U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Sustainability 2012, 4, 1669-1682; doi:10.3390/su4081669


Decentralized stormwater management is based on the dispersal of stormwater management practices (SWMP) throughout a watershed to manage stormwater runoff volume and potentially restore natural hydrologic processes. This approach to stormwater management is increasingly popular but faces constraints related to land access and citizen engagement. We tested a novel method of environmental management through citizen-based stormwater management on suburban private land. After a nominal induction of human capital through an education campaign, two successive (2007, 2008) reverse auctions engaged residents to voluntarily bid on installation of SWMPs on their property. Cumulatively, 81 rain gardens and 165 rain barrels were installed on approximately one-third of the 350 eligible residential properties in the watershed, resulting in an estimated 360 m3 increase in stormwater detention capacity. One surprising result was the abundance of zero dollar bids, indicating even a limited-effort human capital campaign was sufficient to enroll many participants. In addition, we used statistical methods to illustrate the significant role of social capital in forming clusters of adjacent properties that participated in bidding. This indicated that as participants shared their experiences, neighbors may have become more willing to trust the program and enroll. Significant agglomerations of participating properties may indicate a shift in neighborhood culture regarding stormwater management with positive implications for watershed health through the sustained induction of alternate capitals.