Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Natural Science and Mathematics, Geography and the Environment

First Advisor

Michael Kerwin

Second Advisor

Hillary Hamann

Third Advisor

Thomas LaVanchy

Fourth Advisor

Hanson Nyantaki-Frimpong

Fifth Advisor

Eric Boschmann


Climate shock, Drought, Political ecology, Water literacy, Water management


Water managers around the world must reevaluate their approach to water security as challenges continue to grow. Supply-focused paradigms that aimed to capture, control, and commodify water resources are increasingly unreliable and often depend on environmentally and socially damaging practices. Of particular concern are regions experiencing climate shocks and aridification from rising global temperatures. In order to stretch limited water resources using equitable water policies, conservation programs, and alternative water sourcing, water managers must invest in a water literate citizenry. Water literacy is the culmination of water-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The benefits of a water literate citizenry abound, including increased transparency and trustworthiness around water management decisions, an uptake in water conservation and collective action, and a focus on community justice and water equity. However, the relative newness of water literacy research means our understanding of this concept, including what it entails and how its formed, is limited. Within this dissertation, I draw on theories of political ecology and planned behavior to respond to calls for an increased understanding of water literacy and its application within diverse case studies. First, I conduct a systematic literature review of water literacy and synthesize available definitions into an organizational framework. Then, I seek to apply this framework within the case studies of Cape Town, Western Cape (South Africa) and Aurora, Colorado (USA). These cities represent rapidly growing urban contexts that experience recurring drought seasonally and also experienced severe droughts within the last two decades. They also offer vast differences in geographic, sociopolitical, and economic contexts. The results of this research provides each city with a baseline understanding of community water literacy, which can be used to improve water management processes. Additionally, the results expose how lived experiences and sociopolitical structures can both help and hinder the formation of community water literacy.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Meghan McCarroll


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

310 pgs


Water resources management, Environmental education, Environmental management