Dr Sam Trowsdale

PhD 2002 Urban water governance. University of Sheffield, UK

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Senior Lecturer


I have a PhD on the governance of urban waters. I spent a year working as a consultant hydrologist and six years as a consultant for the private/government sector examining the politics of sustainable urban stormwater. I joined the University of Auckland in 2009 as a lecturer in Environmental Science. The cross-sector background underpins an inter-disciplinary interest in the politics of more sustainable cities. My research focusses on water sensitive practices, post-politics and neo-liberalism.

Teaching | Current

I teach critical water sensitive science in several undergraduate and postgraduate courses:

ENVSCI 101 Environment, Science and Management: This first year course uses key environmental debates to explore the challenges associated with environmental management. Environmental problems are complex and their resolution involves integrating science, knowledge, values and ethics. The course provides an introduction to hydrological issues and critically reviews attempts to provide solutions.

ENVSCI 301 Environmental Effects and Management: This third year course blends physical science with social theory to explore environmentally framed issues and solutions. Students will leave the course with a better understanding of the theory of sustainability and the application of science.

GEOG 330 Research Methods in Physical Geography: This course provides students with experience of a research process and includes a strong field component. Emphasis is given to research design, implementation and analysis. The course provides a foundation for research skills necessary to start genuinely engaging at post graduate.

ENVSCI 738 Water and Society: This postgraduate course is informed by my experiences in practice and is grounded in recent PhD and Masters research. It sets off from the position that the notion of a water crisis is in fact a fallacy; a social construction which is neither inherent nor binding. By employing a case study of Auckland’s current socio-technical assemblage, the course makes sense of the socially engineered nature of ‘modern water’ and the emancipatory concept of a Water Sensitive City.

Postgraduate supervision

Recent postgraduate completions include:

Robin Honeyman (2014) Transformation of water management in the green building industry MSc

Reza Hendrawan (2014) Power, politics and the vision of the Water Sensitive City MSc

Caitlin Golder (2013) Everyday urban water cultures MSc

Thomas Worley (2012) A multi-region input-output approach to account for the virtual water metabolism of Cities MSc

Samuel Mcelwee (2012) The importance of champions and organisational culture: Transitions to sustainable urban water management MSc

Christoph Brodnik (2012) Dismantling barriers and opportunities analysis of socio-technical systems: The case of more sustainable residential housing. MSc

Nguyen Dieu Linh (2011) Depth of metal contamination in bioretention devices filtering urban stormwater MSc

Jacob Hechter (2011). Household Rainwater Hervesting in North Shore City, Auckland: The effect of water demand on stormwater runoff volumes. MSc

Jade Hyslop (2011). Where do seeds deposit? A field investigation into the connections between Hydrochory, Fluvial Geomorphology and Flow Regime in a Small Stream. MSc

Ines Winz (2010). Challenging perspectives : an interdisciplinary exploration of urban stormwater management. PhD

Jinyu Li (2010). Relationships between in-stream ecology and urbanisation. MSc

Alice Marguerite (2010). Testing Metal Mobility in Artificially Contaminated Soils at Scott Base, Antarctica. MSc

Areas of expertise

I am interested in the process of socio-technical change. My research has focussed on the urban water sector and the implementation of more sustainable urban water governance. This is known as "Water Sensitive Cities; Low Impact Design; and Sustainable Urban Drainage". Current research questions include:

  • What are the politics of radical change?
  • What is the work of utopian visions?
  • How do water sensitive practices emerge, persist and disappear?
  • What are the intangibles of replumbing a city?

I am accepting applications for PhD research students interested in these questions. There are great opportunities in this space, so get in touch with a few paragraphs about yourself and email them with transcripts please.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Trowsdale, S., Golder, C., Fisher, K., & Brierley, G. (2017). Water demand management and the quest for sustainability. New Zealand Geographer10.1111/nzg.12165
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karen Fisher, Gary Brierley


Contact details

Primary location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 4, Room 433
New Zealand

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