University stormwater management within urban environmental regulatory regimes: barriers to progressivity or opportunities to innovate?

Gregory Pierce, Kyra Gmoser-Daskalakis, Kelsey Jessup, Stanley B. Grant, Andrew Mehring, Brandon Winfrey, Megan A. Rippy, David L Feldman, Patricia Holden, Richard Ambrose, Lisa Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


U.S. public university campuses are held directly responsible for compliance with many of the same federal- and state-level environmental regulations as cities, including stormwater management. While operating as ‘cities within cities’ in many respects, campuses face unique constraints in achieving stormwater regulatory compliance. To compare the abilities of campuses to comply with stormwater regulations to municipalities, we conduct mixed-methods research using primary data from five University of California (UC) campuses. Public universities constituted over 20% of California’s “nontraditional” permittees under the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) regulation regime in 2013. We utilize semi-structured interviews with campus and regulatory officials, a survey of campus students and staff around support and willingness to pay for innovative stormwater management, and content analysis of campus stormwater management documents to examine challenges to public university stormwater compliance. We find that, despite their progressive environmental practices in other areas like energy and water conservation, even as compared to cities, stormwater management practices on the evaluated campuses are constrained by several factors: infrastructure financing limitations, lack of transparent and coordinated decision-making, a lack of campus resident involvement, and regulatory inflexibility. Our study provides new insights, both for understanding campuses as sustainable ‘cities within cities’ and more broadly for urban environmental compliance regimes globally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-25
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Environmental governance
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Stormwater management
  • University campuses

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