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Changed knowledge requirements for spatial flood governance

Emmy Bergsma, KWR Watercycle Research Institute


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Floods have not only occurred with greater frequency, they have become more damaging over the years. The associated rising costs have challenged traditional governance approaches that aim to provide full protection against floods. By aiming for protection, these approaches have allowed value to accumulate in high-risk areas. Now that climate change puts more floods on the horizon, policy-makers around the world have turned to “spatial-planning” measures that aim to reduce exposure to flood risks rather than provide full protection. This policy transition not only involves the development of new policy approaches and governance arrangements, it places new requirements on knowledge to support these approaches and arrangements. I analyze these changed knowledge requirements in a case study on the Netherlands. The Netherlands thrived on a technical safety approach in the 20th century, but since the late 1990s, a number of spatial planning policies have been forwarded. Building on the policy arrangements framework as a conceptual model, I add a new knowledge dimension to this framework to analyze what new knowledge requirements emerged in the Dutch turn to spatial-planning measures and how these new forms of knowledge could be organized within existing safety institutions. Based on the analysis, I conclude that spatial-planning measures require new forms of “localized” policy knowledge to support the more decentralized responsibility structures that underpin spatial-planning measures. I also conclude that this form of expertise may be difficult to organize within safety institutions due to the strong interactions between nationally oriented engineers and policy-makers that characterize safety approaches.

Key words

experts; flood governance; knowledge; policy arrangements framework; spatial-planning

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087