In many regions of the world, urban water systems will need to transition into fundamentally different forms to address current stressors and meet impending challenges—faster innovation will need to be part of these transitions. To assess the innovation deficit in urban water organizations and to identify means for supporting innovation, we surveyed wastewater utility managers in California. Our results reveal insights about the attitudes towards innovation among decision makers, and how perceptions at the level of individual managers might create disincentives for experimentation. Although managers reported feeling relatively unhindered organizationally, they also spend less time on innovation than they feel they should. The most frequently reported barriers to innovation included cost and financing; risk and risk aversion; and regulatory compliance. Considering these results in the context of prior research on innovation systems, we conclude that collective action may be required to address underinvestment in innovation.

Decision-making, Innovation, Risk, Technology, Wastewater,
Environmental Management
Department of Public Administration

Kiparsky, M, Thompson, B.H, Binz, C, Sedlak, D.L, Tummers, L.G, & Truffer, B. (2016). Barriers to Innovation in Urban Wastewater Utilities: Attitudes of Managers in California. Environmental Management, 57(6), 1204–1216. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0685-3