A tale of two rain gardens: Barriers and bridges to adaptive management of urban stormwater in Cleveland, Ohio

Brian C. Chaffin, William D. Shuster, Ahjond S. Garmestani, Brooke Furio, Sandra L. Albro, Mary Gardiner, Ma Lisa Spring, Olivia Odom Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Green infrastructure installations such as rain gardens and bioswales are increasingly regarded as viable tools to mitigate stormwater runoff at the parcel level. The use of adaptive management to implement and monitor green infrastructure projects as experimental attempts to manage stormwater has not been adequately explored as a way to optimize green infrastructure performance or increase social and political acceptance. Efforts to improve stormwater management through green infrastructure suffer from the complexity of overlapping jurisdictional boundaries, as well as interacting social and political forces that dictate the flow, consumption, conservation and disposal of urban wastewater flows. Within this urban milieu, adaptive management—rigorous experimentation applied as policy—can inform new wastewater management techniques such as the implementation of green infrastructure projects. In this article, we present a narrative of scientists and practitioners working together to apply an adaptive management approach to green infrastructure implementation for stormwater management in Cleveland, Ohio. In Cleveland, contextual legal requirements and environmental factors created an opportunity for government researchers, stormwater managers and community organizers to engage in the development of two distinct sets of rain gardens, each borne of unique social, economic and environmental processes. In this article we analyze social and political barriers to applying adaptive management as a framework for implementing green infrastructure experiments as policy. We conclude with a series of lessons learned and a reflection on the prospects for adaptive management to facilitate green infrastructure implementation for improved stormwater management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-441
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Adaptive management
  • Cleveland
  • Green infrastructure
  • Ohio USA
  • Rain gardens
  • Stormwater
  • Urban sewersheds


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