Coopelluvia and A Guide

The following are notes to help think and create a series of steps to follow when creating my thesis. It has been a bit of a struggle this past week, so i delved into Stephanie Newcomb’s “Coopelluvia” thesis from the Arid Lands Institute. It is a project very much along the lines of what I would like to do, so I analyzed her project to help me with what I am currently struggling with.

What was the goal?

It was to produce a methodology for a hyper-local water supply model that was situated between private properties, in order to produce a multiple benefit hydro-social space.

Blur the notion of private and public properties, and instill a sense of localized ecological and social resilience – ability to maintain, adapt, and develop an ecological and cultural identity and a critical knowledge of practices.

How did she identify a site?

  • Address groundwater augmentation through infiltration – targets private properties with the capacity for capture and above-ground storage.
  • Single family dwellings in communities that have a record of strong social and environmental activism.
  • Vulnerable communities – inability to meet water conservation goals, reduced resiliency to drought, potential increase in municipal water demand.
  • Identified areas with low-medium to low zoning densities.
  • Neighborhoods with high evidence of informal social space (blurring boundaries between private and public land)
  • Evidence of community pride and identity (potential for cohesion and collaboration)
  • Strong existing environmental and social justice organization networks (organize, formulate, advance shared local objectives)
    • Mapping watershed
    • Mapping Residential property
    • Mapping Income
    • Mapping a particular demographic
    • Graphing ownership
    • Mapping proposed parks and open spaces
    • Data for each neighborhood
    • Identifying / naming social/environmental justice organizations

What was the premise?

    • According to studies from UCLA atmospheric scientist Alex Hall, precipitation levels will stay similar to historic rainfall amounts in southern California, rainfall levels are projected to remain constant.
    • Three aqueducts that provide water to southern California – 2 of them are energy intensive, large CO2 outputs. Water and wastewater systems are energy intensive – use 3% of annual US electricity consumption and 20% of California’s – localization of water resources will decrease California’s dependence on imports and reduce associated energy inputs and carbon emissions.
    • In the face of climate change, long and hot drought periods, as well as infrequent but intensive rain events are predicted. Decentralized water infrastructure can help mitigate these extremes, creating a more resilient network for the future of urbanized areas.
  • New models for water supply capture and management that prioritize climate adaptation in disadvantaged communities build environmental and social justice.

What are the questions being asked?

  • Where do we need to retrofit the built environment to maximize local water collection?
  • Where do we design human-scaled storage systems for maximum social benefit?
  • Can practices of commoning facilitate rainwater harvesting and on-site storm water capture for re-use on private properties in zones where infiltration is not feasible?

How does she define commoning?

She defines commoning as the shared collection, distribution, and management of a resource (in this case, water).

How does she empower citizens?

She aimed to create a new model of urban water governance, one where the neighborhood can engage directly with building and maintaining local water supplies.


Hardware: physical requirements to manage the shared resource – physical parts of a system including the shared resource and the components required to manage it.

Software: process of negotiating social relationships around the resource – regulations, policies, practices necessary to maintain, operate and develop the shared resource.

Ostrom Principles

  • Clearly defines boundaries
  • Congruence
  • Collective-choice arrangements
  • Monitoring
  • Graduated sanctions
  • Conflict resolution mechanisms
  • Minimal recognition of rights to organize
  • Nested enterprises

Why did she choose this site?

  • Ecological and cultural identity is limited by waters invisibility within a centralized delivery system. In order to maximize the local water portfolio in a sustainable manner, needs to recognize other approaches to urban resources.
  • Will create a contingency of networked reserves, embedding resilience within LA

Benefits of localization of resources:

  • Regional scale:
      • Complements existing centralized infrastructures and bureaucracy
      • Reduces energy + carbon emissions
      • Increases community accountability
      • Decreases storm water flooding and pollutant loads during rains
      • Increases visibility and awareness of watershed cycle
      • Leverages expanding social production
  • Local scale:
    • Increases accountability within households
    • Complements resource supply
    • Saves money in utility costs
    • Increases resilience in emergency
    • Social platform for multiple benefits

“By focusing on the single family dwelling in relationship to its neighbors, the seeds of collective action and commoning are at the very heart of the private realm, the household.” – Stavros Stavrides

From this, I created the following steps (or a checklist) to follow:

  1. Set premises
  2. Goal – Decentralized water collection
    1. Why is this a good idea?
    2. Water for what?
    3. Set goals at the local and regional scales
  3. Determine a location from research of water shortages and:
    1. Mapping watersheds
    2. Mapping Residential properties (focus on single family dwellings)
    3. Mapping Income (focus on low density areas)
    4. Mapping a particular demographic – how do you identify one? – maybe it comes from the location?
    5. Graphing ownership
    6. Mapping proposed parks and open spaces
  4. Identify the community and the organizations, social and environmental justice organizations
  5. How is commoning applicable in this location?
  6. Identify sites within the area that can be utilized for strategies
  7. Strategies / Scenarios
    1. Pros and cons for each scenario

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