Water and climate

Logo of the Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitationWithin the water management and governance theme we seek to understand and advance scientific and societal efforts in ensuring the sustainability and resilience of water resources and water services. Our research brings together cutting-edge and interdisciplinary studies across three main topics, covering both the Global South and the Global North: (1) nature-based solutions to water and climate change challenges, (2) assessment of water governance regimes and water policy instruments, and (3) climate change adaptation and resilience.

The diversity and interdependency of sectors, scales and timeframes that characterize societies prevail in all water systems. The question of how to cope with these complexities and dynamics by governance strategies enabling boundary spanning and collaboration is the core of the scientific focus of this research theme. This manifests in research projects on behavioural, organizational and institutional drivers for transitional change in water systems, water uses and water technologies. We engage with multiple theoretical frameworks and concepts, including theories on the policy process, network analysis, institutional analysis, multi-level governance, innovation and diffusion theory, and public participation.

Adopting a transdisciplinarity approach, our research projects often involve collaboration with governmental authorities, communities and the industry. We cooperate with internal and external stakeholders making the UT a ‘civic university’, through regional experimentation and innovation with stakeholder platforms and similar configurations in local, national, regional and international networks. 

Our educational commitment involves training next generation change agents in the water track of the international Master’s in Environmental and Energy Management (MEEM), with students from all over the world. This contributes to capacity development for responsible and sustainable solutions, building on UT Shaping 2030 mission and targeting both urban and rural water management from a multi-level, multi-sectoral approach.

Key publications

Aukes, E. J.Lulofs, K. R. D., & Bressers, H. T. A. (2020). (Mis-)matching framing foci: Understanding policy consensus among coastal management framesOcean and Coastal Management, 197, 105286https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2020.105286

Özerol, G., Dolman, N., Bormann, H., Bressers, H.Lulofs, K., & Böge, M. (2020). Urban water management and climate change adaptation: A self-assessment study by seven midsize cities in the North Sea RegionSustainable Cities and Society55, 102066. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2020.102066

Lordkipanidze, M.Lulofs, K., & Bressers, H. (2019). Towards a new model for the governance of the Weerribben-Wieden National ParkScience of the Total Environment648, 56-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.121

Current projects

  • CASTOR - CAtchment Strategies TOwards Resilience (NWO-NWA) (2021-2026)

    Functions of sandy-soil landscapes of the East and South Netherlands are threatened by climate change. The researchers identify climate-robust landscapes for the future, and design, together with government and societal partners, pathways towards these. CSTM reviews and redesigns relevant institutional rules contextualizing decision-making. An empirico-legal lens to analyze relevant decision contexts is used. The impact of applicable rules (laws, regulations and procedures) on decision-making upon steps towards sustainable and resilient water-land systems are assessed, and new institutional contexts are designed facilitating climate-resilient futures for sandy soil landscapes.

    Boundary judgments and boundary-spanning capacity will be assessed. The project aims to design new institutional contexts that facilitate development and implementation of pathways of sequential steps towards climate-resilient futures for sandy soil landscapes.


  • Delta Lady: Floating Cultures in River Deltas (Interreg Europe programme) 2018-2023

    The Delta Lady project focuses on river deltas in Europe and their potential to develop innovative activities aiming at utilization of local natural and cultural heritage.  The aim is to improve the regional policy instruments that foster the capabilities of using ecosystem services in river deltas to strengthen regional economy.  The delta regions are rich in biodiversity but poor financially. The challenge is how to foster the natural and cultural capabilities available from the past and to develop new experiences based on ecoservices in river deltas to boost regional economy. Six delta regions participate: Rhine delta (NL), Danube delta (RO), Camargue delta (FR), Albufera delta (ES), Po delta (IT) and River Blackwater delta (IE). Nine partners from six countries represent a mix of regional and local public authorities as well as education and research institutes.

    More information

    Project website: https://www.interregeurope.eu/deltalady/

    Key publications

    Krozer, Y. , Coenen, F., Hanganu, J. , Lordkipanidze, M., & Sbarcea, M. (2020). Towards innovative governance of nature areasSustainability (Switzerland)12(24), [624]. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410624


  • How to explain instrument selection in complex policy processes?

    In 2010, the United Nations (UN) recognized the human right to water and sanitation (Resolution 64/292). This UN decision fortifies that water is a public good and that nobody can be excluded from its use. While it is in every individual’s interest to use water for drinking water purposes, for irrigation, as a sink for wastewater, a means of transport, or for leisure activities, its overuse is an inherent collective action problem that affects us all. Public policymaking takes a particularly important role regarding the protection of water quality, as it can help to overcome problems of collective action. The present study therefore analyzes the way in which the political realm handles a new challenge of water protection policy, namely aquatic micropollutants.

    Micropollutants are chemical substances present in very small concentrations in waters. The significance of reducing emissions into waters can be attributed to the fact that even very low concentrations of micropollutants can cause severe environmental impacts, and further impacts on humans can be expected. Finding ways to reduce micropollutants in waters is a relevant— but also a complex—political task because of the diversity of substances, uses, discharges, and effects. Due to the complexity of the issue, finding political solutions that comprehensively reduce micropollutants in waters is challenging. In order to understand how different countries respond to this challenge, this project compares the politics of water protection policies in the Rhine riparian countries, i.e., Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

    Key publications

    Schaub, S. , & Metz, F. A. (2020). Comparing Discourse and Policy Network Approaches: Evidence from Water Policy on MicropollutantsPolitics and Governance8(2), 184-199. https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i2.2597

    Ingold, K., Varone, F., Kammerer, M., Metz, F. A., Kammerman, L., & Strotz, C. (2020). Are responses to official consultations and stakeholder surveys reliable guides to policy actors positions? Policy Politics, 48(2), 193-222. https://doi.org/10.1332/030557319X15613699478503


  • Transformation towards Challenge-based Learning (2022)

    Transforming a Problem-based learning course into a Challenge-based learning course: UT M-EEM “Challenge-based Sustainability Case projects”

    The Master programme in Energy and Environmental Management (M-EEM) has already had a group-work-based course in each specialisation track in quartile 3 for many years. Traditionally, this has been a problem-based course, i.e. teachers provided research problems including external partners/clients. In the recent past, the courses have already opened up to a more challenge-based structure, especially in the Case Project Water Management, with specific a ‘scoping phase’ at the beginning of the course for students to develop and formulate their own research problems.

    From this academic year on, all three courses are supposed to become challenge-based, adopting tailored Engage-Investigate-Act phases. While the precise temporal segmentation of the available learning time is left to each course coordinator, both the summative and formative assessment have been aligned to include mid-term reports, e.g. proposals (formative), final reports (formative/summative), and a combination of self- and peer-assessment applied at three moments during the quartile (beginning, middle, end). The latter is mainly meant for formative assessment, but we also want to experiment with it to see whether and how it can be used to inform two of the criteria in the final assessment rubric (“personal development” and “group participation”).

    The questions we are interested in are:

    • How can aspects of challenge-based learning be strengthened in the context of three parallel group work courses in the Master programme Energy and Environmental Management?
    • In what way can challenge-based learning be adequately supported by a novel form of formative assessment throughout the quartile?


Selection of past projects