Public Water System Governance in Rural Montana, USA: A ‘Slow drip’ on Community Resilience

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Informa UK Limited


Recent waves of U.S. federal waterworks investments aim to repair material as well as socioeconomic deficits. Yet a growing recognition of the central role of local capacity in successful water resources and infrastructure governance raises questions about the extent to which such investments will engender more resilient rural communities. Synthesizing resilience theory with the drinking water governance literature, we use qualitative methods to assess the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of public water system governance in a case study of six small towns in an agricultural region. We find that shortfalls in local social and economic capital constrain localities from adapting to environmental vulnerabilities, and that the current policy environment exacerbates—rather than ameliorates—tradeoffs between community capitals. In addition to funding increases for rural infrastructure deficits, this study implies that process reform in water quality compliance and financial assistance program delivery will also be needed to bolster rural community resilience.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Society & Natural Resources on 2023-05-18, available online:


adaptive capacity, infrastructure governance, local government, rural development, small drinking water systems, safe drinking water act


Gansauer, G., Haggerty, J., & Dunn, J. (2023). Public Water System Governance in Rural Montana, USA: A ‘Slow drip’on Community Resilience. Society & Natural Resources, 1-20.
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