Manuel P. Teodoro
This article analyzes the influence of local governmental structures on the likelihood that utilities adopt one of two water conservation policies: conservation rates and landscape audits. Statistical analysis tests the effects of special-district versus general-purpose-structures, ward-based versus at-large electoral structures, and mayor-council versus council-manager charter forms.
The results demonstrate that government institutions influence adoption of conservation policies in predictable ways, even after accounting for climatic conditions and financial capacity. This article examines the structure of local institutions that govern water utilities and demonstrates that these institutional structures shape the politics of water conservation in predictable ways. U.S. local government structures vary widely in ways that make them more or less amenable to different kinds of conservation policies. This article begins by outlining major policy options for local utilities seeking to encourage conservation, with a particular focus on landscape audits and conservation rates. A consideration of democratic governance follows, with a discussion of how the distribution of costs and benefits under different conservation policies affect their chances of being adopted under various institutional arrangements. The article concludes with a summary of findings and provides lessons for utility leaders who are considering conservation programs. The research in this article specifically focuses on utilities owned by municipal, county, or special district governments, not on investor-owned utilities; the politics of interest in this article are the politics of city halls and district board rooms. The politics of state utility commissions were not examined as part of this study. Further, this study focused on political institutions and did not address many other important variables that affect local politics, such as leadership, public opinion, and state or federal regulations.