Resilience of the Anacostia River Basin: Institutional, Social, and Ecological Dynamics

  • Craig Anthony (Tony) ArnoldEmail author
  • Olivia Odom Green
  • Daniel DeCaro
  • Alexandra Chase
  • Jennifer-Grace Ewa


The Anacostia watershed traverses the urban-suburban areas around Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Historically, the Anacostia River basin has transitioned from a biologically rich natural ecology prior to European settlement through three periods of ecosystem degradation due to agriculture and navigation, industrialization, and urbanization. The current regime is dominated by restoration and green-infrastructure activities yet is still influenced by previous regimes’ legacy effects and continued urban-development pressures. The major drivers of regime shifts from presettlement to the present are (1) societal treatment of the basin’s waters, lands, vegetation, and wildlife as exploitable goods and services for short-term economic benefit (even in the current regime in which improved water quality and restored lands are public goods and services); (2) shifts from weak to strong environmentalist values and activism; (3) changing ways that humans psychologically relate to the basin and its functions; (4) patterns of structural inequality, oppression, discrimination, and movements to seek social and environmental justice; and (5) changes in governance institutions, including laws, to support and facilitate the dominant social values and policies of the time. Institutions have played strong and pervasive roles in both the watershed’s declining ecological resilience and potential for improving social-ecological resilience. The greatest opportunities for a more resilient, climate-adaptive Anacostia River watershed require continued and improved changes in watershed governance, restoration and green-infrastructure initiatives, land-use regulation, public engagement, integration of social justice into watershed decision-making, and monitoring and feedback loops.


Resilience Adaptive governance Water management Institutional analysis Resilience assessment Clean Water Act Water quality 



This work was developed in part under the Adaptive Water Governance Project, funded by the US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding from the US National Science Foundation, NSF DBI-1052875. The views set forth by contributors to this volume represent their own and do not represent the views of any public or private entity the contributor is affiliated with.


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Legal Documents

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olivia Odom Green
    • 2
  • Daniel DeCaro
    • 3
  • Alexandra Chase
    • 4
  • Jennifer-Grace Ewa
    • 5
  1. 1.Brandeis School of Law and Department of Urban and Public AffairsUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Atlantic States Legal FoundationSyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Department of Urban and Public Affairs, Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  4. 4.National Sea Grant Law CenterOxfordUSA
  5. 5.Office of the Municipal Public DefenderDenverUSA

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