Measuring Progress on Climate Change Adaptation Policy by Dutch Water Boards

Hans Kamperman, Robbert Biesbroek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable for the impacts of climate change on the water system. Regional water authorities, or water boards, are given an important role to design and implement specific adaptation policies and measures to manage these impacts. From the early 2000s onwards water boards are starting to adapt to climate change impacts, yet no systematic assessments exist to assess whether or not progress is being made and what explains similarities and differences across water boards. This paper aims to address these critical questions by analyzing the progress of all Dutch water boards for the period 2005–2016. We systematically collected and analyzed three consecutive water management plans for all 23 water boards in the Netherlands. We use content analysis methods to analyze progress by looking into their vulnerability and three levels of adaptation: recognition, groundwork and adaptation action. The results show that over time the number of reported climate change adaptation initiatives by the water boards is increasing, but most climate change adaptation is still at the recognition or groundwork level. Our findings reveal a diversity of efforts to adapt to climate change among Dutch water boards. We conclude that while (inter)national water and climate change adaptation policies have called for more adaptation action at regional levels, the unequal progress across the Netherlands suggests that existing ‘soft’ policy measures to push for adaptation might not be sufficient to ensure progress on adaptation across all water boards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4557-4570
JournalWater Resources Management
Issue number14
Early online date7 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Climate change adaptation
  • Netherlands
  • Water boards
  • Water management plans
  • Water policy

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