The institutional dynamics of stability and practice change: The urban water management sector of Australia (1970-2015)

Christoph Brodnik, Rebekah Brown, Chris Cocklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Even though traditional urban water management practices have been deemed as unsustainable, lacking resilience and ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the twenty-first century, they continue to dominate urban water management sectors worldwide. This lock-in is rooted in the institutional building blocks of urban water management sectors which represent higher order principles, such as widely shared rules, norms and values that weave around old and new ways of doing. To reveal the institutional foundations of this lock-in and to demonstrate how opportunities for practice change emerge, this paper explores the institutional dynamic of the urban water management sector in Australia with a novel mixed methods and multiple case study approach. The paper identifies six distinct institutional logics, charts their development from 1970 to 2015 and characterises them in their ideal-typical form. The findings demonstrate that logics evolve and co-evolve continuously over time, gradually changing the way they manifest themselves. It is through these processes that stability and practice change as well as wholesale sectoral institutional transformations can be explained
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2299-2314
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Management
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Sustainable urban water management
  • Institutional logics
  • Practice change
  • Mixed methods approach

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