, Volume 565, Issue 1, pp 327-338

Discursive Shifts in Dutch River Management: ‘Deep’ Institutional Change or Adaptation Strategy?

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This paper argues that a discursive shift is taking place in Dutch water policy, from ‘a battle against water’ to ‘living with water’ or ‘accommodating water’. Yet we ask ourselves whether this shift is just an adaptation strategy of the existing elite group of water managers, who pay lip-service to new management approaches in order to maintain their vested interests, as some authors claim, or whether it implies ‘deep’ institutional change, e.g. in terms of the emergence of new water institutions, power relations and procedures. While investigating this question, we make use of the ‘policy arrangement approach’, which pays attention to institutional and discursive aspects of policy making alike. Our conclusion is that we are currently observing institutional changes beyond ‘policy talk’, particularly in terms of new legislation and procedures. However, it is too early to speak of ‘deep’ institutional change in Dutch water management, because the former water institutions are still maintaining their power positions, despite the availability of additional resources for policy and research as well as the emergence of several new modes of governance.