TitleFragmented water quality governance: Constraints to spatial targeting for nutrient reduction in a Midwestern USA watershed
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWardropper, CB, Chang, C, Rissman, AR
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Pagination64 - 75
ISBN Number0169-2046
KeywordsMidwestern USA watershed, Multilevel governance, Spatial policy analysis, Surface water quality

Spatially targeted interventions improve the effectiveness of environmental policy, but are challenged by implementation constraints and coordination among governments. Spatial targeting research rarely acknowledges the diversity of actors navigating complicated institutional dynamics to deploy environmental policy instruments. We mapped 35 nutrient reduction interventions by federal, state, county, and municipal governments and interviewed 15 policymakers and agency staff in Wisconsin's Yahara Watershed, USA to understand how multilevel governance impacts spatial targeting and implementation of water quality policy. Our Geographic Information System database showed that county governments implemented the most policies, while the state promulgated the most rules, with uneven application of policy interventions across the landscape. Spatial targeting differed between agricultural and non-agricultural policies and by type of tool (land acquisition, direct management, incentive, and regulation). We found a negative correlation between areas of policy intervention and phosphorus yield across government levels (p < 0.001), with the strongest negative correlations by implementing agency. Interviews revealed that for government agencies, spatial targeting is constrained by program and funding requirements and data limitations for soil and land use practices. In order to target the highest phosphorus yielding subwatersheds, governments will need to alter the spatial location of their efforts.