Actors at the interface between socio-technical and ecological systems: Analytical starting point for identifying mitigation possibilities in the case of on-site sewage systems
The thesis addresses several issues related to factors influencing actors around environmental problems to decrease the environmental pressures. Systems treating sewage at the scale of one to a few households (on-site sewage systems, OSSs) comprise a Swedish case study. In Sweden, OSSs contribute substantially to overall nutrient load and there is clearly not enough action taken, despite the fact that the problem has been known for several decades. The overall assumption is that there is, for environmental problems in general as well as in the case of Swedish OSSs, a need for conceptualizations and knowledge development supporting environmental problem-definitions. This regards in particular identification of the actors controlling pressures and factors influencing their decisions. The concept of an interface between the socio-technical and ecological systems is introduced and applied, supporting identification of actors specific to nutrient loading from OSSs. The application of the concepts enables the development of networks of actors influencing homeowners, being the interface-actor for nutrient loading from OSSs, to improve their systems. The network construction is informed by interviews with practitioners (Paper IV). A historical perspective on the case shows that the relatively high nutrient loads from Swedish OSSs can be traced to how institutions and technology have co-evolved during several decades. Society has become locked to using certain types of treatment technologies which, inter alia, has to do with how institutional arrangements have developed and enacted in the past (Paper I). Contrasting these studies at the system level, knowledge is developed about what motivates homeowners with OSSs, i.e., the interface-actor in the case, to change their OSSs. A questionnaire survey is used to investigate a set of motivational factors among Swedish homeowners with OSSs. The results suggest that gain motives are the strongest motive, concerns about fair outcomes are relatively important, and environmental motives are less important (Paper II). Further, the legitimacy of current policies is investigated since every policy instrument needs to be accepted by those affected by them. Using a questionnaire survey, factors explaining acceptance of OSS regulations among Swedish homeowners are investigated. The result suggests a positive relationship between political trust and policy acceptability and, furthermore, that political trust is positively related to perceptions of effectiveness and procedural fairness (Paper III). The thesis suggests a number of implications from the results for policy and management in the OSS sector.
wastewater treatment systems