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Doctoral thesis2019Open access

Urban sustainable stormwater management described from a governance perspective – challenges and interdependencies

Qiao, Xiu-Juan


Conventional stormwater management systems have been criticised as being unsustainable due to increased flood risks downstream and water quality degradation in the receiving water bodies. Use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater has long been suggested, but implementation is still mainly limited to pilot projects. Based on a systematic literature review and two qualitative case studies, governance challenges and their interdependencies influencing implementation of sustainable stormwater management (SSM) were examined.

In the literature review, nineteen governance challenges hindering SSM implementation from a global perspective were identified. Case study 1 examined governance factors influencing SSM implementation from a local perspective under two distinct governance structures, namely, hierarchical in China and non-hierarchical in Sweden. Governance factors found to influence SSM implementation were mapped into causal loop diagrams (CLD) to describe the governance factor interdependencies. Case study 2, investigating the Sponge Cities initiative in China, identified governance challenges influencing a national SSM policy being implemented locally. It was found that conventional grey infrastructure still plays a significant role in the Sponge Cities initiative due to lack of space, a general lack of knowledge of SSM and prioritization of quantifiable objectives within a short time-frame.

The thesis provides an overview of governance challenges and their interdependencies influencing SSM implementation, as well as a visual tool (SSM-CLDs) to help local authorities and non-governmental stakeholders understand the complexities of SSM from a governance perspective.


sustainable stormwater management; governance; green infrastructure; policy arrangement model; system dynamics; causal loop diagrams; literature review; case study; Sponge City

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2019, number: 2019:74ISBN: 978-91-7760-466-2, eISBN: 978-91-7760-467-9
Publisher: Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences