Between adaptability and the urge to control: making long-term water policies in the Netherlands

Britta Restemeyer, Margo van den Brink, Johan Woltjer

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Triggered by recent flood catastrophes and increasing concerns about climate change, scientists as well as policy-makers increasingly call for making long-term water policies to enable a transformation towards flood resilience. A key question is how to make these long-term policies adaptive so that they are able to deal with uncertainties and changing circumstances. The paper proposes three conditions for making long-term water policies adaptive, which are then used to evaluate a new Dutch water policy approach called 'Adaptive Delta Management'. Analysing this national policy approach and its translation to the Rotterdam region reveals that Dutch policy-makers are torn between adaptability and the urge to control. Reflecting on this dilemma, the paper suggests a stronger focus on monitoring and learning to strengthen the adaptability of long-term water policies. Moreover, increasing the adaptive capacity of society also requires a stronger engagement with local stakeholders including citizens and businesses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-940
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • adaptive policies
  • strategic planning
  • flood risk management
  • flood resilience
  • water management
  • netherlands


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