Title page for ETD etd-04152010-160236

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Jeong, Moonsun
URN etd-04152010-160236
Title The Adoption of Low Impact Development by Local Governments
Degree PhD
Department Environmental Design and Planning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bryant, Margaret M. Committee Co-Chair
Koebel, Charles Theodore Committee Co-Chair
Randolph, John Committee Member
Younos, Tamim Committee Member
  • Innovation Adoption
  • Low Impact Development
  • Stormwater management
  • Diffusion of Innovations
  • Determinants
  • Local Government
  • Virginia
Date of Defense 2010-03-25
Availability unrestricted
Low impact development (LID) is an innovative stormwater management technique that was introduced in early 1990s. However, the transition to use of this more sustainable method has been slow due to technical, institutional, and regulatory barriers to LID adoption.

The research questions for this study are: What constitutes LID adoption? Why do localities adopt LID? What are the major factors that influenced the level of LID adoption by local governments? Specifically, this study focused on motivations and key determinants of LID adoption by local governments. By answering these questions, we will have better knowledge about how to approach the adoption process of environmental innovations. The findings of the study will benefit any potential localities considering LID adoption.

The theory of diffusion of innovations is applied as it is very flexible to investigate complex topics like environmental innovation involving multiple factors and environments. To explore the role of local governments in LID adoption, sub-theories like organizational innovation and policy adoption are reviewed. Based on these theoretical foundations, four constructs of variables which include innovation, organizations, motivations, and surrounding organizational context are investigated.

The case study method is used for eight counties (Amherst, Bedford, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Isle of Wight, Roanoke, Stafford, and Spotsylvania) and two cities (City of Charlottesville, City of Roanoke) in Virginia. Key informants from each locality were selected for in-depth interviews and additional document reviews for each case are used to support multiple case studies.

LID adoption consists of various forms such as regulations, practices, and plans. A combination of all forms of LID activities and programs was used to measure LID adoption level. Based on nine criteria (i.e., adoption mode, use of the term “LID” in local codes, code details, LID manuals, demonstration projects, number of LID projects after LID code adoption, education programs, task force, and incentives), localities with three levels of LID adoption have been determined. Influencing factors of innovation adoption varied depending on level of LID adoption (high, moderate, and low). Therefore, strategies to promote environmental innovation should be developed in relation to the level of innovation adoption.

The research findings revealed two major determinants that influenced the level of LID adoption. One is strong champions, and the other is regulatory mandates. A champion-driven LID adoption model is found in high level LID adoption localities. Usually, individuals from local governments, NGOs, and development communities have played a critical role in LID adoption process. The local government organizations in this group are usually self-motivated for innovation adoption. Especially, the presence of strong champions was identified as a key factor to the higher level of innovation adoption. On the other hand, a regulation-driven LID adoption model is found in moderate to low level LID adoption localities. These localities are strongly influenced by state regulatory mandates. In these cases, external forces motivate local governments to adopt innovations.

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