Understanding water governance from a citizen perspective: Farmers’ dilemmas in a future retention area

D. Roth, M. Winnubst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article we discuss the dilemmas of citizens in the Overdiep polder, a ‘Room for the River’ project in the Netherlands. Confronted with government plans for using their polder for water retention during peak river discharges, they took the initiative to redesign their polder to make it suitable for water retention in a way that also made possible continuation of their agricultural enterprises. Their plan would achieve three goals: reducing the water level in the River Meuse, improving ‘spatial quality’, and strengthening the agricultural structure in the polder by expanding farm size. Contrary to what has happened in other Room for the River projects, the citizens’ plan was accepted by the government and implemented. However, planning and implementation also caused dilemmas, tensions and conflicts. While initially most farmers supported the plan, gradually the community became divided. Based on case study research, this article provides insight in the farmers’ motivations to stay or to move out and the problems they face in moving out. Their motivations can be understood by analyzing their interests and actions and the role of the national and provincial government in the project. Finally, the impacts of the farmers’ dilemmas on water governance practices are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-54
JournalInternational Journal of Water Governance
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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