urban–agricultural relationships

Sarah P. Church, Kristin M. Floress, Jessica D. Ulrich-Schad, Chloe B. Wardropper, Pranay Ranjan, Weston M. Eaton, Stephen Gasteyer, Adena Rissman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Urban and agricultural communities are interdependent but often differ on approaches for improving water quality impaired by nutrient runoff waterbodies worldwide. Current water quality governance involves an overlapping array of policy tools implemented by governments, civil society organizations, and corporate supply chains. The choice of regulatory and voluntary tools is likely to influence many dimensions of the relationship between urban and agricultural actors. These relationships then influence future conditions for collective decision-making since many actors participate for multiple years in water quality improvement. In this policy analysis, we draw on our professional experiences and research, as well as academic and practitioner literatures, to investigate how different types of water quality interventions influence urban-agricultural relationships, specifically examining policy tools on a regulatory to voluntary spectrum. Interactions between farmers and other rural agricultural interests on one hand, and urban residents and their stormwater managers and wastewater treatment plants on the other, influence dynamics relevant for water quality improvement. We suggest that the selection of policy tools within complex governance contexts influence urban–agricultural relationships through financial exchange, political coalitions, knowledge exchange, interpersonal relationships, and shared sense of place. Policy tools that provide a means to build relationships and engage with people’s emotions and identities have potential to influence personal and community change and adaptive capacity, while processes such as lawsuits can catalyze structural change. Engaging these relationships is particularly critical given the need to move out of polarized positions to solve collective problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-498
Number of pages18
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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