Environmental Governance and Planning of Urban Infrastructure

A comparative study of energy and water management in Toronto, Los Angeles and Berlin

Jochen Monstadt

Urban governance and planning of energy and water systems have long been based on assumptions of the traditional infrastructure model: single urban monopolists, the public provision of many infrastructure and environmental services, far reaching public control over the utilities, captive customers, a highly centralized power, purification and sewage treatment plants etc. These assumptions no longer fully apply. Infrastructure systems in Canada and in all western OECD countries are currently undergoing transformations that have profound implications for their urban form and governance. Recent developments like

  • technological innovations and the competitiveness of decentralized technologies,
  • the privatization of public utilities and the outsourcing of public services,
  • the liberalization and/or commercialization of energy and water markets,
  • and shifts towards sustainable resource management

entail a fundamental restructuring of the prevailing socio-technical regime of urban infrastructures. The question is, what are the main characteristics of the emerging socio-technical regimes of urban infrastructures in terms of technological styles, industry structures and regulatory structures? What is the impact on urban governance and, more specifically, environmental governance and planning in cities? Which are the emerging functions and responsibilities, the institutional shape and the territorial scope and scale of urban environmental governance and planning?

The approach to these questions is framed by theoretical debates on urban and metropolitan governance and planning, by science and technology studies on innovations in large technical systems and by urban and regional studies on the interdependencies between cities and infrastructures. Empirically, the project is based on comparative case studies on urban energy, water and wastewater management in Toronto (CDN), Los Angeles (USA) and Berlin (D).


Monstadt, J. (2009). Conceptualizing the political ecology of urbaninfrastructures: insights from technology and urban studies. Environment and  Planning A 41(8), 1924-1942.

The project is funded by the research fellowship program of the German Research Foundation (DFG) from May 2007 until April 2009.