Income inequality and its effects on access to ecological services in a western US city

<p><em>These are slides from a symposium presentation at the International Geographical Congress 2012 in Köln, Germany, on Tuesday, 28 August, 2012. The paper is part of a session on "Urban dynamics and environmental conflicts". Here is the abstract of this talk, which is also available as a pdf uploaded separately here:</em></p> <div> <div> <div> <div> <p>Income inequality and its effects on access to ecological services in a western US city </p> <p><em>Madhusudan Katti, Andrew Rhys Jones, Kaberi Kar Gupta </em></p> <p>California State University, Fresno </p> <p>Cities now represent the primary habitat for human beings on earth, and are best studied as dynamic coupled socio-ecological systems. Modern urban development provides an excellent laboratory to examine the interplay among socio-ecological relationships. With increasing demand on limited resources, urban development often sharpens con>licts driven by socioeconomic inequalities which often result in unequal access to critical natural resources and biodiversity. Urban poverty is characterized not only by low socioeconomic status, but also by low ecological status resulting in increased vulnerability to risk factors such as food and water security. Urban land and water management decisions result from dynamic interactions between institutional, individual and ecological factors. Landscaping and irrigation at any particular residence, for example, is a product of geography, hydrology, soil, and other local environmental conditions, the homeowners’ cultural preferences, socioeconomic status, neighborhood dynamics, as well as zoning laws, market conditions, city policies, and county/state/federal government regulations. Since land and water management are key determinants of habitat for other species, urban biodiversity is strongly driven by the outcome of interactions between these variables. This study addresses the signi>icance of water as a key variable in the Fresno-Clovis Metropolitan Area (FCMA), shaping current patterns of landscape and water use, at a time when the city of Fresno is installing meters as a regulatory tool to conserve water. A recent study from the Fresno Bird Count found that bird species richness and functional group diversity are both strongly correlated with residential irrigation and neighborhood poverty. Tree species diversity shows a similar pattern. Water usage in the FCMA is also directly linked to socioeconomic status, but what exactly are the social behaviors entailed by socioeconomic status? How will water use behaviors change across the socioeconomic spectrum with changes in the cost of water due to metering? In particular, what are the implications of raising the cost of water on access to ecological services for poor residents? We examine various theoretical models explaining outdoor water use behaviors, with the aim of assessing the resilience of such behaviors with the introduction of water metering in Fresno. We argue that socioeconomic status results from a complex interplay of cultural, economic, structural, and social-psychological factors, in>luencing institutional policies regarding the governance of water resources, and in turn impact biodiversity within the urban landscape through spatial and temporal variations in water usage. This study is part of a long-term research project that examines the impacts of human water usage and water use policies on biodiversity within an urban environment. </p> </div> </div> </div> </div>