Based on semi-structured interviews with key decision-makers from 38 distinct municipal water utilities in Oklahoma, this paper examines the innovation process that drives water system transitions in response to external pressures, including climate change, policy, and economic trends; and to address internal system needs, such as supply expansion and infrastructure upgrades. A multiple linear regression analysis reveals a strong, positive relationship between innovations and dynamic capabilities, suggesting that dynamic capabilities are crucial to the transition of water systems. The strength of the relationship between sensing, seizing and reconfiguring dynamic capabilities and innovations differs by type of innovation. Water manager awareness of the state-level Water for 2060 Act was shown to have significant influence on the number of innovations generated by municipal water systems, while water manager licensure level was not a reliable predictor of innovation. Recommendations for encouraging much needed radical innovations are outlined.
This study seeks to expand empirical research on how municipalities have adapted and innovated (or not) their water systems as a result of climate change. We analyze characteristics of water governance at the municipal scale in Oklahoma, USA. ArcMap 10.3 was used to build a qualitative geographic information system (GIS) based on fieldwork, including interviews and site-observations, in order to compare dynamic capabilities that lead to innovation in 38 cities in the state. The GIS enables visualization of our digitalized research to understand the interconnections between drivers of innovativeness—the combination of dynamic capabilities and innovation rates—and state of water resource infrastructure in place-specific and regional planning contexts. In particular, the GIS takes into consideration income level, the influence of state-level water policy (Water for 2060 Act), water manager certification levels, population, dynamic capabilities, and perceptions of risk and vulnerability to water system change. Digitizing this information provides a diverging perspective on the historical lack of innovation in the public sector, as different socio-cultural, socio-economic, and socio-political contexts occur throughout Oklahoma, a state notorious for its oil centered economy and its climate change deniers. The findings suggest that innovativeness is directly related to dynamic capabilities and indirectly related to population size, income level, and the educational backgrounds of water decision-makers. The visualizations also show that some cities have surplus capacity for adaptation, while others were able to more efficiently turn capacity into water management innovations. Seeing representations of water governance success and failure in communities affords the opportunity to educate citizens and decision-makers to adapt water infrastructures to the effects of climate change, showcasing the utility of digitalization in a quest for sustainable solutions.
The Blue River, Oklahoma
Is climate change influencing water utilities in Oklahoma to implement innovations? New research with 38 water managers in Oklahoma suggests that it is. This study hypothesized that utilities experiencing larger annual decreases in precipitation during the study period (2010-2014) relative to the 30-year trend would create higher numbers of innovations. The results supported the hypothesis only when controlling for population size, as higher innovations per capita were associated with larger precipitation declines.
Koch M, Gliedt T, 2017, “Water conservation flows downstream: Assessing the performance of state conservation policies and municipal conservation” The Southwestern Geographer, 20, 1-17
Many southwest states are creating water policies focused on conservation or water restriction mandates. Our research aims to determine how effective these policies are at encouraging conservation accomplishments at the municipal level. Additionally, we analyze which specific municipal actions are most cost-effective and politically feasible. We used a quantitative and qualitative pilot survey of water managers in three southwest states to examine how water conservation initiatives vary within and between states, which water conservation measures are most cost-effective and politically feasible, and how state-level policies affect municipal actions. The survey questions helped to analyze water managers’ perceptions of state conservation policies and municipal conservation actions, track the level of reported conservation progress in each state, and document which measures are reported to be most popular and effective. We also provide recommendations for states interested in creating water conservation goals, and for municipal water managers seeking to implement cost-effective and politically feasible conservation measures. By grounding our work in place-informed context, we aim to critically examine the planning, execution, and evaluation of water conservation policy among its practitioners, and help bridge the gap between abstract research and day-to-day management. Our findings will help researchers inform more efficient policies to allocate funding for water system changes, and will help geographers understand how water conservation measures are implemented across a variety of political cultures and climatological zones.
Estes Park, Colorado