Research Problem New York City, known for the excellent quality of its unfiltered water, recently negotiated an agreement with the federal government that will allow it to be exempted from requirements to filter water obtained from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. This agreement is touted by the City as an example of enlightened fiscal and environmental policy because the City will avoid the expense of filtration while it implements an aggressive program to preserve the natural capacity of the watershed to insure water quality. Yet at the same time the City is pursuing a very expensive and controversial plan to implement filtration for water obtained from the Croton watershed. Opposition to this plan has come almost exclusively from grassroots activists, led by the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition. Why is the City pursuing this contradictory policy, and what is the significance of the Coalition’s opposition? My study is intended to reveal the obstacles to the implementation of environmentally-preferable policies for managing urban water supplies, explore how grassroots activism contributes to the policy process, and to shed light on New York City’s hydro-social cycle. Context New York City has one of the oldest and largest water systems in the United States and exemplifies the complexity of urban water management. The City draws its water from three watersheds and is responsible to multiple regulatory authorities. Due to it’s size, the management of New York City’s water system affects numerous communities. Although the City is under a court order to build a filtration (water treatment) plant for the Croton watershed, the City has been unable to site and begin construction of the plant due to sustained opposition. The Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition (“the Coalition”) includes both New York City organizations and watershed community organizations among its members. The Coalition’s position is that the City should protect the watershed and forego construction of a filtration plant. The Coalition argues that once filtration is in place, there will be little incentive to continue to protect the watershed. The policy advocated by the Coalition, the systemic solution of watershed protection, is a form of pollution prevention. Implicit in this position is acceptance of the precautionary principle, a principle that has not been accepted as a basis for environmental policy in the United States. Theoretical Framework and Relevant LiteratureI have selected political ecology as the framework for this research because the complexity and inter-disciplinary nature of the issues involved in water supply call for an integrative framework for analyzing human-environment interactions. Major questions motivating research in political ecology include how relationships between people and nature result in both environmental degradation and social injustice, and how the dynamics of capitalism and urbanization reconstruct the inter-connected landscapes of city and country. Recent works in political ecology have emphasized the need for sensitivity to questions of agency, or the power of people to change their circumstances in the face of structural forces, reinforcing my decision to focus on the role of the Coalition in the filtration controversy. My study is also informed by prior research on urban water systems and citizen participation in environmental policy-making. Research Questions and Strategy Starting from the “bottom up,” my case study will closely examine the Coalition’s participants and their motivations, the access that the Coalition has to the policy process, the Coalition’s understanding of the history of water quality in the Croton watershed, how the economics of water in New York City have influenced the Coalition’s strategies and the potential effects of the policy advocated by the Coalition. My sources of data are documents, interviews with the board members of the Coalition and participant observation in Coalition activities. Once I have completed my interviews of all of the Coalition’s board members, I plan to identify critical issues and turning points in the filtration controversy for further investigation. I will then turn to an archive of approximately 600 videotapes of Coalition meetings and public hearings. These videotapes were made by one of the Coalition’s leaders. I will also interview leaders of some of the 50 organizations that are members of the Coalition and key observers of Coalition activities In my analysis I will tell the story of the Coalition’s attempts to influence the policy of NYC regarding filtration of the Croton watershed, reveal the forces at different scales that influence the Coalition and structure the conflict over filtration, and reach some conclusions about the extent of the influence of the Coalition on the policy process. I will address the significance of the case study by examining what the experience of the Coalition can teach us about the political ecology of urban water systems and the potential for grassroots influence in urban environmental policy struggles.