Rethinking stormwater: Analysis using the hydrosocial cycle

Matthew Wilfong, Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Water management and governance continues to rely on the scientific and engineering principles of the hydrologic cycle for decision-making on policies and infrastructure choices. This over-reliance on hydrologic-based, technocratic, command-and-control management and governance tends to discount and overlook the political, social, cultural, and economic factors that shape water-society relationships. This paper utilizes an alternative framework, the hydrosocial cycle, to analyze how water and society shape each other over time. In this paper, the hydrosocial framework is applied to stormwater management in the United States. Two hydrosocial case studies centered on rain and stormwater are investigated to highlight how stormwater management can benefit from a hydrosocial approach. The insights and implications from these case studies are then applied to stormwater management by formulating key questions that arise under the hydrosocial framework. These key questions are significant to progressing stormwater management to more sustainable, resilient, and equitable outcomes for environmental and public safety and health. This paper frames a conversation for incorporating the hydrosocial framework into stormwater management and demonstrates the need for an interdisciplinary approach to water management and governance issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1273
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Hydrosocial
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Socio-natural
  • Stormwater
  • Stormwater management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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