Resilience and environmental governance scholars have long studied and debated the role of the state in driving or coordinating responses to the varied dimensions of adaptive governance. Some have advocated for policymakers and managers to act more aggressively within the scope of existing legal, administrative or institutional constraints. This article offers an approach which considers the institutional designs of state-reinforced information-processing “infrastructures” which enable or constrain the capacity of system managers to adapt to environmental change. For instance, heavily engineered water systems depend on multiple types of information to maintain ecosystem service robustness. Drawing on a novel compilation of hydroclimatic data, media content, interviews, planning documents and institutional designs, we empirically examine a typology of multi-level institutional arrangements in four U.S. urban water systems, each featuring state-reinforced (enabling or constraining) information-processing capacities. Drawing from scholarship that considers the reflexivity of legal avenues and system robustness, we conclude that state-enabling “knowledge infrastructure systems” have the potential to aid resource managers in better understanding and responding to climate stressors.
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