Date of Degree
This case study examines the activities of the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition from 1996 until 2004. The Coalition opposed construction of a filtration plant for the Croton water supply. The study traces the Coalition’s campaign against filtration, which took place in the context of the widely heralded New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (1997). Although the Agreement permitted New York City to avoid filtration for its Catskill and Delaware water supplies, plans were laid for filtration of the Croton supply.
My study is informed by political ecology which provides a framework for understanding politics, practices and contradictions involved in natural resource management. The arguments of the Coalition reflected the precautionary principle, which is applied to the question of water filtration for the first time in this dissertation. The filtration issue and the Coalition’s strategy are analyzed in terms of theories concerning the production of scale and the influences of scale on the outcome of the controversy. The Coalition was an unusual grassroots effort to engage urban water consumers and suburban residents within the watershed area on behalf of watershed protection. Place-based organizations from the two areas made up the Coalition and struggled to balance protection of their own local places with protection of the entire watershed.
My research illustrates the role that grassroots organizations can play in reframing environmental policy issues. As a grassroots organization, the Coalition was part of an explosion of grassroots anti-toxics, environmental justice and watershed organizations that emerged in recent decades. In contrast to the bureaucratized and professionalized environmental organizations that also were concerned with the New York City water system, the Coalition was free to reframe policy questions and challenge prior decisions. Its unique role is explained by the fact that it was not constrained by prior relationships and commitments. However, it faced significant limitations on its ability to influence the policy controversy. This study provides insights into the nature of environmental problems, emerging responses to these problems, and the political obstacles to turning new approaches into policies.
Goldsmith, Mirele B., "The Technical Fix or the Systemic Solution for Urban Water Quality? A Case Study of Grassroots Activism on Behalf of New York City's Drinking Water" (2006). CUNY Academic Works.