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Beyond Dry Feet? Experiences from a Participatory Water-Management Planning Case in The Netherlands

Machiel Lamers, International Centre for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Development (ICIS) - Maastricht University
Bouke Ottow, Deltares
Greet Francois, K. U. Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Division of Agricultural and Food Economics/Research group Work, Organisational and Personnel Psychology
Yorck von Korff, Lisode


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Participation of stakeholders in planning processes is increasingly seen as an essential element in adaptive and integrated water management and sometimes a policy requirement from higher-level governance bodies. Despite an extensive literature on the advantages and disadvantages of public participation and criteria for effective participation, not much is known about how water managers should proceed in a given context. Water-management agencies have to face the challenge of effectively involving stakeholders in developing their water-management plans and must design and implement a balanced process approach among the available time, finances, organization, and facilitation without compromising their authority. This article presents a participatory planning process designed and implemented at Water Board “Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden” (HDSR) in the center of The Netherlands. For a period of 2 yrs, these three groups were involved in various ways, participating in different types of meetings and workshops, using a range of participatory tools and techniques. The process and results of the three groups were monitored and evaluated using a tailored evaluation strategy. This paper analyzes the way the design and implementation of the process is perceived by both the conveners and participants and suggests practical lessons for water managers. Based on our case, it is argued that a careful process design, a thorough and continuous stakeholder analysis, building reflective workshops within and after the process, and ensuring experienced and qualified process leaders can greatly enhance the adaptive capacity and successful outcome of the participatory planning process.

Key words

participatory planning; process design; public participation; water management
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087