Politics of Urban Runoff

From Urban and Industrial Environments

Politics of Urban Runoff

Nature, Technology, and the Sustainable City

By Andrew Karvonen

A study of urban stormwater runoff that explores the relationships among nature, technology, and society in cities.
Hardcover $46.00 S £31.95
Paperback $9.75 S £7.99





A study of urban stormwater runoff that explores the relationships among nature, technology, and society in cities.

When rain falls on the city, it creates urban runoff that cause flooding, erosion, and water pollution. Municipal engineers manage a complex network of technical and natural systems to treat and remove these temporary water flows from cities as quickly as possible. Urban runoff is frequently discussed in terms of technical expertise and environmental management, but it encompasses a multitude of such nontechnical issues as land use, quality of life, governance, aesthetics, and community identity, and is central to the larger debates on creating more sustainable and livable cities. In this book, Andrew Karvonen uses urban runoff as a lens to view the relationships among nature, technology, and society. Offering theoretical insights from urban environmental history, human geography, landscape and ecological planning, and science and technology studies as well as empirical evidence from case studies, Karvonen proposes a new relational politics of urban nature.

After describing the evolution of urban runoff practices, Karvonen analyzes the urban runoff activities in Austin and Seattle—two cities known for their highly contested public debates over runoff issues and exemplary storm water management practices. The Austin case study highlights the tensions among urban development, property rights, land use planning, and citizen activism; the Seattle case study explores the city's long-standing reputation for being in harmony with nature. Drawing on these accounts, Karvonen suggests a new relational politics of urban nature that is situated, inclusive, and action-oriented to address the tensions among nature, technology, and society.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262016339 306 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 26 b&w photos, 1 line drawing, 7 maps, 3 graphs, 4 figures, 9 tables


$9.75 S | £7.99 ISBN: 9780262516341 306 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 26 b&w photos, 1 line drawing, 7 maps, 3 graphs, 4 figures, 9 tables


  • Karvonen tackles a complex environmental issue by providing very good case studies and well-imagined solutions without relying on clichéd approaches found in other studies. The case studies provide concrete examples for explaining the shortcomings of more traditional and compartmentalized approaches to environmental governance, and the possibilities of a more nuanced 'civic environmentalism.' That he has grounded his theory in concrete examples related to contemporary policy concerns is refreshing.

    Martin Melosi

    Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor and Director of the Center for Public History, University of Houston

  • Andrew Karvonen blends literary theory, history, the social and natural sciences and other disciplines to shed new light on the relationship between urban ecology and environmental politics. His book helps to reveal the often hidden but important connections among people, nature and technology and, at its best, informs us about better, more effective approaches to environmental policy and management.

    William Shutkin

    President, Presidio Graduate School; author of The Land That Could Be: Environmentalism and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century

  • In The Politics of Urban Runoff, Andrew Karvonen explores the hydro-social dynamics of the modern city through a wealth of insights, not only spanning the bio-physical dimensions to urban space, but also changing cultural, ecological, political and technological aspects of urban nature.

    Matthew Gandy

    Professor and Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory, Department of Geography, University College London; author of Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City


  • Winner, 2014 John Friedmann Book award given by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning