WATER GOVERNANCE AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE


Título: WATER GOVERNANCE AND INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

Autor: Stefanus Mattheus Maria Kuks

Año: 2004

Fuente: Water Forum

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WATERGOVERNANCE
AND INSTITUTIONALCHANGE
PROEFSCHRIFT
ter verkrijging van
de graad van doctor aan de Universiteit Twente,
op gezag van de rector magnificus,
prof. dr. F.A. van Vught,
volgens besluit van het College voor Promoties
in het openbaar te verdedigen
op vrijdag 19 november 2004 om 15.00 uur
door
Stefanus Mattheus Maria Kuks
geboren op 21 september 1961
te Losser
Dit proefschrift is goedgekeurd door de promotor:
Prof.dr. J.Th.A. Bressers
In de reeks SchoneTechnologieen Milieubeleid worden
milieuvraagstukken belicht vanuit wetenschappelijke visies
op overheidsbeleid, technologie en management.
Deell
Deel2
Deel3
Deel4
Deel5
Deel6
Deel7
De effectiviteit van gemeentelijke milieubeleidsplanning
F.H.J.M. Coenen
Bevordering van milieumanagement in organisaties
T.J.N.M. de Bruijn en K.R.D. Lulofs
The feasibility of Dutch environmental policy instruments
Josee J. Ligteringen
25 jaar milieubeleid in Nederland; instrumenten, incidenten en effecten
R.A. van de Peppel, P-J. Klok en D. Hoek
The Endurance of Mexican Amate Paper
R. Citlalli Lopez BinnqUist
Sustained Diffusion of Renewable Energy
Valentina Dinica
Water Governance and Institutional Change
Stefan M.M. Kuks
I
Colofon
Editing manuscript: Ada Krooshoop – Universiteit Twente / CSTM
Vormgeving omslag en binnenwerk: Jo Molenaar [deel4] ontwerpers – Enschede
Fotografie (luchtfoto hoogwater Dinkel): Aerofoto Brouwer – Brummen
Fotografie (interieur watertoren CZDinkelland): Stefan Kuks – Enschede
Druken uitgave: UniversiteitTwente/ CSTM
@ Stefan Kuks, Universiteit Twente / CSTM
Niets uit deze uitgave mag worden vermenigvuldigd door middel van druk, fotocopie
of welke andere wijze ook zonder schriftelijke toestemming van de auteur.
ISBN 9036520991
,
i
Contents
Preface ix
Chapter 1 1
Introduction – The human dimension in water governance
1.1 The interpretation of floods in the middle ages and renaissance 3
1.2 The development of a public domain and a state corps of
water engineers 4
1.3 The politicizing of water engineering and the discovery of
the human dimension 7
1.4 The limits of human control and the perspective of
co-evolutionary adaptation 9
1.5 The conceptual understanding of water governance 11
1.6 The questions and outline of this dissertation 13
PART ONE
Theoretical framework
Chapter 2 21
The meaning of governance – From conception to elaboration
2.1 Introduction 21
2.2 Elements of governance 22
2.2.1 Interaction processes and ‘instrumentation theory’ 23
2.2.2 Governance literature 24
2.2.3 Multilevel coordination and multifaceted problems 26
2.2.4 Multi-actor networks 27
2.2.5 Multi-instrumental steering mechanisms and
multiresource-based implementation 27
2.2.6 Visions and synthesis from the policy sciences literature 28
2.2.7 A model of governance in five elements 30
2.3 Changing modes of governance 32
2.3.1 Introduction 32
2.3.2 Premises 33
ii
2.3.3 Values, cognitions, and resources 35
2.3.4 The interaction between the level and scales aspect and the
other elements of governance 37
2.4 Conclusion: three mechanisms 40
Chapter 3 45
Governance of water – Resource regimes and institutional change
3.1 Introduction 45
3.2 Resource regimes as social institutions 47
3.2.1 Property rights as subsystem of a resource regime 50
3.2.2 Public policies as subsystem of a resource regime 57
3.3 Criteria for institutional sustainability 59
3.4 Regime evolution 65
3.5 The political context: conditions for regime change 70
3.6 Conclusion 78
PART TWO
Institutional dynamics of water regimes
Chapter 4 83
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands
4.1 Introduction: the context of the Dutch regime 83
4.1.1 The administrative-political structure of the Netherlands 84
4.1.1.1 Central and decentral levels of administration 84
4.1.1.2 Consensus-based and planning-based decision making 86
4.1.1.3 International commitments 87
4.1.2 Physical conditions and main water bodies in the Netherlands 87
4.1.3 Actual problem pressures in the Netherlands 89
4.1.4. Human pressures (water uses) and main rivalries in the
Netherlands 91
4.2 The evolution of water rights in the Netherlands 93
4.2.1 Constitution of the public domain (1814-1841) 93
4.2.2 Expropriation and compensation for national water works
(1891-1908) 95
4.2.3 Controlled use expansion, deliberation of interests, and
redistribution of rights (1954-1967) 97
4.2.4 Limitation of discharge rights to prevent water pollution
(1969-1975) 98
4.2.5 Towards integrated public control over water use rights
(1981-1992) 99
Contents iii
4.2.6 Considering limitation of land use rights to prevent flooding
(after 1992) 102
4.3 The evolution of water policies in the Netherlands 102
4.3.1 Centralization of water governance from 1798 until the 1950s 102
4.3.2 Integration attempts around 1968 and 1969 107
4.3.3 Integration attempts around 1985 111
4.3.4 Integration attempts around 1995 114
4.4 Main regime phases and transitions in the Netherlands 118
4.5 Concluding analysis of regime transitions in the Netherlands 121
4.5.1 Evolution of extent 121
4.5.2 Evolution of the internal coherence of property rights 122
4.5.3 Evolution of the internal coherence of water policies 123
4.5.4 Evolution of the regime in general and conditions for regime
change 130
Chapter 5 139
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe
5.1 Introduction 139
5.2 General comparison of countries in terms of regime
development 140
5.3 Regime transitions and change triggers in the Netherlands 145
5.4 Regime transitions and change triggers in Belgium 150
5.5 Regime transitions and change triggers in France 154
5.6 Regime transitions and change triggers in Spain 157
5.7 Regime transitions and change triggers in Italy 160
5.8 Regime transitions and change triggers in Switzerland 163
5.9 Conclusions 166
5.9.1 Assessment of regime integration 167
5.9.2 Triggers for regime change 170
5.9.3 Restraints on regime change 173
5.9.4 Highly complex institutional regimes struggling with
fragmentation 174
Chapter 6 179
The transition of local water regimes in the Netherlands
6.1 Introduction 179
6.2 Transitions towards integration in the national water regime 181
6.2.1 The 1968 and 1969 transition 181
6.2.2 The 1985 transition 183
6.2.3 The 1995 transition 185
6.3 The IJsselmeer: nurturing nature in an artificial lake 186
iv
6.3.1 The end of the polder plans. Coming to grips with the new
situation 188
6.3.2 Gas drilling and drinking water exploitation 190
6.3.3 The rivalry between nature and recreation 192
6.4 The Regge: undoing water management of the past 195
6.4.1 The first broadening of the water regime in the Regge basin 197
6.4.2 Bornsebeken plan: a change of paradigm 199
6.4.3 Influence: a new way of working 201
6.5 What do the cases illustrate for the Netherlands? 202
6.5.1 Regime changes in terms of extent 203
6.5.2 Regime changes in terms of internal coherence of public
governance 203
6.5.3 Regime changes in terms of internal coherence of property
rights 207
6.5.4 Regime changes in terms of external coherence between public
governance and property rights 208
6.5.5 Implications for sustainability 208
6.5.6 Agents for regime change 210
6.5.7 Conditions for regime change 212
6.6 Conclusion 214
Chapter 7 219
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe
7.1 Introduction 219
7.2 The public governance and property rights components 222
7.2.1 Governance 222
7.2.2 Property and use rights 222
7.2.3 Change toward more complex resource regimes 224
7.2.4 Change toward more coherent regimes 226
7.2.5 The sustainability implications of more integrated institutional
resource regimes 229
7.3 Case study design 231
7.3.1 Selection of cases 231
7.3.2 Case study protocol 232
7.4 The results of the comparative analysis 235
7.4.1 Regime changes 235
7.4.2 Implications of regime changes for sustainable use 239
7.4.3 Explaining regime changes by change agents and conditions 243
7.5 Outlook: our conclusions in the perspective of the European
water management policy 249
Contents v
PART THREE
Public gaps and private bridges in groundwater governance
Chapter 8 257
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands
8.1 Introduction 257
8.1.1 A regulation gap as a window of opportunity 257
8.1.2 The case study on water supply authorities in the Netherlands 260
8.1.3 Introduction to the Dutch water supply sector 265
8.2 Regulating nitrates as a source of groundwater pollution 271
8.2.1 How serious is the problem of nitrates, looking at the
European standard for drinking water? 271
8.2.2 What regulatory framework for nitrates is available at the
national level in the Netherlands? 272
8.3. Regulating pesticides as a source of groundwater pollution 280
8.3.1 How serious is the problem of pesticides, looking at the
European standard for drinking water? 280
8.3.2 What regulatory framework for pesticides is available
at the national level in the Netherlands? 283
8.4. A policy network point of view: the dynamics of agricultural
issues in the water supply sector 289
8.4.1 The water supply sector growing into a policy community 289
8.4.2 The water supply sector encountering the agricultural sector
in an issue-network 290
8.4.3 Consultation between water supply companies and farmers’
organisations as the most promising strategy 292
8.5. Another policy network point of view: the dynamics
of environmental issues in the agricultural sector 295
8.5.1 The traditional agricultural network 295
8.5.2 Changes in the traditional network and consequences for the
choice of instruments 297
Chapter 9 311
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands
9.1 Introduction 311
9.2 Preventive strategies on the provincial level 313
9.2.1 Period 1988-1991 313
9.2.2 Period 1991-1995 316
9.3 Comparison of the five selected provinces 319
9.3.1 Water supply companies 320
9.3.2 Agricultural pollution of water sources 321
9.3.3 Policy approaches towards agricultural pollution of water
sources 323
vi
9.4 Motives of water suppliers 330
9.4.1 Motives of the water supply companies 330
9.4.2 Motives of the provincial authorities 333
9.4.3 Motives of the farmers 334
9.4.4 Motives of the farmer’s organizations 335
9.5 Resources of water suppliers 336
9.5.1 Organizational capacity 337
9.5.2 Financial capacity 339
9.5.3 Information 342
9.5.4 Confidence 343
9.5.5 Authority 345
9.5.6 Time 346
9.6 Conclusions on the control capacity of water suppliers 347
9.6.1 Influence of the problem context 347
9.6.2 Influence of the regulatory context 348
9.6.3 Influence of the network context 349
9.6.4 Motives of water suppliers 351
9.6.5 Resources needed by water suppliers 353
9.6.6 Susceptibility to resources on the farmer’s side 355
9.7 Conclusions in terms of groundwater governance 356
Chapter 10 363
Comparing Dutch groundwater governance with Florida
10.1 Introduction 363
10.2 Multilevel groundwater management in Florida and the
Netherlands 366
10.2.1 Quality standards for drinking water and the purification of
groundwater 367
10.2.2 Preventing contaminated groundwater from being used in the
drinking water supply 369
10.2.3 Emissions to the groundwater and restrictions placed on
agricultural activities 370
10.3 A dominant multilevel difference between Florida and the
Netherlands 372
10.3.1 Regulation of land use: local versus centralized decision
making 373
10.3.2 Regulation of target groups: specific versus generic legislation 375
10.3.3 The position of the Environment Department: weak versus
strong political commitment 379
10.4 Conclusion: Three mechanisms by which the dominant method
takes effect 385
ix
Preface
This dissertation on water governance and institutional change has its roots
in two major European research projects on which I worked in the past
years. First, it is rooted in the European research project EUWARENESS
(European Water Regimes and the Notion of a Sustainable Status). In 1999
Hans Bressers and I developed this project in cooperation with research
partners in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. It was funded by
the European Committee and became one of the first socio-economic water
research projects under the 5th Framework Program for Research. The
theoretical challenge of this project has been to elaborate on institutional
regimes, the interaction between public policies and property rights, and
‘governance’ as a concept that helpful in identifying regime transitions. The
project began in 1999 and was finished in 2003, resulting in two book
publications in 2004. We coordinated this project at the Center for Clean
Technology and Environmental Policy (CSTM), in which more than 20
researchers in 6 European countries participated. I wish to thank all the
participants in the EUWARENESS-consortium for their contributions to this
project, in particular: Peter Knoepfel, Corine Mauch, and Adèle Thorens at
the ‘Institut de Hautes Études en Administration Publique (IDHEAP)’ in
Lausanne, Switzerland; Ingrid Kissling-Näf at the Swiss Academy of
Sciences in Bern, Switzerland; Bruno Dente and Alessandra Goria at the
‘Istituto per la Ricerca Sociale (IRS)’ in Milan, Italy; Joan Subirats,
Meritxell Costejà and Nuria Font at the ‘Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
(UAB)’ in Spain; Corinne Larrue, Iratxe Calvo, Jean-Marc Dziedzicki and
Isabelle Verdage at the ‘Université Francois Rabelais de Tours’ in France;
Frédéric Varone and David Aubin at the ‘Université Catholique de Louvain
(UCL)’ in Belgium.
The second European research project in which this dissertation is rooted,
is the ‘Water supply authorities preventing agricultural pollution’ project.
This was another project that Hans Bressers and I developed and that was
x Preface
coordinated at CSTM and funded by the European Committee under the 4th
Framework Program. The project included case studies from Germany, the
Netherlands, England and Wales, the EU, and the USA. The theoretical
challenge of the project was to learn from the interaction between
agricultural and water policy communities and how this interaction results in
inter-organizational policy making with environmental goals. Although this
project started in 1993 and resulted in a book publication in 1998, the project
consortium already shared a common interest in policy networks issues. In
1991, the consortium started to prepare an international book publication on
‘Networks for Water Policy: A Comparative Perspective’, edited by Hans
Bressers, Larry O’Toole and Jeremy Richardson. Frank Cass Publishers
published it in 1994 as the special issue of Environmental Politics, as well as
a book in 1995. I wish to thank all the participants in this consortium for
their inspiring visions on policy network issues and on the political aspects
of water management.
Other important impulses for this dissertation came from the two research
periods that I spent in the United States. In 1992 I got the opportunity to
become – together with my future colleague Dave Huitema, who now is
affiliated with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – participants in the exchange
program between the Faculty of Public Administration in Twente and the
Master of Public Administration Program at Auburn University in the United
States. A five-month stay at this American university allowed me to become
familiar with concepts in American public administration and policy science.
My stay was supported with a travel grant from the Dutch Science Foundation
(NWO). We had a wonderful time on campus, where I shared an apartment
with my roommate Paul Harris, a great American personality with a warm
heart for Europe. It was also an interesting acquaintance with the American
culture of the Deep South in a time that Spike Lee launched his movie
Malcolm X, and the Clinton-Gore ticket was running for the presidency of the
United States after so many years of republican dominance in American
politics. It was probably shameless in the eyes of the predominantly republican
campus that Dave and I ‘rolled the tree’ (an old tradition on campus to roll the
old tree on Toomer’s corner with toilet paper after a football game victory for
the Auburn Tigers) on the evening of Election Day when George Bush Sr.
announced on television – before all votes were counted – that he would
recede. The election polls were not too close too call those days.
In 1995 I prepared another visit to the United States to work on a study on
groundwater governance in the State of Florida, in order to make a comparison
with my Dutch case study for the previous mentioned EU project. Florida has
particular similarities with the Netherlands in the field of groundwater
pollution problems. I could make use of a preliminary study conducted by
Preface xi
Ellis Brand (nowadays Ellis Immerzeel), who participated in 1994 in the
exchange program with Auburn to write her master’s thesis for the University
of Twente. My visit to Florida in the fall of 1995 was made possible with a
travel grant from the Netherlands Institute of Government (NOB) and the
warm support of Walter Rosenbaum, professor of political science at the
University of Florida, who submitted a stimulating letter of invitation. I stayed
for three months in Florida together with Loret Plettenburg, who was affiliated
as a master’s student with CSTM. The research period in Florida offered her
an opportunity to write a master’s thesis on an aspect of groundwater
governance complementary to the subject that Ellis Brand dealt with. Loret
and I interviewed about 80 people across the State of Florida and drove by car
about 12.000 miles in 9 weeks. It was a wonderful journey. In the margins of
our travel schemes we had a chance to experience the unspoiled beauty of
‘living waters’ like the Ichetucknee Springs in the north and the Corkscrew
Swamp in the south. In Florida I learned to see wetlands, and started to
appreciate the flat Dutch landscapes much more. I also learned how much
Florida and the Netherlands have in common as far as water management is
concerned. Not only do the Florida water management districts resemble the
Dutch waterboards, but both are also making a strong effort of ecosystem
restoration after decades of engineered interventions in water systems that
were formerly quite natural. I wish to thank Dave Huitema and Loret
Plettenburg for their great company and friendship during both research
periods in the United States.
I am especially grateful to my promotor Hans Bressers who guided me to
build this dissertation on a variety of research projects. He played a very
supportive role in the elaboration of concepts, and was stimulating when I
needed it to keep the dissertation project going. He has a remarkable ability
to create solutions in situations where other people only see problems. We
developed a good way of cooperating, which worked quite well in the
European projects we did together. The pleasant aspect of attending a
foreign conference with him is that you always find a way to do the most
important sightseeing in cities like Barcelona, Seville, Pisa, Milan, Turin,
Lausanne, Bern, Tours or Paris. I also highly appreciate the continuous
efforts he made over the past 15 years to keep the CSTM institute steadygoing
within university surroundings that have often been rather turbulent. In
this context I also wish to thank my colleagues at CSTM for their
contribution to a comfortable working climate at CSTM, which was
definitely helpful to get this dissertation done. I would like to give special
thanks to Ada Krooshoop, who did all the editing work for this dissertation.
Furthermore, she has been helpful to offer assistance on dissertation matters
under all circumstances. I also wish to thank Mike Maier and Katharine
xii Preface
Owens – American native speakers at CSTM – who provided important help
in the final dissertation phase with language editing.
Since 1999 I have not only been affiliated with the university, but also with
‘Waterschap Regge en Dinkel’, the waterboard for the Twente region where I
am an elected member in the executive committee. At the end of 1998 I ran for
a seat in the waterboard as a delegate for my district Enschede. My running
mate in the elections was Dave Huitema and we tried to be a sort of Clinton-
Gore ticket. Anyway, we developed and implemented a campaign strategy that
proved to be successful. That was the start of six years as an elected
administrator in water management practice. While holding the portfolio
‘finance and economic affairs’, I learned to see in terms of performance
indicators. That inspired me to write a dissertation chapter about the public
performance and the efficiency performance of water services. I am grateful to
Paul van Erkelens for his comments on a draft of this chapter. Also to write in
this dissertation about the evolution of water regimes in the Netherlands, it
was helpful for me to lean on what I learned from water management practice
at the waterboard. Furthermore, I always welcomed my days at the waterboard
as a pleasant variation on my university job. I am very grateful to my
colleagues in the executive committee and the management team of the
waterboard for their fraternal spirit. In this administration period we developed
and implemented the most ambitious program ever, and we may be proud on
the results that have been achieved over the past six years. Never change a
winning team, they say. But change logically comes with new elections, which
make democracy work at the waterboards.
I wish to specially thank my family (in particular my parents-in-law) and
friends for all the moments that they allowed me to work on this dissertation
when I actually had to join family life. My dear children Emmilie and Anne-
Sofie get the party I promised to celebrate the completion of this piece of
work. I am deeply grateful to my parents for the windows of opportunity they
created for me in life. I am looking forward to have them joining my
dissertation day. The final note is for my wife Josee, and includes the lyrics
of an American song I often try to play the Harry-Connick-way on the piano:
“If they asked me I could write a book / About the way you walk and
whisper and look / I could write a preface on how we met / So the world
would never forget / And the simple secret of the plot / Is just to tell them
that I love you a lot / Then the world discovers as my book ends / How to
make two lovers of friends”!
Stefan Kuks
October 2004
Contents vii
PART FOUR
Market forces in water governance
Chapter 11 395
The public private divide in the governance of water services
11.1 Introduction to the Dutch governance of water services 395
11.2 Public performance and efficiency performance in the
water cycle 399
11.3 Contextual developments in the water sector 404
11.3.1 Increase in scale 404
11.3.2 Progress in expertise and possibilities 405
11.3.3 The formation of multi-utilities 405
11.3.4 Political preferences for more market 406
11.3.5 The French and British models 408
11.3.6 Benchmarking and customer differentiation 410
11.4 Water cycle cooperation and commercial performance 412
11.5 Evaluating market forces in terms of the three performance
types 415
11.6 The ‘leave it to the market’ discourse 418
11.7 Conclusion 422
Chapter 12
Epilogue – Revisiting the research questions
12.1 Theoretical framework 425
12.2 Main institutional shifts 428
12.3 Conditions determining governance shifts 432
12.4 Demarcation between public and private 439
12.5 Role of non-governmental actors 443
Summary in Dutch 449
Notes on previous publication and co-authorship of chapters 455
About the author 459
viii
1
Chapter 1
Introduction
The human dimension in water governance
‘Water’, one of the most precious natural resources, is firmly on the
international agenda. For instance, the Second World Water Forum in The
Hague on 17-22 March 2000, which I attended for one day, underlined the
importance of considering water as a basic human right. The Forum
participants called the urgent attention of the Ministerial Conference to the
water crisis that the world is now experiencing. This crisis affects us all,
particularly the poor and vulnerable in society – a majority of whom are
women and children in the South – as well as the environment. Water is not
only considered essential for human health (drinking water and sanitation), it
is desperately needed by millions of poor women and men in rural areas for
productive reasons: to grow the family’s food or to generate income. To
preserve water resources, there are many challenges that must be tackled
locally, nationally and internationally. This is not only a matter of assigning
and redistributing access rights to water services. It is also a matter of
participation, including the rights by communities to manage their own water
resources, if they can do so without government intervention and without
harming the rights to water services of others downstream or the
environment. Key issues that are debated worldwide concern the issue of
privatization and the issue of full cost recovery of water services. Although
at the Water Forum it was advocated that the provision of water services
should not be the exclusive business of governments, a lot of disagreement
existed about the extent to which it might be the business of private
companies. It was also agreed at the Water Forum that providing water
services should not be free of charge. Although the costs of water services
should be fully charged to users, based on management that is accountable to
them, there is still a lot of debate about the extent to which appropriate
subsidies may be made available to low income groups (World Water
Council 2000).
2 Chapter 1
There is a huge variety of water issues that contemporary society has to deal
with. Not only issues of health, sanitation, pollution, access and shortage, but
also issues of flood. Scenarios on global warming and climate change predict
that water will become a threat for all low-lying areas across the world.
Because this dissertation has been written from a Dutch perspective, it deals
a lot with Dutch water issues and the way in which these issues have been
handled in the Netherlands. Prominent water issues in the Netherlands are
flood protection and water pollution prevention. We want to investigate how
collective action with respect to Dutch water issues has evolved, in which
context it is achieved, how this context is changing, and how shifts in the
context lead to shifts in collective action. We are not only interested in
collective action by governmental authorities in terms of public policy
making; we are also interested in collective action by non-governmental
actors in terms of participation and self-organization. We want to learn from
the case of the Netherlands compared to other European countries which
share a common European policy background (part two of this dissertation),
as well as to the American state of Florida that has particular similarities
with the Netherlands in the field of groundwater pollution problems (part
three of this dissertation).
This introductory chapter will survey the human dimension in the history of
water governance, to discover the various institutional aspects of the
governance concept. We already find primitive forms of water governance
(flood protection and water drainage) in the middle ages. These were
bottom-up initiatives of landowners, which still exist as water boards
(section 1.1). Water governance in a more centralized form appeared around
1800, at the end of the age of enlightenment and after the French revolution,
when many European states developed a civil code. It was the start of the
development of a public domain, which mostly dealt with the engineering of
large water works (section 1.2). In the 1960s the traditional approach of
water engineering became criticized. New stakeholders entered the arena
around water policy making, which politicized water engineering. Since
then, the human dimension of water governance became more apparent
(section 1.3). In the 1990s society became aware of the limits to human
control. A new co-evolutionary perspective on living with the natural
dynamics of water has been adopted (section 1.4). The human dimension of
water governance points at several institutional aspects of the governance
concept that we touch on in section 1.5. It is a useful leg up to chapter 2 of
this dissertation in which we deal with a more specific elaboration of the
governance concept. In section 1.6 we stipulate the main questions of the
dissertation, and explain the outline of the dissertation as well as the order of
the chapters.
Introduction 3
1.1 The interpretation of floods in the Middle Ages and
renaissance
In 1508 Michelangelo started work on the frescoes of the Sistine chapel
ceiling in Rome. One of his first panels was ‘the flood’, based on the
Genesis story in the Old Testament. At that time Michelangelo had hardly
any experience in the fresco technique. His trial and error method of working
slowed down the realization of the first panels, which disappointed his
employer pope Julius II. The realization of the flood panel was also
complicated by the huge amount of human figures he had chosen to depict in
unusual, intricate and anatomically correct postures. For Michelangelo the
painting of the flood was not only an artistic challenge, it also had an
outspoken religious meaning to him. He was used to considering heavy
weather events as punishments by a wrathful God. Years later, when
Florence and Rome struggled with river floods due to heavy autumn
showers, he remarked that this would punish the Italians for their shameful
sins. Michelangelo’s hell and damnation thinking and the inspiration for his
flood panel date back to his youth in Florence, where in 1492 the whole city
was under the spell of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola. His horrific
sermon in the Santa Maria del Fiore narrated terrifying visions with daggers
and crosses against a dark thunderous sky above the city, a forecast of heavy
trials and adversity for the Florentine citizens. The deluge in Genesis was an
evocative image for Michelangelo, which did not remind him of the power
of nature, but of the furious Old Testament God as envisioned by
Savonarola’s apocalyptic preaching. The flood panel depicts human figures
trying to save their properties from the rising water. It is believed that
Michelangelo must have witnessed various evacuations of people living
along the Tiber in Rome and the Arno in Florence in high water periods. The
flow of the Tiber was not controlled by dykes and the river regularly
overflowed its banks. In 1506, when the Tiber suddenly flooded due to
heavy rainfall, Michelangelo himself experienced the loss of a load of
marble in the harbor of Ripa, three kilometers downstream from the Vatican
(King 2003).
This story illustrates that in the era of Michelangelo it was not unusual to
consider flooding as a result of the failures of human beings in relation to
God, and not as a failure of water governance as we call it today. However,
there is also evidence that already in the Middle Ages people were used to
interpret flood damage as the result of insufficient collective action. In 1421
the Netherlands experienced one of the most radical flood disasters of the
Middle Ages during the night from 18 to 19 November. This disaster is
known as the Saint Elisabeth Flood, named after the feast day of Elisabeth of
4 Chapter 1
Thuringen. In one night the Saint Elisabeth Flood turned a large and
prosperous polder of about 30,000 hectares into an inland sea in the delta
area of the Maas southeast of Rotterdam, which had been surrounded by
dykes for more than 150 years. According to written tradition about 70
villages and neighborhoods disappeared and about 4,000 people were
drowned by the high water. The flood could be so devastating because of a
neglect of dyke maintenance and control, which caused several weakened
dykes to burst. In fact, disputes between followers of the counts of Burgundy
and followers of the counts of Holland, known as the “Hoekse en
Kabeljouwse twisten”, resulted in a sort of civil war taking away the time
and money that had to be invested in dyke maintenance and control.
Although water could be an enormous threat due to unpredictable weather
conditions causing floods, it also attracted people to set up settlements close
to navigable rivers or in delta areas where harbors and halting places for
shipping traffic could bring prosperity to local communities. In the
Netherlands, as early as the 11th and 12th century, local communities started
to organize themselves to manage water in order to protect settlements and
cultivated land against high water. Dykes were built to protect against
flooding for the sea and the rivers. At that time, removal of peat (used as
fuel) and clay (used as building material) was already causing land
subsidence, demanding additional measures. The first democratic district
water boards were established in the 13th century. The rulers of the Dutch
republic soon recognized them as competent water authorities. They were
democratic stakeholder organizations consisting of elected representatives
from local farming communities. In the Netherlands, these water boards may
be considered the first attempts towards systematically organized water
governance.
1.2 The development of a public domain and a state
corps of water engineers
For a long time the Dutch water boards remained rather autonomous
organizations, independent from the central government. However,
throughout the 18th century various flood disasters in Dutch river basins
demonstrated that the rather small-scale approach of water boards lacked
central coordination and a broader scope. At that time many people were
concerned about the devastating impact of these flood disasters, which
threatened the safety and survival of large parts of Dutch territory. It was
evident that the fragmented water governance system, ruled by provinces
and water boards, was losing its grip on the situation. However, deIntroduction
5
centralized authorities were not willing to give up even the smallest part of
their jurisdiction. Another obstacle was that private landowners in the flood
plains could assert their rights by obstructing public intervention.
Nevertheless, by the end of the 18th century the criticism of water managers
gave an impetus to a movement of state reformists to politicize water
management and to plead a more centrally governed unitary state. In 1795
the reformist ideas got a chance when the French invaded the Netherlands,
wiped out the existing ‘Republic of the Seven United Provinces’, and
allowed the reformists to establish a Batavian Republic (1795-1806). In 1798
the new republic adopted legislation which allowed the central government
to exercise supervision over all de-central public authorities with a water
governance task. Related to this, a state water authority (‘Rijkswaterstaat’)
was established as a corps of engineers that would take the lead in a
nationally coordinated approach to water governance. In practice, this
appeared to be a form of extreme centralization resulting in great tensions
between the state and provincial authorities. During the following
Napoleonic era (1806-1813) the French rulers vigorously pursued their
centralization of water governance (Bosch 2001). In fact, the establishment
of Rijkswaterstaat in 1798 marks the transition from a local, uncoordinated
approach to tackling water problems in the main water systems based on a
nationwide overview.
The Dutch transition in water governance at the end of the 18th century was
not alone in Europe. The 18th century had been the ‘age of enlightenment’ in
which French philosophers appealed to the autonomy of reason and to the
emancipation of science from theological dominance. First of all, this
implied that flooding should no longer be seen as a punishment from heaven,
but as a natural phenomenon on which mankind could anticipate. It created
community spirit to undertake public action in the field of water governance.
But also important, the philosophers of the enlightenment introduced natural
rights into practical politics: liberty of the person, security of property and
freedom of discussion were now considered commonsense views on
fundamental human rights. The French revolution proclaimed individual
freedom, the liberation of property, and the abolition of privileges for the
upper class. This resulted in a clear distinction between public law and
private (civil) law with three intentions: (1) to detach political rights from
ownership of land; (2) to prevent public authority falling into private hands
and being traded as private property rights; (3) to prevent arbitrary public
interventions in private property. The constitutional reforms and civil codes
introduced in many European countries in the first half of the 19th century,
reflected the political liberalism, proclaimed by the French revolution, and
the upcoming economic liberalism in the early 19th century. The economic
6 Chapter 1
liberalism movement proclaimed that the public government should not
intervene in the free play of economic forces. The economic order would
perform best with every individual pleading its own interests. In general, the
first civil codes in Europe declare that property is the right to freely enjoy a
matter as well as the right to completely dispose it and to use it. However,
this right could be restricted when it comes into rivalry with civil rights of
other property right holders, or if a public interest, defined by public law,
should prevail. If someone enjoys a property that harms the public interest,
he could be forced to surrender it (expropriation) in exchange for
compensation for property loss. These limitations place severe restrictions
on the extent of private property, especially in the case of flowing water
(Van den Bergh 1979).
The early 19th century was the start of both the protection of civil property
rights and the development of a public domain from which the private
domain could be restricted. During the 19th and 20th century, the evolution of
the property rights structure has shown for many countries that the State
increasingly requires allowance of public use as a limitation on private
property. In general, countries have been moving to a model in which public
law has become more and more relevant for the State to gain resource
control for the public interest (Young 1982; Van der Hoeven 1989). As far
as water governance is concerned, under the influence of Napoleon, who
strongly adhered to State intervention and central regulation, many rivers
were made State property for reasons of navigability and military defense.
State agencies were established to pick up flood protection, dyke
fortification and the engineering of other large water works. Reducing the
effects of unpredictable flooding and improving the use of rivers as a means
for transport should not only be left to bottom up initiatives by private
owners or local communities.
In the 19th century states were not only concerned with protection against
water as a threat (the governance of flood protection and water drainage), but
also with the distribution of water as a source of life (the governance of
water distribution, irrigation and water shortage prevention). For instance in
Spain, an 1879 Water Act re-organized institutional arrangements for surface
water allocation, as previously introduced under Muslim rule on a national
scale. The modernization (in the early 20th century) of agriculture,
industrialization and the growth of the cities led to the development of a
large-scale water storage and transfer infrastructure. In 1926 the
‘Confederaciones Hidrograficas’ (Drainage Basin Authorities) were created
to group all major water users of each river basin, and to allocate the water
Introduction 7
resources made available by major hydraulic engineering works. (Costejà
e.a. 2004).
1.3 The politicizing of water engineering and the
discovery of the human dimension
Until the 1960s of the 20th century, water governance in many states appears
to be dominated by an ‘engineering approach’, resulting in artificial
solutions for water resource problems and generating other resource
problems. For instance, engineered systems for irrigation and drainage lead
to improvement for specific purposes, but they also cause water depletion
and disrupted ecosystems of watercourses. In Spain the very uneven seasonal
and geographical distribution of water supply and demand has led to the
construction of an extensive water storage and redistribution infrastructure.
In the Netherlands the need to protect the land from high water and the
tradition of artificially draining low-lying areas have given the country a
complex hydraulic infrastructure. The flow and level of almost every water
system in the country is artificially controlled. In many countries the
traditional approach to providing flood protection has been strongly biased
in favor of providing engineered measures (embankments, canalization, and
so on) to keep floodwaters away from human settlements. However, from
the 1960s on this traditional engineering approach became criticized,
concurrent with a discovery of the human dimensions of water governance.
First, there has been increasing attention from the 1960s on the negative
effects of engineered water works. The Netherlands, for instance, struggled
with critics from various groups in society on the predominant civil
engineering orientation in Dutch water management. In fact these criticisms,
which started to find expression in the 1960s and 1970s, politicized water
management and initiated a debate in society on water values. The critics
placed a greater value on the meaning of ‘open’ water for recreation, nature
conservation, water storage, and the experience of unspoiled space in an
already crowded and highly planned country. The intensification of
agriculture since the 1950s and the related canalization of natural
watercourses and deterioration of landscape were also criticized. These
criticisms resulted in a more participatory process of water policy making
and a gradual greening of water engineering. From the 1980s on, nature
conservation and ecosystem protection became focal points of water
management. Water engineering solutions nowadays must take into account
the resilience and natural dynamics of the ecosystem (Disco 1998).
8 Chapter 1
Second, there has been a shift from curative solutions for water pollution
problems (building water supply and sewerage networks, and constructing
installations for water purification and treatment) to a more preventive
orientation focusing on target groups and influencing their polluting
behavior. Industrialization, urbanization and population growth in the first
half of the 20th century increased the demand for better housing, water
supply and sanitation. After World War II and during the period of economic
recovery, this tendency continued strongly, and raised concerns in the 1950s
about how to meet the demands for natural resources by a growing economy
and a growing population, which was demanding a higher living standard.
Dutch society had to shift gradually from supply oriented water management
to demand side regulation. In the meantime, there was a growing awareness
that sanitation measures would not be enough, and that something should be
done about the increasing pollution of water resources related to the
expansion of economic activities after World War II. Around 1970, many
European countries, on the basis of international agreements, adopted
legislation to protect surface water quality and to stimulate preventive
behavior. Consequently, the causal relation between groundwater quality and
diffuse pollution from agricultural sources gained attention and resulted in
preventive strategies to affect farming practices. The delayed effects of past
pollution through underground water on our future water supply stock have
stressed the importance of a preventive approach.
Nowadays, we are aware that both the space dimension and the time
dimension of water governance are important. Space makes us aware that
water cannot be dealt with in an isolated, controllable way or just only as a
commodity, but also that the relationship of water with its natural
environment should be taken into account. Water is part of the ecosystem, as
is the use and transport of water by humans affecting the ecosystem. The
space dimension also makes us aware of scale issues. Water governance, or
lack thereof, may have effects that cross boundaries of local, regional and
even national administrations. For instance, river floods in the Dutch
trajectory of the Maas can be prevented to some extent if French and Belgian
authorities take measures that give more room to the river upstream. The
river basin approach, introduced by the European Water Framework
Directive in 2000, also advocates rethinking the scale of governance and to
cooperate and coordinate on the scale of river basins as a whole, especially
with respect to aspects of water quality.
The time dimension of water governance makes us aware that human
activities in the past may have an enormous impact on the future. This
includes pollution that is underway and affects the quality and availability of
Introduction 9
water resources for the future. In the Netherlands, an alarming scenario
report by the research institution Alterra in 2003 predicted that the 2015
targets of the European Water Framework Directive would still not be met if
we stop today with farming on two third of the Dutch agricultural area
(Alterra 2003). The time dimension is also relevant when we realize that
urban or economic development in floodplains of rivers negatively affects
the future resilience of the river system and thus might increase the chance
on flood damage. More indirectly, there are a lot of theories on the impact of
human activities (emissions from traffic, energy production, industries) on a
phenomenon that is variously described as global heating, greenhouse effect
or climate change. Our human consumption today will have a global impact
in the long run.
1.4 The limits of human control and the perspective of
co-evolutionary adaptation
Accepting the human dimensions of how water affects our lives, is quite a
different attitude than the hell and damnation attitude in the age of
Savonarola and Michelangelo. Nevertheless, even 500 years after the
thunder and flood that Savonarola forecasted to come down from heaven due
to God’s ire, there are still human dimensions of water flooding as well as
limits of human control to discover. In December 1993 and January 1995
river floods in the Dutch part of the Rhine and Maas river basins resulted in
the evacuation of more than 200,000 inhabitants and caused enormous
damage to property. In October 1998, another high water crisis in the
Netherlands triggered the awareness that the Dutch hydraulic infrastructure
is facing increasing problems in keeping high water under control. Although
climate change causes a rising sea level and higher rainfall peaks, which
strengthens the dynamics of river basins, it is especially human interventions
in river basins that have caused an enormous loss of space which is needed
to store excessive quantities of water. Past land use decisions have not
accounted for a delta area completely relying on artificial control of water
levels, and needing space along rivers to allow river levels to rise and fall in
a natural way. Water management has always served land use decision
making, but people became aware that it should be the other way around:
land use planning should consider water as a guiding principle for decision
making. Nowadays, the challenge faced by the Netherlands is to harbor
water in a crowded delta area.
Despite what we learn from every flood we encounter, there are still ‘thunder
and flood’ disasters that we may understand and forecast, but that we cannot
10 Chapter 1
control. In 1992, when I stayed for a few months in the Southeast of the
United States and visited Florida to survey if water governance in this state
would be an interesting case study, I witnessed the devastating effects of
Hurricane Andrew which in August of that year slammed into South Florida.
The hurricane devastated Homestead, Florida City and parts of Miami, then
continued northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike the Louisiana
coastline. In all, the storm caused 15 deaths directly, 25 deaths indirectly and
$30-billion in property damage, making it the costliest disaster in U.S.
history at the time. More than 250,000 people were left homeless; 82,000
businesses were destroyed or damaged; about 100,000 residents of south
Dade County permanently left the area in Andrew’s wake. Andrew also had
a severe impact on the environment: it damaged 33 percent of the coral reefs
at Biscayne National Park, and 90 percent of South Dade’s native pinelands,
mangroves and tropical hardwood hammocks. It is difficult to be prepared to
a hurricane and to anticipate as we can anticipate river flooding. We can
anticipate it in the short term with the help of a weather forecast and some
protective measures, but we can hardly control it by means of preventive
measures in the long run. There is a stream of co-evolutionary thinking in
multidisciplinary scientific approaches of ecosystem and water governance
which emphasizes that human responses to natural disasters are not so much
a matter of improving control but more a matter of human adaptation to
changes in ecosystems (Gunderson, Holling & Light 1995; Jeffrey &
McIntosh 2004). So, besides attempts to improve control, water governance
could also be based on the strategy of learning to live with the force of
nature and adapting to the natural dynamics of water.
It seems that an adaptive strategy is more difficult to accept in societies
where a high level of flood protection already exists and where the
population is habituated to it. A Dutch study on ‘water consciousness’
among the population learned that people only appreciate policies that aim at
more natural dynamics in water systems if the existing level of high water
protection remains guaranteed (IVM 2003). A high public performance in
the field of flood protection results in a decreasing disaster tolerance. It also
seems that an adaptive strategy is more difficult to accept in a risk-society
where risks are increased by a high density of inhabitants, industrial
activities and transportation networks in the same area. Due to an increased
impact of disasters in such high-density societies, they tend to be more risk
averse and have a lower disaster tolerance (Rosenthal 2001). The challenge
of course is to use an adaptive strategy as a means for risk avoidance and to
explain to the public the sustainability rational of making water systems
more resilient.
Introduction 11
1.5 The conceptual understanding of water governance
In the beginning of this chapter we used the term ‘water governance’ for
collective action to address water issues. For instance, the first water boards
in the Netherlands could already be labeled as institutions for water
governance, because they were self-governing networks of actors,
irrespective of their legitimacy as official government authorities. Besides
the use of the term ‘governance’ for self-organizing networks, other uses are
also distinguished in the recent literature, such as the minimal state,
corporate governance, the new public management, good governance and
socio-cybernetic system (Rhodes 1996). In his analysis of the concept of
governance, Rhodes makes a distinction between chaos of the unregulated
‘market’, the overly rigid notion of ‘hierarchy’ established by a traditional
bureaucratic government, and ‘governance’ which he defines as an emergent
property of self-organizing, inter-organizational networks. Björk and
Johansson (2000) have formulated the following notions that constitute a
common ground and the lowest denominators for a governance theory. Such
a theory:
– is about the society governed with new means and methods, which create
new prerequisites for organizing societal actors;
– points out that actors are coordinated in other ways than through
traditional hierarchies;
– is about the state having ambitions to govern and thereby the state as a
more or less important actor;
– is not primarily about the outcome, but about processes in a more or less
static political system;
– is not normative.
In chapter 2 of this dissertation we elaborate more on the concept
‘governance’ and how we want to use it for our research. In this chapter we
want to abstract from the described evolution of water governance a few
issues, which we think matter for a governance theory.
We first want to mention the level issue. This governance issue is about the
fit between the hydrological scale of water systems, the problem scale at
which water problems become manifest, and the administrative scale at
which water problems and the human solutions to those problems are
administered. We noticed that the space dimension of water governance
leads to the awareness that the solution to a water problem might be found in
an area other than that in which the problem is experienced. For instance, the
Netherlands experiences as a downstream country, the delta of four
European river basins: it has to receive excessive river flows, which may be
12 Chapter 1
reinforced due to river canalization in upstream countries, as well as
pollution from transboundary sources. This has consequences for the spatial
dimension of the river system, as well as for the potential use of downstream
river water as drinking water.
A second issue we want to mention is the participation issue. We have seen
that water governance is no more a matter of isolated engineering. The
politicizing of water engineering has created an arena through which a broad
variety of interest groups and other stakeholders want to be involved and
participate in decision making. Water governance has also become more
complex due to an expansion of the public domain and increasing
interrelatedness with other policy sectors (land use planning, environmental
management, nature conservation). The process of policy making requires
more interactions with policy making in other policy sectors.
Third we perceive the relevance of a perspective issue. The interpretation of
water problems varies over time and among stakeholders. This is evident by
the paradigmatic change of water governance in the Netherlands in the
1990s, where new river floods have fundamentally changed the perspective
on flood protection. The adoption of an adaptive strategy is still
controversial. In general, different stakeholders have different perspectives
on the structure of water problems and the solutions that they think are
needed.
Fourth we have seen that the property rights issue does matter as an issue of
governance. The transition in European states after the French revolution has
settled a demarcation between the public and the private domain. Since then,
the public domain has expanded, resulting in an increasing communalization
of the use of water resources. Privatization tendencies in the late 20th century
have reopened the debate on the desired public/private divide in water
governance.
A fifth issue of governance could be the steering issue, which is about the
question of how to control human behavior that affects water. This issue
directly results from the discovery of the human dimension in water
governance. Excessive use and pollution of water resources need regulation
of human behavior. Three steering models are often debated: the regulatory
model based on a command and control strategy, the economic steering
model based on financial incentives, and the communicative steering model
based on knowledge and opinion transfer.
Introduction 13
A final issue we perceive as important is the implementation resources issue.
Water governance needs all kinds of resources to become effective. The
transfer of such resources could be rather complicated and also raises the
question of how efficient water governance could be. One could think of
spatial resources in terms of land property that is needed for the realization
of water works and for the allowance of more natural dynamics in river flood
plains. The transfer of this resource type raises questions about expropriation
and compensation for property loss. One could also think of financial
resources, needed for the production and delivery of water services. In this
context three financing principles are often discussed in relation to water
governance: the principle of full cost recovery, the affordability principle,
and the polluter pays principle. Finally one could think of information
resources that are necessary for water policy making, for monitoring water
systems, and for monitoring human behavior in order to enforce regulations.
1.6 The questions and outline of this dissertation
This dissertation is about water governance and institutional change. The
focus on water governance means that we are interested in collective action
with respect to water issues, which is not restricted to government action by
public authorities, but includes involvement and participative action by
private stakeholders. Furthermore, it means that we are not only interested in
the ‘action aspect’ of collective action, but also in the complexity of the
institutional context in which collective action is embedded and achieved.
The focus on institutional change means that we are interested in the
evolution of the public domain, the interaction with the private domain, and
the shifting boundaries of the public/private divide.
We will start this dissertation with an elaboration of the governance concept.
What are the elements that constitute a water governance structure?
Although the concept recognizes that the state is an important actor having
ambitions to govern, it also advocates looking at the ambitions and role of
non-governmental actors in collective action with respect to water issues.
We will search for an elaboration of the governance concept that takes into
account multi-level, multi-actor, multi-perspective, multi-instrument and
multi-resource aspects of collective action. We also want to understand the
role of property rights in water governance, especially the demarcation
between the public and private domain. We will try to link the governance
concept to the concept of resource regimes, which is better equipped to
consider natural resources from a property rights point of view. After having
identified the constituting elements of a governance structure and a resource
14 Chapter 1
regime, we are interested to learn about the dynamics of water governance.
How can shifts of governance be explained? What triggers generate shifts of
governance? What conditions determine if triggers have an effect? What are
the implications of shifts in governance for the demarcation between the
public and private domain? In addition, we are interested to find and
understand examples of water governance in which non-governmental actors
have played an influential role. To summarize, we formulate five research
questions that are central in this dissertation:
1. How can we elaborate the elements of a water governance structure, if
we want to understand shifts in governance?
2. What are the main institutional shifts in water governance that can be
perceived in the Netherlands and in a wider European context?
3. How can these water governance shifts be explained in terms of
institutional conditions that determine – as intermediate mechanisms –
the change effects of external triggers?
4. What are the implications of governance shifts for the demarcation
between the public and private domain?
5. What institutional lessons can be learned from governance
arrangements in which non-governmental actors do play an influential
role?
The chapters of this dissertation have been produced as independent papers,
articles, book chapters or deliverables for various research projects. Some of
them have been integrally published before; others are largely or partly
based on earlier publications. At the end of this dissertation a more detailed
account for the earlier publication and co-authorship of chapters can be
found. Despite the independent project based production of the various
dissertation chapters, we believe that the research programmatic agenda
behind the various projects creates a degree of coherence between the
subsequent chapters, as we demonstrate below.
In the first part of this dissertation we deal with the theoretical framework
for the various studies that follow. This part deals with the first research
question of the dissertation: “How can we elaborate the elements of a water
governance structure, if we want to understand shifts in governance?” In
chapter 2 we elaborate the governance concept into elements that constitute a
governance structure. The elaboration connects with the scientific work of
various scholars in the policy science field. While chapter 2 focuses on the
management of natural resources from a public domain (although in
interaction with private actors), chapter 3 focuses on the management of
natural resources in a broader sense. Chapter 3 deals with a regime theory on
the interaction between the public and the private domain. It also takes into
Introduction 15
account the domain of collective property and the ‘no property’ (res nullius)
domain. Regime theory is based on the notion that property rights determine
the accessibility of water systems as a natural resource for various users and
use functions. Both chapters not only elaborate the elements of a governance
structure and a resource regime, but also deal with the institutional dynamics
of governance and resource regimes. They identify conditions that determine
both the stability and the dynamics of governance structures and resource
regimes.
The second part of this dissertation is compiled of several studies on water
resource regimes in Europe, both on a national and a local (water basin)
scale. This part deals with the second, third and fourth research questions of
the dissertation: “What are the main institutional shifts of water governance
that can be perceived in the Netherlands and in a wider European context?
How can these shifts of water governance be explained in terms of
institutional conditions that determine – as intermediate mechanisms – the
change effects of external triggers? What are the implications of governance
shifts for the demarcation between the public and private domain?” The
chapters in part two have been produced in the context of the international
research project Euwareness (European Water Regimes and the Notion of a
Sustainable Status)1, of which the author has been coordinator together with
the promotor of this dissertation. The main question for the researchers in
this project was whether the regime for the management of a water system
provided sufficient guarantees for its sustainable use, by diminishing or
preventing rivalries between users and use functions. The following subquestions
have been discussed: Do integrated water regimes lead to more
sustainable water use? What are important indicators for integrated water
regimes? Under what conditions can integrated water regimes be achieved?
What could be the influence of Europe and national conditions, to achieve
regime transitions at water basin scale? Chapter 4 of this dissertation deals
with the evolution of the water regime in the Netherlands on a national scale
during a two-hundred-year period, mainly focusing on the most recent 50
years. We identify the main transitions in the evolution of the national water
regime and try to find the explaining triggers and conditions. Chapter 5
compares the evolution of the Dutch national regime with the national
regime evolution in five other European countries: Belgium, France, Spain,
Italy and Switzerland. This chapter evaluates the various stages of regime
evolution that these six countries have achieved, and identifies the most
influential triggers and restraints to regime change across Europe. The
1 The Euwareness project has been funded under the 5th Framework Programme of the
European Union (contract number EVK1-CT-1999-0038) and co-ordinated by the
University of Twente (CSTM).
16 Chapter 1
following two chapters shift the attention from the national level to regional
and local level cases. Chapter 6 includes an in depth analysis of the most
recent regime transition in the Netherlands on the scale of two water basins:
the IJsselmeer basin and the Regge river basin. Although this chapter starts
with a brief recapitulation of the regime evolution on a national scale over
the last 50 years, as discussed in chapter 4, sets the national context in which
the case studies at basin scale have taken place. Chapter 6 includes an
analysis of the causality between triggers, conditions, regime changes and
effects in terms of resource sustainability. Chapter 7 is based on a
comparison of twelve case studies at basin scale across the six countries that
were involved in the Euwareness project, including the two Dutch case
studies that have been described and analyzed in chapter 6. Chapter 7 starts
with a recapitulation of the analytical framework as described in part one,
but further specifies this framework as far as necessary for the comparative
analysis of the twelve European case studies, especially concerning the
conditions that determine whether triggers (‘change agents’) generate regime
change.
The third part of this dissertation selects the agricultural pollution of
groundwater sources that are needed for drinking water supply as a special
case of water governance. One of the most interesting features of this case is
that it allows us to look closely at the role of two non-governmental actors in
water governance that are rather well organized: the agricultural sector and
the water supply sector. The case study demonstrates the limited control
capacity of governmental actors and their dependence on the selforganization
of private and semi-private sectors in society. The structure of
groundwater governance includes institutional gaps that in the Netherlands
and several other European countries have been bridged by negotiated
agreements between water suppliers and farmers. These negotiated
agreements are examples of institutional arrangements on the edge of the
public and private domain. Therefore, part three deals with the fifth research
question of the dissertation: “What institutional lessons can be learned from
governance arrangements in which non-governmental actors play an
influential role?” Chapters 8 and 9 have been produced in the context of the
international research project ‘Water supply authorities in Europe preventing
agricultural pollution’ that was designed by the author together with the
promotor of this dissertation.2 Chapter 8 deals with the case of groundwater
governance at the national level in the Netherlands. It identifies the problem
context, the regulatory context (at national and European level), as well as
2 The project ‘Water supply authorities in Europe preventing agricultural pollution’ has been
funded under the 4th Framework Programme of the European Union (contract number
EV5V-CT94-0368) and co-ordinated by the University of Twente (CSTM).
Introduction 17
the network context. The network context analyses the institutional
dynamics of agricultural issues in the water supply sector as well as the
institutional dynamics of environmental issues in the agricultural sector.
Chapter 9 deals with the consequences of the national context for
institutional arrangements at the regional level in the Netherlands. It explains
how negotiated agreements between water suppliers and farmers are settled
in a setting of specific motives and resources on both sides. Negotiated
agreements are interpreted as a transfer of resources based on resource
dependency and resource susceptibility. In chapter 10 we compare the Dutch
case of groundwater governance with a similar case in the American State of
Florida.3 The reason for comparing the governance structure of groundwater
and drinking water protection in both states is that the problems underlying
the policies in both states display a number of remarkable similarities.
Therefore, our questions are: Do different states that have similar problems
develop similar governance structures? Or are there conspicuous
differences? If there are differences, how can these be explained in terms of
institutional conditions that determine the stability and dynamics of a
governance structure?
The fourth part of this dissertation deals with market forces in water
governance. In this part we revisit the fourth and fifth research question of
the dissertation: “What are the implications of governance shifts for the
demarcation between the public and private domain? What institutional
lessons can be learned from governance arrangements in which nongovernmental
actors do play an influential role?” In the previous part,
chapters 9 and 10 teach us the importance of keeping the water supply sector
on board in the borderland of the public domain. Water suppliers, although a
semi-private sector, can function as a key actor for the achievement of more
sustainable oriented groundwater governance. To follow up this conclusion,
we have chosen for chapter 11 to move to the privatization debate on water
services in the Netherlands at the end of the 1990s. As a result of the
liberalization of several European markets for utility services, it was debated
in the Netherlands to allow more market forces for the production and
delivery of water supply and wastewater treatment services. In chapter 11 we
analyze this debate as a discussion between defenders of the private domain
(the market) and defenders of the public domain. Advocates of privatization
3 The study of the Florida case has been financially supported with a travel grant from the
Netherlands Institute of Government (NIG), and has been facilitated by the Department of
Political Science (in particular prof.dr. W.A. Rosenbaum) at the University of Florida in
Gainesville (FL). The results of this study have been presented and discussed at the 2nd
joint conference of the University of Florida and the University of Twente on ‘The Politics
of Sustainable Development: Institutions Across Social Scales’ in Gainesville (FL) on
February 17-19, 2000.
18 Chapter 1
believe it is the best way to save on utility costs and to increase their
transparency. Opponents believe that the Dutch water sector already
provides high quality services for low prices, while including an additional
public performance that is not attractive for the market to take care of. The
analysis in chapter 11 aims to clarify this debate and to undo it from its
ideological traits by making a distinction between the public performance,
the efficiency performance and the commercial performance of water
services supply. We argue that the performance of water service providers
should not only be assessed in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of the
effects on the water system (to be considered as a public performance). We
also argue that a public provider in principle could be competitive in terms
of efficiency.
In chapter 12 we end up this dissertation with an epilogue, to revisit the
research questions that are formulated in this introductory chapter. It
presents a summary and reflections on water governance, institutional
change, and the public private divide in water governance.
REFERENCES
Alterra (2003) Aquarein. Gevolgen van de Europese Kaderrichtlijn Water voor landbouw,
natuur, recreatie en visserij’. Published at http://www.alterra.wur.nl.
Bergh, G.C.J.J. van den (1979) Eigendom. Grepen uit de geschiedenis van een omstreden
begrip. Deventer: Kluwer.
Björk, Peder, & Hans Johansson (2000) Towards a governance theory: A state-centric
approach. Paper presented at IPSA Quebec, August 2000.
Bosch, A. (2001) ‘Politiek-bestuurlijke aspecten van centrale waterstaatszorg 1798-1849.’ in:
Openbaar Bestuur, 2001-11, pp. 7-10.
Costejà, Meritxell, e.a. (2004) ‘The Evolution of the Water Regime in Spain.’ in: Ingrid
Kissling-Näf & Stefan Kuks (eds.) The evolution of national water regimes in Europe.
Transitions in water rights and water policies towards sustainability. Dordrecht / Boston /
London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 235-264.
Disco, C. (1998) ‘Waterstaat.’ in: J.W. Schot e.a. (red.) Techniek in Nederland in de
Twintigste Eeuw. Deel I. Zutphen: Walburg Pers, pp. 52-207.
Gunderson, L.H., C.S. Holling & S.S. Light (eds.) (1995) Barriers and Bridges to the
Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hoeven, J. van der (1989) De drie dimensies van het bestuursrecht. Ontstaan en vorming van
het Nederlandse algemene bestuursrecht. Reeks van de Vereniging voor Administratief
Recht nr. 100, Alphen aan den Rijn: Samsom H.D. Tjeenk Willink.
IVM – Instituut voor Milieuvraagstukken (2003) Bewust werken aan waterbewustzijn. Studie
naar de rol en relevantie van het begrip waterbewustzijn voor het waterbeleid. Report
commissioned by the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management,
Published at http://www.waterverkenningen.nl
Introduction 19
Jeffrey, Paul, & Brian S. McIntosh (2004) Co-evolutionary theory as a conceptual model in
the search for sustainable modes of water management: The Aquadapt brief. Published at
http://www.aquadapt.net
King, Ross (2003) De hemel van de paus. Michelangelo en de Sixtijnse kapel (Translated
version of “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. The Making of a Masterpiece”).
Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij.
Rhodes, R.A.W. (1996) ‘The New Governance: Governing without Government.’ in: Political
Studies, Vol. 44, pp. 652-667.
Rosenthal, U. (2001) Veiligheidsniveaus: menselijke fouten, het systeem en nieuwe
zondebokken. Published at the website of the NVVK (Nederlandse Vereniging voor
Veiligheidskunde): http://www.veiligheidskunde.nl
Young, O.R. (1982) Resource Regimes. Natural Resources and Social Institutions. Berkeley-
Los Angeles-London: University of California Press.
World Water Council (2000) Final Report of the Second World Water Forum & Ministerial
Conference: From Vision to Action. 17-22 March 2000, The Hague.
20 Chapter 1
Part one
Theoretical Framework

21
Chapter 2
The meaning of governance
From conception to elaboration
2.1 Introduction
The mission of sustainable development is in several respects an especially
demanding form of societal change (Bressers & Rosenbaum 2000: 532-536).
This is one reason that in social science studies of sustainable development
the concept of ‘government policy’ often is replaced by the broader term
‘governance’. There is growing recognition that government alone does not
determine the future development of sectors in society; these are shaped
through the interaction of many actors. Within such networks of actors, the
government can adopt a position that is more or less central and dominant.
This change in view represents a shift in accent from government policy, or
‘government’, to ‘governance’. The governance pattern consists of all the
consequences of the interplay among all the actors involved (Kooiman 1993:
258) in interventions to promote sustainability.
In addition, recognition is increasing that sectors in society are not
governed on one level, or on a number of separate levels, but through
interaction between these levels. These levels often reflect the various tiers
of government, but not necessarily; other powerful actors may provide
direction at a certain level where no government authority is active. In the
same way, actors may also operate on more than one level. Thus, there is a
growing recognition as well that policy problems often contain various
interacting levels (e.g., environmental problems). This reality poses an issue
that has been called ‘multilevel governance’. Yet governance is a broad and
often confusing term because it is used in many different ways (Peters &
Pierre 1998; Lynn et al. 2000a, 2000b: 234; O’Toole 2000: 276). “There are
almost as many ideas of governance as there are researchers in the field”
(Björk & Johansson 2000: 1). There is clearly a need for more synthesizing
of this concept.
This theoretical chapter develops such a synthesis in the form of a
governance model to aid in comparing governance structures. In many ways,
this is complimentary to ongoing comparative studies of government.
22 Chapter 2
Various contemporary approaches in policy science already focus on
changes in government policy when making comparisons (Sabatier &
Jenkins-Smith 1993, 1999; Baumgartner & Jones 1993). In addition to a
focus on long-term changes in policy (diachronic study), there are also
comparative studies of policies in a certain sector and different sectors
(synchronic study) that should be facilitated by the governance model
developed in this chapter. As far as developments in time are concerned, this
is primarily intended to provide indications of the relations between the
various elements of the governance structure. Additionally, the model is
concerned less about the actual interaction processes (activities and
interactions between actors) than with the more structural elements of
governance, which form both the inputs and outputs of such policy
processes. In the context of this dissertation, we give extra attention to the
distribution of governance between various scales and levels.
The central questions of this chapter are:
1. Which elements make up a governance structure?
2. In what ways do changes in these elements influence each other?
In the next section, we develop the model of governance based on various
approaches taken in studies of public administration. In developing our
vision on the elements of governance, we start with the term ‘policy’ and
expand this, using various components, into a ‘governance pattern’. The
succeeding section presents a vision of the mutual influences between the
elements of governance, including the multi-scale issue. Finally, the chapter
ends with a short conclusion.
2.2 Elements of governance
In the literature that sails under the flag of governance and in the more
general policy science literature, there is an overwhelming load of
components that can and should be included in a synthesis model of
governance. At first glance this may seem to make the endeavor a ‘mission
impossible’. However, within policy science literature is considerable old
wine in new casks; many ‘new’ approaches present only one or two new
aspects to what is already known. So it makes sense to state our own starting
point, then expend it with specific additions from the literature.
The meaning of governance 23
2.2.1 Interaction processes and ‘instrumentation theory’
The policy science approach as it developed at the University of Twente
emphasizes the policy process as social interaction. Over the years, attention
has shifted from viewing policy as a sort of production process with semifinished
and final products to a vision in which actors are the central
concern. In this vision, the course and outcomes of the processes depend not
only on the inputs to the process but mainly on the characteristics of the
actors involved, particularly their objectives, information, and power. All
other factors that influence the process do so when they influence the
characteristics of the actors involved. This also applies to the influence of
policy instruments on behavior. Not all characteristics of actors, however,
are determined by policy, and so it is not possible to describe a policy
without paying attention to the actors involved in that policy themselves
(Bressers 1983).
Moreover, the processes in this vision are not confined to a single series
or cycle, but are part of a large number of societal processes in which
government authorities sometimes participate and sometimes do not. All
these processes are connected to other processes in a complicated web via
their inputs and outputs, and possibly indirectly linked to all other processes.
Each definition of a sector of society draws more or less arbitrary boundary
around a cluster of processes in this web. Although the boundaries between
policy development and policy implementation often are diffuse, in research
practice they are often drawn to coincide with those between higher and
lower tiers of government (Bressers & Honigh 1986).
What we call an ‘instrumentation theory’ stems from these perspectives.
It focuses on the effect of policy instruments on target groups of policy
(Bressers & Klok 1988; Klok 1991; Bressers 2001). It also recognizes that
instruments do not influence the characteristics of the actors involved
separately but rather collectively as an ‘instrument strategy’. Policy
instruments and strategies have various properties – for example, a certain
relationship between target group behavior and government reaction to this
behavior, or giving resources to or taking resources from the target group.
Such properties of instrument strategies affect their applicability in practice.
Klok emphasizes that some of the instruments are designed to give those
implementing a policy the power to apply other instruments (Klok 1991:
176-194) and also that the implementing organizations depend on sufficient
capacity and expertise (Klok 1991: 163-164; Bressers 1983: 218-237 and
256-274). In his thesis Arentsen (1991) exhaustively discusses the
relationship between the policy organization and policy implementation.
Later publications on this approach (Bressers & Kuks 1992; Bressers,
O’Toole & Richardson 1994; Bressers, Huitema & Kuks 1994) have paid
24 Chapter 2
more attention to the interrelations between the actors, including actors that
do not directly participate in the processes under examination. Klok (1995)
gives primary importance to the allocation and removal of resources in such
relations and in the classification of policy instruments. The relationships
between actors within such policy networks are seen as an important factor
in the development of the content of policy (Bressers 1998; Bressers &
O’Toole 1998; Ligteringen 1999). In addition, the relationship between
policy processes at the various administrative levels is explicitly dealt with
(Bressers, Kuks & Ligteringen 1998). During this theoretical development,
the approach to policy as an interactive process and the instrumentation
theory based on it gradually grew into an integrative policy science
approach, uniting elements from a variety of other approaches.
This brings us to the provisional elements of governance: (1)
Administrative and other scale levels; (2) Actors in the policy network; (3)
Policy objectives; (4) Strategies and instruments; and (5) Organization and
resources of implementation. In the next sections we compare these elements
with issues emphasized in a part of the literature that deals explicitly with
‘governance’ and also propose some limitations of our elaborated model.
2.2.2 Governance literature
If one examines the literature in which the term governance is prominent, the
first impression is diverse definitions and different contexts. We must
inevitably make an initial choice among this diversity of approaches. The
following discussion introduces the way we use the term ‘governance’ in
relation to the conceptual diversity of uses in the literature.
Rhodes (1996) lists six categories of publications on governance. Our
impression is that two of these differ rather strongly from the other
categories, in both interpretation and context (see Björk & Johansson 2000:
1). Corporate governance comprises a large number of theories and studies
on the management of companies, often from a stakeholder perspective.
Good governance is often used in development studies to indicate the
administrative capacity as the context for sustainable or otherwise successful
development. In these two categories the term is generally used in about the
same way as we would use the term administration.
The other four categories, in our opinion, are more closely related to each
other and to the debate within the policy science community.1 Rhodes (1996)
1 A seventh school, not mentioned by Rhodes but discussed in numerous publications, is
that of international governance. Within the field of international relations, it has long been
usual to refer to the administrative relations within and between various international
organizations and associations by the term governance. Many of these publications use the
term without further explanation, suggesting an implicit meaning much the same as public
The meaning of governance 25
identifies the four categories of literature that are most relevant to our
concern with defining governance as the minimal state, new public
management, socio-cybernetic systems theory, and self-regulating networks.
The factor common to all is that they search for forms of coordination that
do not fit comfortably with the market-hierarchy distinction (compare
Arentsen & Künneke 1996; Rosenau 2000: 11-16) once common to
governance theory. At the beginning of the 1980s, there was talk of
overloaded polities in which “regime stability is threatened by…the related
problems of governmental effectiveness and popular consent” (Rose 1980:
107). The reaction to this was advocacy of less state and more market.
Thinking in terms of governance is also an answer to the erosion of the state
literature during the 1980s. Rhodes (1997: 19) writes: “The process of
hollowing out…is central to understand the shift from unitary state to a
differentiated polity.” Instead of discussing these four categories separately
(see Björk & Johansson 2000: 3-7), we prefer to introduce another
distinction.
Each of these approaches is built to some degree from empirical
observation but, more importantly, a non-normative vision. This normative
bias almost always implies that a more limited role or presence of
government authorities delivers better governance. This bias is weakest in
the socio-cybernetic approach (e.g. the work of Kooiman [1994], which we
think is proposed as a rather one-sided exponent of this bias) and most
obvious in the idea of the minimal state. However, the normative debate is
not our primary interest. Here we investigate the administrative aspects,
which are highlighted as governance.2
Implicitly, our position is that ‘governance without government (Peters &
Pierre 1998: 223) is not a goal in itself. A further limitation of our treatment
is related to this issue. Some authors are looking mainly for a more or less
stable institutional arrangement in addition to the market, in which
communities of private actors are able, without outside intervention, to
promote their collective interests. In contrast, our interest does lie in such
outside interventions, irrespective of whether they are intentional, or are
undertaken by one or more government authorities with horizontal or
vertical (hierarchic) relations. In doing this, we concentrate more on change
administration (e.g., Marks et al. 1996; Hovden 2000; Jordan 2000). Other publications do
make specific use of the term governance (e.g., Young 1994; Rosenau 2000), and these are
assigned to the other categories depending on the meaning given to the concept. The first
limitation on the way in which we use the term governance, therefore, is that we ignore the
use in business administration, development studies and international relations in so far as
it simply means administration, or in any discussions outside the public administration or
policy science disciplines.
2 Thus, the second limitation on the way in which we use the term governance is that we
ignore the normative debate on the role of government authorities.
26 Chapter 2
than on stability. It also means that many rules-in-use, customs and
traditions, property rights, and so on are seen more as the subject matter of
governance to be influenced – and as such, part of the instrumental strategythan
as the main business of the governance system (compare Young 1994:
ix and 1633).
Institutional rules can be considered an arena in which the actors operate,
and so can be linked to the modules of instrument theory (Fenger & Klok
2000); we are looking for their context: a broader concept of governance.
For example, if research into the implementation of policy shows that many
people do not apply for rent rebates because they do not realize that they are
entitled, because people do not want to ask for money, or because they do
not feel they have the right to a rent rebate, these are direct explanations for
their behavior. But this raises a further question: is there an explanationbehind-
the-explanation? In the next section, therefore, we will treat
institutional approaches as part of policy science.
2.2.3 Multilevel coordination and multifaceted problems
The term multilevel has become the most common prefix attached to
governance. It relates not only to its multiple nature but also particularly to
the interdependence between levels (Smith 1997). According to Lundqvist
(2001), the challenge of environmental governance is to develop “social
choice mechanisms that combine two ostensibly incompatible qualities:
authoritative (including the possibility of state intervention) and flexible,
self-adjusting and ‘reflective’, with a considerable influence on those
governed.” Further, there is a “more encompassing multilevel view of
governance needed” for one reason because “problems (like sustainability
issues) are multifaceted.” The component problems “require different scales
and the interactions between the scales require multilevel coordination.”
Without such coordination, there may be a race to the bottom with disastrous
implications for the social problem. But this does not have to involve a
higher authority. In certain circumstances, multilevel or inter-level games
can lead to a race to the top (Scharpf 1997b). Blomquist and Schlager (1999:
7, 39-43) also emphasize the relationship between many facets of the
problem and the horizontal and vertical coordination this requires. The same
is true for Rosenau (2000: 10-11).
3 Although Young looks for the substance of governance in institutional arrangements,
March and Olson (1995: 11) put thinking in term of governance opposite the institutional
perspective, as a consequence of the exchange perspective. For them “the core artistry of
governance is winning coalitions and policies.” Clearly, we do not agree with either.
The meaning of governance 27
2.2.4 Multiactor networks
Rosenau (2000: 5) also assumes the multilevel character of governance. He
talks of “evolution of multi-level governance, a form of rule in which
authority is voluntary and legally dispersed among various levels of
community where problems are located and local needs require attention.”
And he adds a second element, “shifting the balance between hierarchical
and network forms of organizations, between vertical flows of authority and
horizontal flows.”4
2.2.5 Multi-instrumental steering mechanisms and multiresourcebased
implementation
O’Toole (2000: 276-279) treats governance in the context of studies of the
implementation of policy strategies. He calls governance “difficult to denote
with precision,” adding to the multilevel and multiactor aspects “the
multivariate character of policy action.” He refers to Milward and Provan
(1999: 3), who state: “The essence of governance is its focus on governing
mechanisms – grants, contracts, agreements – that do not rest solely on the
authority and sanctions of government.” He also points to the work of Lynn,
Heinrich, and Hill (2000a, 2000b), who approach governance from the
public management perspective. Although they set themselves the task of
developing a broad and comprehensive model of governance, their
background is clearly present in their thinking. They begin by noting that
policy programs are implemented in a web of many diverse actors, an
assumption that distinguishes it from the rest of the literature. As a
consequence, the model of governance they develop concentrates not only
on the objectives (including output indicators) and instruments (treatment) of
policy, but also the resources and organization of implementation. The
model differs from the usual overviews mainly because it clearly shows that
these aspects of organization and resources can take a wide variety of forms
and have a multifunctional character (2000a: 257-258). Peters and Pierre
(1998: 226-227) also consider, besides the emphasis on networks, the
blending of public and private resources and the use of multiple instruments
to be features of the governance concept.
4 He also draws on Rhodes (2000: 60), citing: “Networks are the analytical heart of the
notion of governance in the Study of Public Administration.” One of the advantages
ascribed to networks is that they are essential for learning processes (Knoepfel & Kissling-
Näf 1998). Kickert (1997), in his overview of public governance in the Netherlands (and
in his other work), pays much attention to network approaches.
28 Chapter 2
This exploration of the governance literature has broadened our
definition of the five aspects mentioned at the end of section 2.2.1. In our
opinion, the elements of governance are:
1. Levels (not necessarily administrative levels): governance assumes the
general multilevel character of policy implementation.
2. Actors and their networks: governance assumes the multiactor character
of policy implementation.
3. Perception of the problem and objectives (not just objectives):
governance assumes the multifaceted character of the problems and
objectives of policy implementation.
4. Strategies and instruments: governance assumes the multi-instrumental
character of policy strategies for policy implementation.
5. Resources and organization of implementation: governance assumes the
complex multiresource basis for policy implementation.
We believe that using these five elements, the governance pattern can be
described for a certain policy field in a specified place and time. But what
should be described within the framework of these five elements? Which
questions (or indicators) can operationalize these elements (or dimensions).
The governance literature itself gives no clear answer yet. In the next
sections we describe these five elements of governance in more detail.
2.2.6 Visions and synthesis from the policy sciences literature
We have developed our five elements further using various policy science
approaches. Many of these approaches have purposes other than identifying
elements of the content of policy and governance. For example, they can be
used to explain long-term policy changes, or the effectiveness of policy
instruments. However, these policy science perspectives can also enrich our
approach to governance as we have illustrated in the extended analysis
published separately in Dutch (Bressers & Kuks 2001). Here we only report
some especially relevant conclusions.
In their classical treatments of decision making, Herbert A. Simon’s
(1997 [1945]) bounded rationality and Charles E. Lindblom’s
incrementalism (Lindblom 1959; Baybrooke & Lindblom 1970 [1963])
emphasize the limited human capacity to process information. Opening the
possibilities of non-incremental policy changes has to do with megapolicy
changes (Dror 1971), which involve a recognition of the task of government.
Allison’s (1971) bureaucracy model specifically addresses the standard
approaches and repertoires of organizations, which restrict flexibility in
conducting policy.
The meaning of governance 29
The rule based institutional rational choice approach (Kiser & Ostrom
1982; Ostrom 1990, 1999) draws attention to the way in which actors enter
the policy network or are excluded from it. Furthermore scope rules
determine the extent of certain positions, competencies, and other sources of
power. Ostrom also distinguishes between different levels of analysis. This
layered structure is not the same as a classification of administrative layers.
A compromise between both interpretations of the term level is to speak
about levels within a concept of multilevel governance. This implies that
often the administrative bodies with a larger scaled domain will set rules that
form a context for more operative decision making in smaller domains, next
to some decisions that can be regarded as directly operative.
In the advocacy coalition framework (Sabatier 1988, 1991, 1999;
Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith 1993, 1999), a particularly important idea is that
coalitions of actors in the policy network do not merely represent the
division between government and other actors, but also contain actors from
both of these groups sharing certain beliefs. We can identify various layers.
In the deep core are issues relating to the perception of problems, the
division of the costs of policy implementation, the desirability of
contributions from experts, politicians, and the general public and other
relevant values and preferences. The derived aspects contain elaborations for
each given situation. Besides this layered structure, the importance attached
to the perception of the problem is very significant. In addition to advocacy
coalitions, there are actors who are more likely to have objectives that relate
to policy processes than to the content of policy, and these actors are referred
to by Sabatier (1988, 1991) as political brokers.
The flow model of the policy process (Kingdon 1995 [1984]; Zahariadis
1999) examines how three relatively autonomous flows can come together
each time a decision has to be made. Political entrepreneurs promote this by
making use of windows of opportunity (or creating them). From a multiscale
perspective, the convergence of problem perception, policy opportunities,
and political salience should not take place at different levels (such as when
there is concern about a problem at a single state level while solutions are
being sought at the federal level).
In the actor centered institutionalism of Scharpf (1997a), explanation
takes place primarily in terms of the distribution of preferences for
alternatives. Much attention is also paid to information, but only to direct
information and not so much to frameworks for interpretation (see the next
section).
A large number of current theories in policy sciences can be
characterized as cognitive approaches: cognitive maps (Axelrod 1976),
frames (Schön 1983; Schön & Rein 1994), discourses (Dryzek 1987, 1997),
argumentation and the social construction of reality (Fisher 1995; Fisher &
30 Chapter 2
Forrester 1993; Milbrath 1993) and cultural theory (Thompson, Ellis &
Wildavsky 1990; Schwarz & Thompson 1990). Characteristic for these
theories is that they all emphasize that the behavior of actors rests on their
subjective interpretation of reality. Furthermore, this subjective
interpretation is formed because observations of actors are given a place in
frameworks of interpretation that provide meaning to these observations, but
also distort them.
From all the preceding theories, aspects have been taken and used to
enrich the meaning of the five elements of governance as described next.
2.2.7 A model of governance in five elements
Based partly on the previous discussion and partly on a slightly more
detailed representation of the specifications from the previously examined
approaches, we arrive at the refined description of the five elements of the
governance structure we have identified. In the shortest form, the
governance model consists of five questions: Where? Who? What? How?
and With what? A characteristic feature of modern governance systems is
that they have many aspects: they are multilevel, multiactor, multifaceted,
multi-instrumental and multiresource-based.
(1) Levels of governance
Where? – Multilevel
Which levels of governance dominate policy and the debate on conducting
policy, and in which relations? What is the relation with the administrative
levels of government? Who decides or influences such issues? How is the
interaction between the various administrative levels arranged?
(2) Actors in the policy network
Who? – Multiactor
How open is the policy arena in theory and practice, and to whom? Who is
actually involved, and with what exactly? What is their position? What is the
accepted role for government? Who has relevant ownership and use rights,
or who are stakeholders in some other capacity (including policyimplementing
organizations)? What is the structural inclination to cooperate
among actors in the network? Are there actors among them who operate as
process brokers or policy entrepreneurs? What is the position of the general
public versus experts versus politicians?
The meaning of governance 31
(3) Problem perception and objectives
What? – Multifaceted
What are the dominant maps of reality? What is seen as a problem, and how
serious is this considered to be? What do people see as the causes of this
problem? Is the problem considered to be a problem for individuals or for
society as a whole? What values and other preferences are considered to be
at stake? Which functions are allocated to the sector? Is the problem seen as
a relatively new and challenging topic or as a topic in the management phase
without political salience? To what degree is uncertainty accepted? Where
are the recognized points of intervention? What relationships with other
policy fields are recognized as coordination topics? Which policy objectives
are accepted? What are levels to which policy makers aspire (ambition) in
absolute terms (level of standards) and relative terms (required changes in
society)?
(4) Strategy and instruments
How? – Multi-instrumental
Which instruments belong to the policy strategy? What are the
characteristics of these instruments? What are the target groups of the policy,
and what is the timing of its application? How much flexibility do the
instruments provide? Are changes in the ownership and use rights within the
sector anticipated? To what extend do they provide incentives to learn? What
requirements do they place on the availability of resources for
implementation?5 How are the costs and benefits of the policy distributed?
(5) Responsibilities and resources for implementation
With what? – Multiresource-based
Which organizations (including government organizations) are responsible
for implementing the policy? What is the repertoire of standard reactions to
challenges known to these organizations? What authority and other resources
are made available to these organizations by the policy? Whit what
restriction?
In the next section, we examine the types of connections that can be
expected between the five elements of the governance structure.
5 For example, some systems of emission charges or tradable licenses may require so much
information that it makes them almost impossible to apply. The fine-tuning of the
instrument is very important in this respect, and can make the difference between an
effective intervention and a dead end.
32 Chapter 2
2.3 Changing modes of governance
2.3.1 Introduction
In the following discussion, we explain how the multiscale aspect of
governance is theoretically related to the other four elements of governance.
Governance of sustainability, however, involves more than describing
patterns of governance. Often it requires changes of the governance patterns.
There is a certain logical relationship between our five elements of
governance. It is easy to see why each previous element imposes harder or
softer limitations on aspects of the following element. However, there is no a
priori reason for thinking that the mutual influences between the elements
are restricted to this alone. In principle, the idea of mutual adjustments
means that all five elements can influence all others in both directions.
Table 2.1 summarizes these relationships. Only short statements are
given in the figure. First, we explain the premises behind these expected
relationships. Then we elaborate the influences that the level and scale
aspect receives from and exerts on the other elements of governance.
Table 2.1 Relationships between the Elements of Governance
Influence
Of
On
Level
Network
Ambition
Strategies
Resources
Level Continuation Dominance of
strongest actors
Dominant
paradigm has
level
implications6
Target group
covenants are
national
Implementation
made (un)attractive
Network Logical
sequence
Continuation Fragmentation
creates
openness
Multilateral can
lead to
corporatism7
Resources as
motive for cooperation
Ambition ‘Composition’
of problems
aspects
Logical
sequence
Continuation Solutions in
search of a
problem
Ambitions on the
‘Procrustus bed’ of
resources
Strategies Mirroring the
fragmentation
of levels
The ‘Network-
Instrumentation
model’8
Logical
sequence
Continuation Making them ‘fit
for use’ (bottom up
argument)
Resources Dominance of
strongest level
‘Who gets
what’ games
Symbolic
allocation
Logical
Sequence
Continuation
Of course, there are various other theories besides mutual adjustment of
elements of governance to explain stability and change (e.g., Lindblom
1959; Wildavsky 1982; Thompson, Ellis & Wildavsky 1990; Hogwood &
6 Compare for instance ‘sustainability’ and ‘residential environmental quality’.
7 Which means both extra openness for some and closeness for others.
8 See Bressers 1998; Bressers & O’Toole 1998; Ligteringen 1999.
The meaning of governance 33
Peters 1983; Kingdon 1995 [1984]; Luhman 1984; Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith
1993, 1999; Baumgartner & Jones 1993). Some emphasize conflict; others,
more gentle forms of adjustment. Some emphasize external shocks; others,
internal dynamics. Some emphasize interactions between actors; others,
confrontations or syntheses of visions. Nevertheless, in all these theories,
despite their different emphases, a joint basic conception prevails: a
fundamental assumption of more or less vulnerable equilibrium. As a
consequence, they all share the idea that there is a tendency that the better a
development in one aspect fits with the context of other aspects, the more
likely is the development to continue. This doesn’t lead to a static situation,
however, because numerous external inputs fuel almost continuous change
processes that seem so ubiquitous that their character as adaptation processes
is almost hidden. External change drivers will first affect one or more of the
elements of governance that subsequently will evoke changes on all other
elements, partly to encapsulate them and diminish their consequences (see
Lindblom 1959). So we take up the familiar idea of mutual adaptation, this
time not restricted to the adaptation of actors or interests in Lindblom’s
sense, but in a broader sense encompassing all the elements of governance
we developed in the preceding section.
The idea of mutual adjustment also offers the possibility of explaining
differences between the situations in two or more countries (see Chapter 10
on the differences in governance in the field of groundwater protection and
drinking water policy in Florida and the Netherlands). According to this
idea, differences in external factors, for example, in geological and
hydrological features, or in solidly grounded aspects of governance, such as
the constitutional allocation of competencies to government authorities, will
indirectly bring about a series of differences in (other) elements of
governance.
2.3.2 Premises
The premises and mechanisms that lie at the hart of these relationships are as
follows.
(1) The best predictor of the status of an element in our model at a certain
point in time is its status at an earlier moment. Each change takes energy and
will not take place if the governance system is in balance. Only changes in
other situations (within and outside the governance system and via the
efforts of the actors) can bring about changes. This idea forms the basis for
the five relationships in which an element influences itself, the so-called
continuation relationship.
34 Chapter 2
(2) The elements in our earlier model form a limiting or determining context
for later elements. Conducting policy between administrative levels activates
networks primarily at these levels. Those participating in these policy
networks give shape to the perception of the problem and the ambitions in
the public debate and subsequently in the policy itself. These, in turn, are the
focus of discussion about policy strategies – because certain actors are
considered to be a target group whereas others are not, and because certain
intervention points in the policy field are utilized whereas others are not. The
selected strategies and the required policy instruments, in turn, require the
availability of an implementation structure and resources to make
implementation possible (see also footnote 5). These ideas form the basis for
the four logical order relationships. The five elements form a sort of cascade
of influence.
(3) This logical order of influence, however, is not the only way in which
elements of the governance cascade can influence each other. In fact, we
believe that all of the other 16 conceivable relations are possible, including
the influence of elements mentioned later on earlier mentioned elements. All
25 relations should be considered because it is possible that the influence of
the network on the instruments and strategy works via the influence of the
former on the ambition, etc.
(4) All these relations promote the mutual adjustment of elements. Such
adjustments will always have an external source, which may consist of (a)
major social developments, such as demographic, cultural, economic or
physical (technological and spatial) developments, and (b) developments in
other policy fields (Ligteringen 1998: 214-215 and following).
(5) None of these mutual influences occur in and of themselves but need
social interaction to bring them about. This implies that an adjustment may
take place along three possible perspectives: objectives (desire, ultimate
basis: values), information (knowledge, ultimate basis: cognition), and
power (ability, ultimate basis: resources) of the actors involved in the
interaction (Bressers 2001). The mechanism of mutual adjustment,
distributed over the five elements of the governance system, will tend to
make values consistent, to make cognitions fit better into a common
framework for interpretation, and to make resources act to mutually facilitate
the elements.
Before we discuss each hypothesis separately, we examine the three
perspectives of values, cognitions, and resources.
The meaning of governance 35
2.3.3 Values, cognitions, and resources
Why are objectives, information, and power (with values, cognition, and
resources in the background) the useful perspectives when examining the
relations between the five elements of the governance model? Because these
elements are realized through social interaction. These three perspectives
have proven exceptionally useful in explaining the dynamics of such
processes. First, look at what is needed to make a simple object: making a
chair requires the carpenter to have an object in mind, then expertise and
also resources, such as tools and materials. In a multiple-actor process, goals
also relate to the position relative to other actors as well as to information
and resources (the last providing power).
There is also a long tradition of thinking in terms of these perspectives
(Bressers 1983: 352-328) and even a connection between the social science
disciplines and the three perspectives just mentioned. This connection is
partial, though, and relates to the core principles of these disciplines rather
than to any details, making a distinction in principle between individual and
social methods of considerations.
The fundamental concept in economics is scarcity of resources and the
decisions and bartering that result from this. In its classical version, the
complexities of all other aspects (the social, cognitive, and value aspects) are
reduced to assumptions of methodological individualism, complete
information, and individual behavior that maximizes benefits. Because
benefit cannot simply be equated with money, multiple objectives are
formulated, for example, ‘bureaucrats strive to obtain as large a budget as
possible’. This is, in essence, an unethical and pragmatic premise. So, to sum
up: ‘A: that which gives the greatest benefit will be chosen.’
In political science, the social aspect of the distribution of resources, and
so the power of one actor over another, is emphasized. Reasoning, then, is
about the question of who is going to dominate the field. To sum up: ‘B:
Whoever has the most power is free to choose.’
Sociology is partly about understanding social problems, and psychology
is partly about human skill in collecting and processing information. To sum
up: ‘C: It is not the facts that are important, but how what is observed is
interpreted.’ (Or: ‘What is believed to be real is real in its consequences.’)
Social psychology and communication sciences emphasize the transfer of
information in mutual communication processes. Also, the role of
information collection and processing is often emphasized in the process of
making choices and power relations (and of the development of values).
Also the ‘argumentative turn’ in policy sciences (Fisher & Forrester 1993)
fits largely into this track. To sum up: ‘D: the interpretations of reality are
the product of a social construction.’
36 Chapter 2
The value aspect is pivotal in ethics and other areas of philosophy. To
sum up: ‘E: people should want what is good.’
Regarding normative social aspects, imposing values on others, for
example, the whole community, we enter the domain of the law. To sum up:
‘F: The limits to what is good are set by rules.’
Of course, this characterization of perspectives (and certainly associated
disciplines) is too rudimentary when forced into a simple matrix like Table
2.2, because each scientific discipline can borrow elements from the other
cells. In doing so, it is often clear that they reject some of their own
principles and integrate some of the principles of other social sciences into
their own set of considerations.
Table 2.2 Perspectives and the social sciences
Scientific Perspectives Individual Social
Resources (power) a. Choosing the greatest
benefit
b. Those with most power can
choose
Cognitions (information) c. It is not the facts that are
important but how what is
observed is interpreted
d. Interpretations of reality
are the product of social
construction
Values (objectives) e. People should want what is
good
f. The limits to what is good
are set by rules
All this illustrates the value of following these perspectives when a complete
picture is required of the relations between social science concepts, such as
the elements of the governance system we have identified.
The influences that the five elements of governance exert on each other
will promote their mutual adjustment in a governance system. Changes
within a governance system occur because other ‘outside’ factors, such as
pressures to govern for sustainable development, alter characteristic features
of one or more of the five elements and the other elements adjust themselves
to this. These changes arise partly from the tendency of actors to try to fit the
cognitions that play a role into a common framework for interpretation if
there are no disturbances from outside. And, partly, changes occur from
interdependence on resources among these elements. In the next section, we
specify the expected relations between the elements of governance using all
three mechanisms at the same time. We will limit ourselves to the influences
arising from the level and scales aspect of governance, to avoid a too long
digression on all possible mutual relationships between governance
elements.
The meaning of governance 37
2.3.3 The interaction between the level and scales aspect and the
other elements of governance
The influence of governance levels on the relevant actors in the policy
network is logical because the relative importance of various levels
translates in the multiscale setup into places to seek the relevant policy
network(s). The other four relations are examined in some more detail here,
where the arrows in the headings represent a tendency for the second
element named to adjust to the first.
Level → Problem and Ambition
We can expect that values characterizing actors at a certain level of
governance will influence the perception of a problem and the relevant
policy ambition. At each level, most of the relevant values can be found, but
the degree to which they are supported varies. So the dominant level
influences how equality or balance between values is sought.
From the cognitive perspective (interpretation frameworks), a problem
will be perceived at the level from which it is viewed. The problem of waste,
for example, looks different at the national level (e.g., safe processing) than
at the local level (e.g., impact of waste processing plants).
From the perspective of resources, the dominant level – as owner of the
problem – will tend to conduct debate about the problem and policy ambition
in terms of the relevance to that level. If there are other levels that have a
strong position, this may lead to fragmentation of policy perception and
ambition.
In the end, the composition of aspects that play a role in the perception of
the problem and policy ambition will be determined partly by the status of
the various levels. For example, when the position of the European Union
(EU) strengthened in the domain of energy policy, it became a problem not
only of secure delivery and reduced environmental burden, but also of
liberalizing domestically restricted markets.
Level → Strategies
From the perspective of values, not many are linked to the selection of the
administrative level, except the values held at the level at which a balance is
desired (equality). The choice of strategy will reflect this.
From the cognitive perspective, strategies will be developed primarily for
dealing with the problem at the level at which the policy is being developed
or at least from which there is a clear view of the problem. If governance is
divided between a number of levels, policy strategies will be developed at
more than one level.
38 Chapter 2
From the resources/dominance perspective, there will be a tendency to
select policy strategies that do not threaten the distribution of responsibilities
for developing policy at the various levels.
In the end, the characteristics of the chosen strategies will to some degree
reflect the distribution of responsibilities between the various levels.
Negotiations with Dutch importers and producers of white goods failed at
first because the sector was afraid that EU guidelines would change the deal.
Also, the multinational mother companies were hoping that EU guidelines
would be more relaxed than the evolving negotiated agreement and
withdrew the sector’s associating from the negotiations. When a regulation
was installed fixing the (almost) negotiated deal, the sector embraced it
nevertheless and thereafter tried to promote the Dutch solution to become
EU standard guideline; so both public and private governance were involved
in an intricate multilevel game.
Level → Resources
This concerns a big leap over the more stepwise relations between these two
elements. This means that there may not be much left for a direct influence
of one element over the other.
From the values perspective, an attempt will be made to create a balance,
not only in the way the problem is tackled but also in the allocation of
resources between the various sub areas of the administrative levels.
From the cognitive perspective, the allocation of resources will mainly
reflect what the problem is perceived to be.
From the resources perspective, the resources distributed will mainly be
those that are available at the level concerned.
When the Dutch government wanted to strengthen the implementation of
environmental laws by the local authorities after several other attempts, it
turned to providing these with very substantial additional money flows,
because other approaches simply didn’t work well enough. This was done
even though some professional observers labeled it as ‘the one public
authority bribing other authorities into obeying the law.’
Resources → Level
From a values perspective, we can expect the administrative level that gets
the most resources, related to the problem domain, will feel most
responsibility for the problem.
From a cognitive perspective, we can expect the administrative level that
gets the most resources to strengthen its own interpretation of the problem as
one belonging primarily to that administrative level.
The meaning of governance 39
From a resources perspective, we can expect that the administrative level
that gets the most resources will, partly as a result of this, retain the strongest
position.
All in all, taking up responsibilities in the multilevel governance setup
depends partially on the possibilities to gather the resources necessary for the
action that is perceived as a consequence.
Strategies → Level
From a values perspective, we can expect that the division of responsibilities
between administrative levels associated with a particular strategy influences
what people think about who should have these responsibilities, also
concerning administrative level.
From a cognitive perspective, we can expect that the strategy raises the
level of knowledge of the problem and the possible responses mostly in the
administrative level that has most to do.
From a resources perspective, we can expect that the position of the
administrative levels that have a more important role in the selected strategy
will be strengthened relative to other levels.
When the national level in Italy proved incapable of concluding
negotiated arrangements due to various (self)restrictions, the regional and
local levels jumped in the gap by concluding a wealth of agreements taking
over the initiative on various fields of the environmental problematic.
Problem and Policy Ambition → Level
From a values perspective, we can expect that the way in which the problem
is described has implications for the administrative level that ought to feel
most responsible for the problem.
From a cognitive perspective, we can expect a similar effect to occur
regarding the question of what is considered to be the most suitable
administrative level in the dominant paradigm, given the scale of the
problems.
From a resources perspective, we can expect that, for a particular
problem, a certain paradigm will strengthen or weaken the relative position
of administrative levels on relation to the others.
All these phenomena appear to be present in the Netherlands because of
the rise of the National Environmental Policy Plan and the target group
approach. These have strengthened the national level (at which most
covenants are agreed) with respect to the provincial and local levels (where
most of the licenses are issued and which carry out most of the enforcement
duties).
40 Chapter 2
Network → Level
From a values perspective, we can expect that the dominant values of the
actors in the network (as opposed to their own interests) can be relevant for
the distribution of governance over the various levels.
From a cognitive perspective, we can expect that the dominant policy
vision of the actors in the network can be relevant for the distribution of
governance over the various levels.
From a resources perspective, we can expect that the dominant actors in
the network will also influence the distribution of governance between the
administrative levels and that this distribution will be a reflection of the
relative position of the dominant actors.
Scientific ‘epistemic’ communities that are able to enter the policy
network can have a considerable impact on the level were the problems are
defined and measures are taken, for instance, to take the Mediterranean as a
ecological unity (Haas 1990).
2.4 Conclusion: three mechanisms
In this chapter we have developed a model of governance to compare
governance systems in different states or countries as they relate to a certain
policy arena. We identified five elements of governance, one of which
relates to the multilevel aspect. Moreover, we elaborated on change of
governance patterns on the assumption that mutual adjustment will take
place between the five elements of governance and that this mutual
adjustment can be traced back to three internal mechanisms in the
governance system. Changes in a governance system take place when
outside factors intervene in one of the five elements of the governance
system and other elements adjust to this new situation. Differences between
times or jurisdictions work consistently through the governance subsystem
from one element to another.
The first mechanism is that adjustment arises from the tendency of actors
to act from a set of constant values. The second mechanism is that
adjustment arises from the tendency of actors to use a common reference
frame to interpret cognition. The third mechanism is that adjustment arises
from the dependence of actors on each other’s resources. Such dependence is
clearly expressed in the demarcation of powers between administrative
levels and between administrative actors.
The analysis in this chapter has shown that ‘governance’ involves more
elements than policy objectives and the means to implement policy. These
elements are not simply the sum of individual aspects but are closely linked.
The meaning of governance 41
We have illustrated how these interrelations work, especially on the field of
governance across social scales achieving sustainable development.
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45
Chapter 3
Governance of water
Resource regimes and institutional change
3.1 Introduction
Water stress, which is pressure on the quantity and quality of water
resources, exists all over the world. It appears in the form of many serious
problems including water shortages, flooding, pollution and ecosystem
damage. Water stress is partly the result of natural circumstances that
determine the availability and status of water resources. However, water
stress also results from human pressures on water resources and human
water demands. We only have to think of the limited natural availability of
water of sufficient quality to meet the demands of households, agriculture
and industry. In fact, water stress is very often the result of conflicting water
uses or use functions. Therefore, we could consider rivalries between users
and use functions as an indicator of an insufficiently sustainable use of water
systems. A water system means a discrete and homogeneous element of
surface water or groundwater such as an aquifer, a lake, a reservoir, a stretch
of stream, river or canal, an estuary, or a stretch of coastal water. We assume
that the sustainable use of water systems requires an optimum distribution of
use options among present and future users and use functions. As an
example of distribution of use options one could think of the distribution
between upstream and downstream users. An activity that pollutes water
upstream (using a stream to discharge waste or waste water) could interfere
with the downstream use of that stream for drinking water supply. Or an
upstream weir could impede the downstream flow and dependent use
options. Such rivalries not only exist between different (heterogeneous) use
types, they may also appear among homogeneous uses (uses of the same
type). In arid areas farmers may feel the need to co-ordinate the water use for
irrigation. Or in the field of fisheries, quotas may be used as an instrument to
prevent the depletion of fish stocks.
A water system is often demarcated as a river or water basin, which
means the area of land from which all surface water run-off flows through a
sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly lakes into the sea via a single river
46 Chapter 3
mouth, estuary or delta. This implies that a water basin not only includes the
waterbeds, but also the surrounding area of land from which the water bed
receives and transports the water run-off. In this view the use of river flood
plains for urban development should be considered as a use that interferes
with using flood plains for river dynamics and flooding. Another example of
a water use rivalry in a water basin is the rivalry between drainage of land
for agricultural development versus the function of a minimum groundwater
level for nature conservation.
In the European research project Euwareness (European Water Regimes and
the Notion of a Sustainable Status) we focused on the sustainable use of
water resources. The main question for the researchers in this project was
whether the regime for the management of a water system provided
sufficient guarantees for its sustainable use, by diminishing or preventing
rivalries between users and use functions. To answer this question we
focused on institutional regimes for natural resources, both from a public
governance perspective (Bressers and Kuks 2001) and a perspective of
private property and use rights (Ostrom 1990; Bromley 1991). The first
perspective focuses on the management of natural resources from a public
domain (although in interaction with private actors). The second perspective
focuses on the accessibility of a natural resource in a broader sense,
including the private domain, the domain of collective property and use, as
well as the domain of ‘no property’ (res nullius). The second perspective is
based on the notion that property rights determine the accessibility of water
systems as a natural resource for various users and use functions. By
applying both perspectives in a complementary way, we have developed a
framework for understanding the access rights that users or use functions
may possess or claim, and the proportion between and exclusiveness of the
various domains. For instance, intervention from the public domain could be
blocked by the existence of a private domain based on long-term concessions
for water use (which, especially in Spain and Switzerland, appears to be a
problem of redistributing water access rights). On the other hand, attempts
initiated by the public domain to redistribute private property and use rights
could be effective in providing a better access to or protection of alternative
users and use functions. Another question could be how the exclusiveness of
the public domain is interpreted by public authorities. Does the public
domain offer equal access to society as a whole, or are specific users and/or
use functions discriminated against in favor of others? A public domain
could appear as a private domain in the hands of society at large, or as a ‘no
property’ domain, owned by nobody and thus equally accessible to
everyone.
Governance of water 47
In this chapter we will first present a theoretical framework for resource
management, combining both steering dimensions (property rights and
governance) into a comprising concept of resource regimes as social
institutions (section 3.2). In this context we will elaborate further on
different types of property rights and their meaning, as well as on the various
elements of governance and their relevance for resource regimes. In section
3.3 we deal with criteria for the evaluation of resource regimes on their
contribution to resource sustainability. In section 3.4 we distinguish different
types of resource regimes (or phases in the evolution of a regime), based on
selected criteria for regime evaluation. In section 3.5 we address the political
context in which regimes exist and develop, with the conditions that lead to
their change, and thus with institutional dynamics of resource regimes.
3.2 Resource regimes as social institutions
The starting point for our consideration of institutional resource regimes is
the observation that institutions affect individual behavior and resource
management. Institutions such as property rights, social norms, economic
incentives and policy instruments have multiple impacts on individual
behavior and strategies. Institutional economics and political science tell us
how the degradation of the environment can be halted with the help of
institutional design. Whereas policy theory concentrates on the effects of
resource policies and applied instruments, property rights theory focuses on
bundles of rights and their effects on the sustainable management of water
resources. So far, the response to the deterioration in water resource quality
arising from the effects of economic growth has taken the form of
environment policy intervention. However, the capacity for government
intervention in this area is limited due to implementation deficits, as well as
the restriction of traditional environmental policy to selective policy
instruments. Traditional policy analysis has focused mainly on the ex ante
evaluation of state measures (e.g. the design of use and protection policies)
and the resulting effects (e.g. on natural resource sustainability). Later on,
policy science asked attention for the implementation and effectiveness of
the actual programs that are put into operation. However, there has been
little attention yet for the interaction between public policies (governance)
and property rights, and in particular for management options to redistribute
property rights. In this context, Coase (1960) already assumed that property
and use rights must be clearly regulated to facilitate the effective, efficient
use and management of resources. In his opinion, it is irrelevant who
actually owns these rights as the use, which yields most profit, will always
prevail. The internalization of external effects can, therefore, be brought
48 Chapter 3
about through the (re)definition of property and use rights (Kuks & Neelen
1991).
In the Euwareness study, a theoretical framework for institutional regime
analysis is used that combines property rights theory and institutional
rational choice with approaches from political science (policy analysis, in
particular policy design theory), thereby innovating the theory of
institutional regimes.1 The framework incorporates the ideas from the theory
of property and use rights (especially those of Ostrom and Bromley).
However, this theory has its limitations. There are at least three
considerations that necessitate the development of a wider regime concept.
First, while Ostrom fails to take account of the possibilities for public
intervention, we have added the political steering dimension to our approach.
Ostrom’s approach focuses on common-pool resources and – particularly in
the earlier studies of irrigation – is based on the assumption of a homogenous
demand for local commodities and services. In such cases it was possible to
prevent the degradation of resources on the basis of voluntary co-operation,
i.e. without state intervention. Although, this kind of solution is probably
uncommon in highly developed societies characterized by increasingly
heterogeneous demands and an expanding scope of effects, from an
economic perspective, this can be viewed as a very efficient strategy. Such
factors mitigate against local and regional solutions like common property.
Thus, guidance of heterogeneous, growing and increasingly rivalrous use
demands is required.
Second, state regulation of the production and consumption of certain
goods and services of a natural resource is a common occurrence in
everyday political life. However, consideration of the distribution of
property and use rights alone is not sufficient for the analysis of the
institutional framework. In most cases, there are several public policies
which regulate the use of a resource and which, as a result of insufficient coordination,
can result in the degradation of that resource. In fact, one should
consider the influences of all other public (use oriented as well as protection
oriented) policies on a specific commodity or the entire resource. Thus,
guidance of inconsistencies between policies is required.
Third, unlike Ostrom and Bromley, we do not consider institutions a
framework within which actions take place but the result of and an integral
1 This framework has its roots in a Swiss project developed by Peter Knoepfel, Ingrid
Kissling-Näf and Frédéric Varone, entitled ‘Comparative analysis of the formation and
outcomes of resource regimes in Switzerland’, funded by the Swiss National Science
Foundation and carried out in the period 1999–2002. For more information see
http://www.idheap.ch; Knoepfel, Kissling-Näf and Varone (2000, 2001, 2003); Kissling-Näf and
Varone (2000a, 2000b). Parts of this chapter are based on collaboration with Kissling-Näf
(Kissling-Näf and Kuks, 2004).
Governance of water 49
part of the political process. In our opinion, institutions should not merely be
understood as frameworks within which actions are carried out. They too are
the product and integral components of the political process. Most of the
literature concentrates on the analysis of regimes as they exist today. Less
emphasis is placed on dealing with analysis of the process of regime
evolution. In order to avoid further degradation of resources, it is important
to know when and under what conditions in the political process the regimes
can be changed and how this can be brought about and managed. Thus,
guidance of the conditions that generate regime changes is desired.
Figure 3.1 Model of an institutional resource regime and its context
Institutions are usually understood as sets of rules which structure the
relationship between individuals by determining their range of actions in
certain situations. Institutions are both the result of past actions and the
framework within which new activities take place. Institutions, and hence
regimes, can change over time and become increasingly differentiated. Our
theoretical framework for institutional regime analysis defines a resource
regime as an institutional system with two steering dimensions (property
rights and public policies) which in interaction affect the use and
management of the resource. Thus, the main components of our research
framework are given by triggers, the resource regimes and its two
subsystems or steering dimensions, and the effective uses of the resources
and their impact on the status of resource (see Figure 3.1).
Triggers and conditions
that determine the effect
of triggers
Property rights
established to a
water resource
Public policies dealing
with water demands
and rivalries
Regime type / phase
(evaluated in terms of
institutional sustainability)
Water resource use
and resource status
Political context Resource content
(evaluated in terms of
ecological sustainability
50 Chapter 3
3.2.1 Property rights as subsystem of a resource regime
Many authors have emphasized the impact of property rights on the use of
natural resources and discussed the way in which existing property rights act
as an institutional barrier to behavioral change in cases where such change is
desired by policy makers. Property rights do matter, especially when they are
rooted in customary traditions of water distribution and use. The work of
Elinor Ostrom is well known in this respect. With her book ‘Governing the
Commons’ she emphasizes the importance of regional and local institutional
arrangements which are often based on a long tradition of informal but
commonly shared water rights. Her work is inspired by cases she found in
developing countries, as we discussed in the previous section (Ostrom 1990).
In Europe, Bernard Barraqué made an analysis of the influence of water
rights on the administration in various European countries. He noticed that
“environmental lawyers seem to have overlooked the importance of a
specific analysis of past customary laws governing the commons, from
which one could try to derive institutional innovations for our present and
future commons”. He remarks that the local character of “customary
institutions makes them less visible to those who primarily focus on legal
systems or regulations at State level”. Customs with respect to water as a
sort of common property were maintained and even developed under the
modern liberal State in areas subject to floods or droughts. Barraqué refers to
the typical ‘waterschappen’ in the Netherlands and to the ‘water tribunals’ in
the irrigated plains of southern Spain (Barraqué 1995; 1998: 353-354). In the
United States two major legal doctrines have merged to deal with surface
waters: the riparian doctrine (water is not owned; the landowner has a
‘usufructuary’ right only) adopted in the humid Eastern states, and the
appropriation doctrine (water rights are acquired by actual use; the first user
acquires the best right, the second user the second best, etcetera) which
applies in differing forms in the more arid Western states (Lapping et al.
1989). Both doctrines demonstrate how specific hydrological circumstances
have set customs which have developed into legal institutions. The other
way around, are examples of Indian water rights, reserved claims dating
back to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, that have high priority
in the use and distribution of western waters (Frederick 1986: 11). This is an
example of specific customs setting aside formal legal institutions. In their
book on water use principles in the Middle East, Tony Allan and Chibli
Mallat remark that water use patterns in the Middle East are not well known
due to that legal systems often operate in “mysterious and approximative
manners”. Water use principles in the Middle East are often based on old
Islamic rules and customs. “The more arid the zone the more subtle the rules
to share water cycles. This refined art of managing scarcity does not mean
Governance of water 51
that society operates in an egalitarian manner. (…) Water in these regions
tells the story of society and its modes of being shared are still today a real
document on social order. (…) The scarcer the resource, the larger the
demand, and the more emotional the attitude of individuals and governments
towards any scheme that appears to change the status quo.” Water is
gradually becoming a commodity rather than a freely available and poorly
regulated element in the economies of the Middle East. To re-assign access
to water and to guarantee a security of access to water, law in the modern
Middle East becomes an extremely complex confluence of customary law,
Western based codes and principles and recent international law (Allan &
Mallat 1995: 6-9). To conclude, customary rights on water act as an
institutional barrier to behavioral change and to a more sustainable resource
management. They preserve existing modes of water management. Debating
the redistribution of such customary rights not only affects the sustainability
of water resources, but also the equity of access to water resources. As
Nicola Lugaresi formulates it: “One of the most controversial issues is the
difference between water as a social right and water as a commodity. Water
could be both, and could be neither. Water is not a social right in the sense
that everyone is entitled to get as much water as they wish to. But water is a
social right as long as it is the basis for life. Similarly, water is not a
commodity in the sense that everyone is entitled to own it like one owns
other commodities. But water is something precious and finite, therefore
tradable and under economic evaluation (…)” (Lugaresi 2000: 76-77). In
chapter 1 of this dissertation we raised the social-political issue of access
rights. In chapters 11 and 12 we will elaborate on this controversy as it is
related to a debate about the privatization of water services.
For this chapter it is necessary to focus on the elaboration of property rights
as a subsystem of a resource regime. How do we define property rights?
Property rights can be understood as social relations that define the
titleholder with regard to something of value in relation to all others.
Bromley speaks of a “triadic social relation involving benefit streams, rights
holders and duty bearers”. “Rights can only exist when there is a social
mechanism that gives duties and binds individuals to those duties. (…)
Notice that rights only have an effect when there is some authority system
that agrees to defend a rights holder’s interest in a particular outcome.”
(Bromley 1991: 15) A property rights system could be regarded as a system
with communicational vessels of claims and duties, which means that
allowing a specific behavior to one actor implies a restriction on the
behavior of another actor. Young speaks of ‘bundles of rights’ and remarks
that “(…) property rights virtually always guarantee owners the opportunity
to use their property in a variety of ways while safeguarding owners against
52 Chapter 3
unauthorized use of their property by others. At the same time, however,
property rights virtually always include restrictions on the use of property by
owners themselves, and there has been some tendency for these restrictions
to become more extensive in modernized and densely populated societies.
(…) bundles of rights may be more or less extensive, but they are practically
never unlimited in the sense of placing no restrictions at all on the freedom
of action of the holder of these rights.” (Young 1982: 21-24)
Property rights are a combination of ownership titles and use rights. They
both can be in one hand, but also be separated. For instance, when the owner
of a house is renting the house, the renter is having use rights without the
ownership. Young remarks that “ownership itself ordinarily encompasses
use rights, but it is perfectly possible to acquire a right to use some natural
resource without owning it. (…) Further, there are widely recognized use
rights to some resources whose ownership status is hard to determine (for
example, shipping lanes or the electromagnetic spectrum).” (Young 1982:
23) In the specific case of water resources, ownership is often related to the
ownership of land. This can apply to both surface water and underground
water. On the other hand, the ownership of the major water systems (coastal
waters, estuaries, major inland lakes, major river basins, deep underground
aquifers) is often not related to land ownership.
We have to make a distinction between private and public property rights.
Private property rights are exclusive in the sense that property rights
(ownership title and/or use rights) in the hands of one individual exclude that
these rights can be claimed by another individual. According to Young
“private property occurs when the relevant rights reside exclusively and on
an undivided basis with single actors.” (Young 1982: 22) In the case of
public property rights, we have to distinguish between state property,
common property and no property. According to Young, “common property,
by contrast, occurs where the rights reside jointly in some group of actors
who own undivided shares of the property in question. Under common
property arrangements, each owner posses the right to use the property, and
they jointly possess the right to exclude others from using it. (…)
Additionally, the owners of a piece of common property may go a step
further and create a managing authority to act on their behalf in handling the
property. Analytically, this is the source of public property. (…) Beyond
this, mixed cases may arise in which ownership involves both private and
common property rights in an integrated bundle.” (Young 1982: 22)
State property means that the state or a public authority (as if it were an
individual) has private property rights. The difference with private property
rights is that the state has to use these rights in the public interest. In other
words, private ownership by the public could then serve as a guarantee for
Governance of water 53
access by all interested users. The state may do this in two ways: using these
rights as a ‘dominium eminens’ (the public owner is using its rights under
private law to exclude other users, in order to protect the public interest) or
using these rights as a ‘dominium serviens’ (the public owner is using its
rights to make the resource subservient to every user in order to protect the
public interest) (Hennekens 1993, 1999). Of course, both conceptions could
work together quite well, since public use can only be protected by
restricting other uses. However, to prevent the state from being too exclusive
and too arbitrary while using its rights according to a ‘dominium eminens’,
in a country like the Netherlands the ownership of water has been changed
into a ‘no property’ (res nullius), which forces the state to protect the public
domain only by public law, in order to guarantee a ‘dominium serviens’ (see
chapter 4). In that case, public property rights are not exclusive. It is useful
to find out to what extent the public domain (i.e. the set of public property
rights) allows various stakeholders to claim access to the utilization of water
resources, or not.
In European countries, even in the early 19th century, water resources
and the benefits they could generate were never completely subject to private
property. There have always been restrictions on private ownership and
private use rights by the legal definition of some public domain. During the
20th century, especially after World War II, an increasing nationalization or
communalization of water resources could be perceived, regardless of the
ownership arrangement. The State is increasingly controlling the access to
water resources and is allowing more and more users to claim some form of
access. Such State control is based on the power of eminent domain.
“Though private property is often regarded as sacred, the rights of private
owners have been significantly curtailed in many areas through the actions
of public authorities, and the power of eminent domain is regularly used to
take private property for public purposes in the absence of voluntary
consent.” (Young 1982: 24)
To summarize, different types of property rights exist for natural resources.
Four traditional types of ownership are identified in the literature: no
property, common property, state property and private property (see Table
3.1). In the case of private property, exclusive property title is in the hands of
private individuals or corporations. In the case of no property (res nullius),
we have a classical case of resources, for which access is not formally
regulated. Common property can also be described as the groups’ private
property (Bromley 1991; Libecap 1993; Ostrom 1990). Whereas Ostrom
stresses the existence in reality of multiple bundles of rights and the
difficulty of working with four categories, Bromley states that for most
purposes consideration of the four types of property bundles is useful. State
54 Chapter 3
(public) property is special in the following respect: “In a state property
regime, ownership and control over use rest in the hands of the state.
Individuals and groups may be able to make use of natural resources, but
only at the forbearance of the State. (…) Individuals have a duty to observe
use/access rules determined by the controlling/managing agency. Agencies
have right to determine use/access rules.” (Bromley 1991: 23; 31) Based on
this definition, the public domain (with or without State ownership) belongs
to this type of regime, however, it does not really matter if there is formal
state ownership. The public domain is characterized by the fact that there are
only use rights regulated by the State.
Table 3.1 Property rights bundles
Type of property Definition
State property Exclusive title in the hands of the State: local, regional,
province, national
Access control by the State
Decision-making by the State
Common property Exclusive title in the hands of groups/corporations
Possible exclusion of non-owners
Access control by group/corporation (backed by the State)
Decision-making by group/corporation
Private property Exclusive title in the hands of individuals/ legal persons
Access control by individual/legal person (backed by the State)
Decision-making by individual/legal person
No property (res nullius) Title in the hands of nobody/everybody
Access control possibly by the State
Decision-making possibly by the State
Besides ownership, a distinction is sometimes made between disposition
rights and use rights. Both can be divorced from the ownership title and be in
the hands of actors other than the owner. A disposition right refers to the
right to transfer or sell use rights, or even to sell the resource itself. An
appropriator in our case is someone holding a disposition right with respect
to a water resource (i.e. the right to take possession of water). It could be the
case that the owner has the actual ownership of a piece of land and the
related water body, while the appropriator holds a concession to dispose of
the water in this water body (which is the case when someone has a
concession for the withdrawal and use of the water). A use right is the right
to use a certain good or service provided by a resource. A user is the one
holding a use right and having benefits of a water resource by consuming an
acquired good or service. There are cases where an appropriator stands
between the owner and the user, for example the case where a drinking water
supplier as appropriator stands between the owner of an aquifer and the
drinking water consumer. There are also cases where the owner and
Governance of water 55
appropriator are the same actor, and where the owner and users of the
resource directly interact with each other.
There could be rivalry among appropriators/users claiming disposition/use of
the same water resource. There might be rivalry because of different claims
on a limited available resource stock, or there might be rivalry about
externalities (external effects accompanying a use and affecting another use
in an undesired way). Because of this competition, property, disposition and
use rights do relate to each other as if they are communicational vessels: a
restriction on one claim has the effect of protecting another claim. Rivalries
could be solved by such a redistribution of property rights. This might be a
redistribution of ownership titles (expropriation), disposition rights or use
rights. In practice, it is sometimes hard to imagine how water stress
problems could be understood as rivalries between property rights holders.
Let us give some examples in case of four commonly appearing water stress
problems: surface water quality degradation, groundwater quality
degradation, droughts (water depletion) and flooding.
In case of surface water pollution, a rivalry exists between polluting
activities (point and diffuse sources) on the one hand and the various
functions of surface water (in terms of environmental quality or specific
uses, like drinking water) on the other. To better manage this rivalry, point
source polluters (especially industries and households) are regulated by
various instruments, such as discharge permits or effluent charges, as well as
by physical interventions in the sense of routing point source discharges
through sewer networks to waste water treatment plants. It is difficult to
imagine a property right that would allow effluent to be discharged into
surface water2, which means that this is more a rivalry that should be
resolved by means of policy regulations than by the redistribution of
property rights.
In case of groundwater pollution in particular, there is a rivalry between
diffuse pollution sources on the one hand and the use of groundwater sources
for drinking water production, while the general environmental quality of
groundwater is also at stake. Considering the rivalry between farmers using
agricultural land and water suppliers using the underground water body for
drinking water production, the issue becomes clearer if we think in terms of
a rivalry between property rights holders. The regulation of groundwater
2 On the one hand one could argue – rather theoretically – that the absence of discharge
regulations implies a right to pollute. On the other hand one could argue that even before
the adoption of surface water protection legislation in the various countries, discharges
were only allowed in so far as they would not harm any other stakeholder. Owners of a
surface water body could claim a right to be protected from upstream surface water
pollution.
56 Chapter 3
pollution is not only a matter of policy regulation; it could also be regulated
by a redistribution of property rights, since buying out farmers or
compensating them for moving farming practices to another piece of land
could be an option for water suppliers to resolve the issue of drinking water
source pollution.
In case of water depletion, there is a rivalry between the various users
and use functions of the same water body. Water scarcity is the result of
excessive claims by users – industrial, agricultural, hydropower, and so on. If
one admits that a minimum ecological water flow or water table should be
safeguarded, then the pressure on the availability of water rises yet further.
This is a typical case of rivalry between property rights holders. The rivalry
could be typically managed by redistributing use rights, based on the
assumption that only a limited amount of water is available. Water
distribution then becomes a matter of distributing or redistributing water use
quotas.
In the case of flooding it is not a scarcity of water but a scarcity of space
in floodplains that is increasingly being recognized as the main problem.
Again, this could very well be considered a rivalry between property rights
holders, taking into account that land owners and users in flood plains are
competing with stakeholders that claim space for water storage and river
dynamics in floodplains. Redistributing land use rights could be a way of
better managing this rivalry.
In all four cases we need to be aware that public authorities represent some
specific uses that are not clearly represented by other specific users or
stakeholders. This is especially the case for environmental and ecological
functions of water resources. For instance, a European water quality
directive establishes a use right for national governments to protect a water
body for environmental reasons by restricting other uses as pollution
sources. The use right itself is part of the property rights subsystem. How the
use right is applied by a national government should be considered as part of
the public policy subsystem within the resource regime. Such a public use
right to protect the environment allows other stakeholders to claim the
application of a public use right. For instance, an environmental NGO could
go to court to enforce compliance with an environmental standard or the
application of a standard by some public authority. While on the one hand
public authorities represent specific uses, such as the environmental and
ecological functions of a resource, on the other they are responsible for
guaranteeing equal access to all users, which means they have to deliberate
between various rival interests. Public authorities have to resolve conflicts
between competing uses in the public interest of a sustainable utilization
pattern.
Governance of water 57
3.2.2 Public policies as subsystem of a resource regime
While the evolution of property rights has been considered from a resource
perspective, with the resource water itself being taken as a starting point for
the identification of property rights, we shall consider the evolution of public
policy from a policy problem perspective. This means that we shall analyze
how and for what reasons national public policies try to intervene in the use
of water resources in order to reduce policy problems (use rivalries) related
to these water resources. We are interested in all public policies affecting the
exploitation and/or the protection of water resources. The resulting division
of phases may – but need not – be the same as the division of the phases in
the evolution of property rights.
Both a narrower and broader concept of public policy were adopted in the
Euwareness project. The narrower concept focuses on the traditional
elements of public policy (policy design), i.e. policy aims, instruments,
target groups, implementation arrangement, causal and intervention
hypotheses, and considers a policy as it has been adopted, i.e. in terms of
policy assumptions and planned policy interventions (Linder & Peters 1989;
Kingdon 1984).
The broader concept focuses on public policy in terms of governance
and, in addition to the traditional elements of public policy, identifies other
relevant aspects and draws attention to the complexity of public policies by
raising the following questions: Who were the policy makers and how does
their policy initiative fit into the general scheme of policy-making by
separate administrative levels and authorities (multi-level governance)?; To
what extent is the policy initiative based on a co-production with various
non-public actors (multi-actor governance)?; To what extent do the policy
assumptions present a mixture of perspectives (multi-perspective
governance)?; To what extent do policy interventions present a mixture of
policy instruments (multi-instrument governance)?; To what extent must the
policy implementation rely on a complex institutional arrangement (multiresource
governance)? (Bressers & Kuks 2001; 2003; see also chapter 2).
Consideration of the traditional aspects as well as the broad concept should
encompass the following elements:
1. Variety of levels and public authorities involved
Who were the policy makers and how does their policy initiative fit into the
general scheme of policy-making by separate administrative levels and
authorities? Is the national policy initiative based on an EU-policy initiative?
Which national level ministries are involved in the initiative and to what
58 Chapter 3
extent is the initiative co-ordinated or fragmented? What discretion does the
national policy leave to the authorities at lower administrative levels?
Related element of narrower concept: institutional arrangement.
2. Variety of non-public actors involved
To what extent did the policy initiative recognize the interests of various
non-public actors? Which users of the water resource, user organizations
(intermediaries), stakeholders and/or advocacy coalitions participated? What
are their relations with the policy makers? To what extent is the policy based
on judgments formulated by an expert community?
Related element of narrow concept: target groups.
3. Variety of objectives and policy assumptions
Interventions by policy makers are based on policy assumptions and
objectives which include their vision or perspective with respect to the
policy problems and rivalries at stake and how these could be reduced by
influencing the behavior of users or target groups.
About the objectives: Which policy objectives are accepted? What values
and other preferences are considered to be at stake? What are the levels to
which policy makers aspire (ambition) in absolute (level of standards) and
relative terms (required changes in society)?
About the causal hypotheses: What are the dominant maps of reality?
What is seen as a problem and how serious is it considered? What are the
causes of these problems? To what degree is uncertainty accepted? Are
problems considered to be a problem for individuals or a problem for society
as a whole?
About the intervention hypotheses: Where are the recognized points of
intervention? What relationships with other policy fields are recognized as
co-ordination topics?
Related elements of narrow concept: policy objectives; policy rationale
(causal and intervention hypotheses).
4. Variety of instruments
Which instruments belong to the policy strategy? What are the
characteristics of these instruments? What are the policy target groups and
what is the timing of its application? How much flexibility do the
instruments provide? To what extent are multiple and indirect routes of
action used?
Related elements of narrow concept: policy instruments; target groups.
Governance of water 59
5. Variety of responsibilities and resources for implementation
Which organizations (including government organizations) are responsible
for implementing the policy? What level of authority and other resources are
made available to these organizations by the policy? How complex is the
institutional arrangement for policy implementation?
Related element of narrow concept: institutional (implementation)
arrangement.
3.3 Criteria for institutional sustainability
The dependent variable in our study is the sustainability of water resource
regimes. Since our study had to contribute to the implementation of the
European Water Framework Directive, we prefer to stay close to the way in
which a sustainable status of water resources (water bodies, water basins) is
defined in this directive. Key aims of the directive are the following (EU
2000):
– expanding the scope of water protection to all waters: surface waters and
groundwater;
– achieving a ‘good status’ for all waters by a set deadline;
– water management based on a river basin approach;
– ‘combined approach’ of emission limit values and quality standards;
– getting the prices right;
– getting the citizen involved more closely;
– streamlining legislation.
Considering these aims, we could distinguish between criteria for ecological
sustainability and for sustainable management or institutional sustainability.
Ecological sustainability refers to the achievement of a ‘good status’ for all
waters by a set deadline. It addresses the status of water quality and water
quantity in terms of its availability and fitness for present and future
demands (uses). There are many European directives that set standards for
such a good status. The European Water Framework Directive aims to
integrate these standards. Ecological sustainability especially aims to protect
the way in which water resources are needed for the ecosystem (ecological
uses) or for human health (such as the Drinking Water Directive).
In our view, institutional sustainability is a derivative of ecological
sustainability. It focuses on the availability and fitness of water resources for
all interested users, user groups and use functions that could be identified.
Institutional sustainability requires the distribution of a resource among users
in a just manner, taking into account the availability and reproductive
capacity of a resource for future generations. It requires that water
60 Chapter 3
management recognizes users and use functions and provides them with
rights of access to a water resource (property rights). Additionally, the
concept of institutional sustainability provides criteria for resource
regulation by means of public policies. Such criteria concern how we would
design a water policy or management regime to finally improve the
ecological sustainability of water use. This refers to water management at
basin level, the participation of users in policy making, expanding the policy
scope to all aspects of a water resource, streamlining legislation, getting
prices right and redistributing access rights among users.
Ecological sustainability depends on institutional sustainability and
sustainable management as preconditions. We are especially interested in the
interaction between property rights and public policy and how this
interaction could contribute to greater ecological sustainability. We look at
institutional arrangements or regimes that have been developed through the
years to manage conflicting water uses and to guide these uses in a
sustainable way. Part of the regimes is that they do establish property rights
and use rights over water resources in order to clarify ownership, but also to
restrict the owner’s water use by allowing others to make use of the same
water resources. The possession of titles, the exclusion of uses, and the
access of users are organized in this way. Another part of the regime is that
supplementary policies are formulated to help these property and use rights
work in the targeted directions. Studying the evolution of resource regimes,
we focus on the ‘extent’ of a regime (i.e. the uses and use functions that are
regulated by a regime and therefore belong to the regime’s domain) and on
the ‘coherence’ of a regime (i.e. the match between the regime’s elements,
especially the degree of consistency between property rights elements and
public policy elements). We are not only interested in the coherence between
the property rights subsystem and the public policy subsystem of a regime
(which we prefer to label as the ‘external coherence’ between the property
rights structure and the governance structure of a regime), but also in the
internal coherence of the property rights structure itself and in the internal
coherence of the governance structure. Therefore, we distinguish between
the following change variables:
– Extent of a regime.
– External coherence between the property rights structure and the
governance structure of a regime.
– Internal coherence of the property rights structure of a regime.
– Internal coherence of the governance structure of a regime.
Extent of a regime
The extent or fullness of a regime refers to the number and the
restrictiveness of its rights. We could think of a continuum with on the one
Governance of water 61
side extreme laissez-faire arrangements under which individual participants
are free to use a resource without even the constraints imposed by some
system of property and use rights (i.e. the case of ‘no regime’). At the
opposite extreme we find institutional arrangements featuring central
planning combined with extensive structures of rules governing the actions
of users. Most real-world regimes lie somewhere between these two polar
cases. Since ‘extent’ reflects the domain of uses and users that are regulated
by the regime, it is important to explain what is meant by ‘resource use’. The
European Water Framework Directive defines the use of water as:
– abstraction, distribution and consumption of surface water or
groundwater;
– emission of pollutants into surface water and waste water collection and
treatment facilities which subsequently discharge into surface water;
– any other application of surface water or groundwater having the
potential to significantly impact the status of water.
Due to the interconnection between water and land, a water resource could
also be a river basin, thus including the area of land from which all surface
water run-off flows through a sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly,
lakes into the sea at a single river mouth, estuary or delta. Therefore,
resource use may also refer to river basin use. On the basis of these notions
we created for our study a list of specific uses and use functions, which we
classified as follows:
– Water for the living environment (plants and animals).
– Water for consumption and drinking water supply (domestic use).
– Water for agricultural use (irrigation or drainage).
– Water for industrial use, which means water used directly or indirectly
for the production of economic goods and services (for instance, cooling
as an indirect use or production of mineral water as a direct use).
– Water for hydropower production (as a particular form of economic
production).
– Water resource as a medium for discharge of pollutants.
– Water resource as infrastructure for tourism, leisure, recreation, sports or
medical use (e.g. bathing, swimming, skating, leisure navigation, sports
fishing, wind surfing).
– Water resource as an infrastructure for commercial navigation, fishing,
gravel extraction, mining, or other commercial uses.
– Water resource as an infrastructure for land use (especially use of flood
plains for water storage, landscape development, urban development,
etc.).
62 Chapter 3
If a certain use of the water resource (e.g. fishing) is not regulated or
considered by any of the regime elements, it does not belong to the extent.
Likewise, if only professional fishing is regulated, but not sports fishing, the
sportsmen involved do not belong to the extent. A change in extent will
often mean that more uses or use functions are incorporated. Typical of
many cases is that nature (living environment) gets recognized as a use
function and considered by the regime. A larger extent makes the regime
more ‘meaningful’ for the use of the resource. But there is also a danger. If
the incorporation of additional uses/users in the regime takes place by means
of new, separate property rights and/or public governance aspects, this might
lead to a decline of the regime’s coherence. This is how simple regimes
evolve into complex ones.
External coherence of a regime
The concept of coherence refers to the degree of consistency among the
elements of a resource regime. For instance, use rights frequently come into
conflict with private ownership rights. Young argues that resource regimes
need to be accompanied by administrative organizations and policies,
especially to cope with problems of interpretation and dispute settlement.
This illustrates the mutual relationship between property rights and public
governance:
“As soon as some administrative apparatus is in place, it becomes
possible to think about devising techniques of social control (policy
instruments) through which to guide the behavior of those subject to a
regime towards certain desired ends. Possible policy instruments are changes
in bundles of exclusive rights, the promulgation of restrictive regulations, or
decisions concerning individual applications for resource exploitation
permits. Bundles of exclusive rights could be restructured as a means of
solving dilemmas of common property in the realm of natural resources or
alleviating problems of air and water pollution. Thus, we might establish
licenses or entry permits relating to the use of resources. Alternatively, it
would be possible to create pollution rights entitling the holder to emit
specified amounts of effluent or use rights entitling the holder to make some
designated use of a resource. All such rights would be transferable so that
exchanges could occur and re-combinations of the rights would be perfectly
feasible.” (Young 1982: 61)
The existing property rights structure might trigger public authorities to
change the property rights structure. We were able to distinguish between
‘hard’ and ‘soft’ changes of the property rights structure. Hard changes are
based on some redistribution of property rights, which means that property
rights are transferred from one user to another. Redistribution could take
Governance of water 63
different forms, such as attribution of new property titles to new users at the
cost of other users, adoption of new titles for expropriation of ownership,
limitation of use rights, and transfer of private property rights to the public
domain. Soft changes of the property rights structure are not based on
redistribution but on compensation arrangements or on the attribution of
liability. The key aim of the European Water Framework Directive, to get
prices right, also fits into this category. Each water use will have its price in
terms of affecting the status of a water resource. First, the EU wants to
change the pattern of water use by making those who pollute pay the costs of
the damage they cause. Therefore, the EU adheres to the polluter pays
principle: those who pollute need to accept the financial consequences (to
include externality costs). Secondly, the EU stresses the integration of the
full cost of water uses into the price paid for the water, to ensure that costs
are not born downstream by the rest of society and by future generations.
The full cost recovery principle should ensure that the price charged to water
users contributes to the wise use of this limited resource (also to include
externality costs). Thirdly, the EU adheres to the principle of affordability, to
ensure that basic services are provided at an affordable price (to guarantee
access rights). These three principles should encourage a far more rational,
sustainable use pattern. Getting the prices right could be effectuated by
changing the property rights structure.
Internal coherence of the property rights structure of a regime
On the one hand, we expect more and more use rights to be established over
time with respect to the same water body, and often perhaps at the cost of
other existing use rights. This would increase the extent (or scope) of the
property rights system. As a result, the property rights would develop into
more complex bundles of rights and the need for co-ordination would
increase. On the other hand, we expect more and more use rights (including
those related to ownership) to be restricted over time so as to protect other
use rights and reduce rivalries (redistribution of rights). This would increase
co-ordination within the property rights system and enhance the internal
coherence of property rights.
Internal coherence of the governance structure of a regime
On the one hand, we expect more and more water uses to be recognized by
public policy makers in their policies over time. This will increase the extent
(or scope) of the public policy subsystem. We also expect that it will
increase the complexity of public policies: more administrative levels and
authorities would be involved, more interests of various non-public actors
would have to be recognized, various policy perspectives would compete,
policy interventions would increasingly present a complex of policy
64 Chapter 3
instruments, and policy implementation would have to rely increasingly on a
complex institutional arrangement. On the other hand, we would expect to
find an increasing number of co-ordination attempts on the part of policy
makers with the aim of reducing fragmentation and improving the coordination
of policy initiatives. Co-ordination attempts could also have the
opposite (unintentional) effect of increasing fragmentation instead of
contributing to their purpose of increased integration.
The criteria for ‘integral water management’ as provided by the European
Water Framework Directive mostly refer – in our terms – to a combination of
an increased extent and more internal coherence of the governance structure
of a regime. Only the criterion of ‘getting the prices right’ appeals to an
improvement of the external coherence between the property rights structure
and the governance structure of a regime. It is apparent, therefore, that
options for the improvement of the external coherence – in particular the
options we suggest for the redistribution of property rights – are not
considered by the European Water Framework Directive.
In the previous chapter we explained that a governance system can be
analyzed along five dimensions or elements. Therefore, the internal
coherence of the governance structure of a regime can be parsed into:
– Coherence of levels and scales of governance;
– Coherence between actors in the policy network;
– Coherence of problem perception and objectives;
– Coherence of strategy and instruments;
– Coherence of responsibilities and resources for implementation.
The options for improving integral water management, as advocated by the
European Water Framework Directive, can be linked to these five forms of
coherence:
1. Water management based on river basins: administrative co-ordination at
the level of a river basin as a whole (“the best model for a single system
of water management is management by river basin – the natural and
hydrological unit – instead of according to administrative or political
boundaries” – EU 2000). This element supports the form of coherence
focusing on levels and scales of governance.
2. Getting users involved: involvement of all actors having an interest in
water services (“increasing public participation and balancing interest of
various groups” – EU 2000). This element supports the form of coherence
focusing on actors in policy networks.
3. Expanding the scope: development of a water vision for a river basin
(“co-ordination of objectives – good status for all waters by 2010; the
Governance of water 65
objectives for a river basin must be set out in a river basin management
plan, based on analysis of the river basin characteristics, a review of the
impact of human activity on the status of waters in the basin, estimation
of the effect of existing legislation and the remaining ‘gap’ to meeting
these objectives” – EU 2000). This element supports the form of
coherence focusing on problem perception and objectives.
4. Streamlining legislation (“the framework directive will take over
operative provisions of several water directives” – EU 2000) and getting
the prices right by full cost recovery pricing (“to ensure that the price
charged to water users integrates the true costs” – EU, 2000). This
element supports the form of coherence focusing on strategy and
instruments.
5. Co-ordination of implementation: co-ordination of the application of
measures for a river basin (“analyzing whether existing legislation solves
the problem once and for all, and if it does not, identifying why and
designing whatever additional measures are needed to satisfy all the
objectives established” – EU 2000). This element supports the form of
coherence focusing on responsibilities and resources for implementation.
An example of inconsistency within the governance structure is when a new
problem perspective is accepted, but no new targets are formulated for that
problem, or it is not recognized that the new targets are contradictory to the
existing ones, or the new targets’ objectives are not followed by instruments
to attain them. An example of a misfit within the property rights structure is
when new users are granted use rights without recognizing that this may
harm existing use rights, for instance when water scooters are allowed in a
lake where a sports fishing association holds an exclusive fishing right. An
example of lack of coherence between property rights and governance
occurs when policy instruments address actors other than those that hold
relevant use rights. Or, if the extent increases, but the policy makers remain
unable to recognize new uses through a redistribution of property rights, the
improvement is only partial. This would mean an improvement in terms of
extent, but not in terms of coherence.
3.4 Regime evolution
The central postulate of our approach is that the two steering dimensions
(property rights subsystem and governance subsystem) are complementary
and must both be considered to achieve sustainable resource management.
The concept advocates that the management and preservation of a resource
should be understood not only in terms of public management (top down),
66 Chapter 3
but also in terms of civil or social action and self-regulation by society on
the basis of property rights (bottom up). If we want to focus on sustainable
resource management, a comprehensive and integrated approach of all
managerial actions is required. The question that arises at this point is how
these subsystems interact as a regime, and how this regime develops over
time.
As described in the previous section, we want to evaluate a regime in
terms of its sustainability performance. We distinguished two dimensions for
regime classification: extent and coherence. The extent of a regime concerns
its inclusiveness with respect to all uses related to a water resource. The
coherence of a regime concerns the recognition of property rights holders as
target groups of policy interventions. Whereas the extent counts the different
rival uses regulated by public polices, the degree of coherence tells us
whether and how the different target groups have been co-ordinated. On the
basis of these two dimensions we can construct a typology. Such a typology
allows to divide the historical emergence of an institutional resource regime
very schematically into different phases (see Table 3.2).
Table 3.2 Extent and coherence as dimensions of regime evolution
Regime dimensions
Coherence low Coherence high
Extent low
No regime Simple regime
Extent high Complex regime
(fragmented)
Complex regime
(integrated)
When the central actors observe scarcity in connection with the use of the
resource, this gives rise to a simple regime with the new application of
property and use rights, or on the policy level with the adoption of general
police policies with very simple designs (for instance, a general police clause
for protection of use rights or bans and license restrictions).
In the subsequent phase of the complex regime, we can already observe
the combination of the (clarified, redefined) property and use rights with a
more detailed policy, framed in terms of aims of the corresponding
protection and use policies. This is followed by a significant increase in the
officially sanctioned uses – which are thus guaranteed in a property-like
manner – for the production of specific goods and services. Examples of such
rival uses of water resources are fishing, energy production, agriculture,
biodiversity, drinking water production, and recreation. The now mainly
heterogeneous demands and the sum of the diverse private-use rights lead to
a crisis and possibly even the collapse of complex regimes.
The key question now is whether it is possible to establish a water
resource regime that can take account of these varied, heterogeneous
Governance of water 67
demands. Such regimes would regulate the totality of uses in such a way that
it would be possible to sustainably maintain the capacity of the water
resource in question to the satisfaction of all these uses and use functions
(integrated regime). The development of such a regime would depend on
institutional changes in the governance structure and the structure of
property and use rights.
In the Euwareness study, we aimed to examine when, under what conditions
and in what form integrated water resource regimes are established that can
successfully regulate all of the use demands and thus react to the growing
scarcity of goods and services provided by a water resource or the depletion
of its stocks. A historical screening of water resource regimes in different
countries is used to examine whether the emergence of resource regimes
corresponds to our theoretical phase model and whether the suggested
transitions from complex to integrated regimes can be identified (see
chapters 4 and 5). This development of national regimes has been examined
for a period extending over more than a hundred years (from the early 19th
century until the end of the 20th century). The methodology was descriptive,
making as much use as possible of previous studies and publications. The
screening concentrated on changes in the central elements of the governance
structure and the structure of property and use rights. This diachronic
analysis made it possible to pronounce the extent of the regime and changes
in the governance structure as well as the structure of property and use rights
over time. It is particularly important that the transitions are identified, i.e.
those historical moments when the resource regime actually changed from
one phase to another. In the Euwareness study we were also particularly
interested in the change from complex to integrated regimes, we
subsequently studied two cases of water basins in each of the countries
involved, to get a better understanding of the specific conditions under
which regime transitions towards integration appear (see chapters 6 and 7).
The case studies focus on the last three decades of the twentieth century
(1970-2000), when many countries developed complex regimes and
attempted to integrate water management.
Complexity means that most of the elements of regimes can be characterized
by a multiple format. A regime becomes complex when more layers and
scales, actors, perceptions of the problem and accompanying goals are
involved, more instruments are part of the policy mix and more
organizations share responsibilities for policy implementation. While the
growth of complexity in water regimes seems to be part of a general
development in society, integration in the form of more coherence as a
development is not. The central assumption is that coherence will occur
68 Chapter 3
when the relevant actors acknowledge that more coherence is necessary to
prevent further deterioration of the resource. This means that the
improvement of coherence is not a spontaneous development, but is more
deliberate in character. In addition, relatively singular or simple regimes
(one level, one governing actor, focusing on one specific use, one
instrument, and one implementing agency) will not be in need of coherence.
Coherence only becomes a relevant concept after growth involving multiple
uses (see Figure 3.2). And yet, it is not a logical consequence. Complex but
fragmented regimes are empirically quite common. This comes at a price.
Every form of more coherence creates the need for additional interaction and
increases transaction costs, at least initially. This means that more coherence
typically stems from discernible change agents that demand some form of
consistency. Thus, unlike an increase in complexity, developments in the
direction of coherence need deliberate effort on the part of motivated actors.
Figure 3.2 Regime evolution
Simple Complex
(Single elements) (Multiple elements)
Extent low Extent high
Coherent
Fragmented
The regime phases can not only be described or characterized, but also
identified and qualified in terms of their driving forces. In some phases, the
regime evolution may be more property rights driven and more public policy
driven in others. If property rights are predominantly changed as a result of
policy interventions in a certain phase, this phase would be designated as
public policy driven. Phases in which public policies intend to formalize a
Governance of water 69
practice settled by property rights would be designated as property rights
driven. A distinction can also be made between use-driven policies and
protection-driven policies. Use-driven policies intend to facilitate the
economic uses of a water resource. Protection-driven policies intend to
facilitate the ecological uses or functions of a water resource.
Regime change takes place within a context of problem-related and
institutional triggers. The first triggers that should be considered are
probably those caused by external shocks in the form of calamities or
specific events. Example here would be a drought or flood in the aftermath
of a particularly low or heavy rainfall. Other examples could include the
sudden death of a fish population or the general pollution of drinking water
due to an accident in, for example, a chemical plant or a copper mine.
However, the problem pressure can also increase slowly and become serious
without the advent of a particular calamity. Industries or agriculture may
steadily use a water basin as a sink and, thus, increasingly rival other goods
and services such as the supply of drinking water or provision of living space
for fish.
Institutional triggers also have an important role to play. We think of
institutional triggers, first and foremost, based on actors as institutions. A
change in regime rules will strongly reflect the political resources of the
actors who represent an interest in the use of particular goods of the water
basin in question. Actors depend on the resource to varying degrees. Actors
who strongly depend on pure water, for example, will be particularly
dependent on reaching accommodations with other actors. Thus, the
relationship between actors in terms of resource dependencies shapes the
possible changes in regime types. However, the relations between actors are
also defined independently of the water basin and influenced by political
institutions such as federalism or a new level of governance. A higher
administrative or political system may enact new rules or standards. EUlegislation
or UN-conventions like the Convention on Biodiversity or
Agenda 21 can pressurize countries to reform laws on water use. It is also
possible for a country to change meta-rules or meta-policies such as
economic, social, or infrastructure laws or competencies between levels.
These changes concern a much larger policy area than water, but will
probably also affect water uses. Finally, the policy style as a way of policymaking
in a country can also change. Policy makers may start to increasingly
delegate implementation tasks to private actors or increasingly rely on
procedural rather than regulative instruments.
70 Chapter 3
3.5 The political context: conditions for regime change
With our research framework we are interested to learn about regime
change, conditions for change, and thus conditions for sustainability. For that
purpose we have to formulate a theory on regime change. There are many
theories on policy change and institutional reform, developed by authors in
the field of political science and public administration. For instance, much
debated are the ‘punctuated equilibrium’ theory by Baumgartner & Jones
(1993), the ‘social learning’ theory by Hall (1993), and the ‘advocacy
coalition’ theory by Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith (1993). These three theories
consider policy processes as prolonged periods of incrementalism, succeeded
by relatively short periods of radical policy changes. These radical policy
changes are focused on as dependent variables. The origins of radical
changes are mostly identified outside the policy system (Yesilkagit 2001).
Several explanations for the occurrence of change can be found in literature.
Incremental institutional adaptation is normally considered as the result of
gradual social, economic and political developments (North 1990). Besides
explanations for gradual adaptations of institutional structures, crises are
often considered as an important trigger for more radical change. During a
crisis the institutional structure itself becomes highly criticized, which
softens institutional resistance to change and opens up a ‘window of
opportunity’ for the introduction of institutional reform (Kingdon 1984).
However, not every crisis leads to change. Even if a crisis unfreezes
institutional rigidities, key officials cannot take decisions without
considering the past of the sector (Boin & ’t Hart 2000). In fact, this is a
statement that institutional change always will be path dependent.
In this context, Armingeon (1996a, 1996b) states that major reforms
rarely occur as a reaction to international pressures. Political institutions in
OECD countries tend to persist. Internationalization or globalization has not
changed much, contrary to the early hypotheses of the globalization
literature predicting major changes and the convergence of politics and
institutions in nation states. Of course internationalization can trigger
institutional changes, which national systems fail to bring about without
external stimuli or pressures. But since the early 1980s he observed few
changes in major institutions of democratic systems in OECD nations. Most
national political institutions have been left largely intact despite both
internal and external challenges and changes. Armingeon assumes that
global developments become transformed into domestic causes of reform or
persistence in a complex procedure whereby the configuration of institutions
and the distribution of political power play a central role. Immergut (1992)
identifies ‘domestic veto points’ as inhibitors to change. Veto points result
from the dispersion of otherwise centralized and concentrated political
Governance of water 71
power. They refer to those institutions and actors who are able and willing to
hinder reform. Examples are direct democracy, strong regional governments,
and corporatist arenas.
Regimes could be rather stable, without changing much or rather gradual
(incremental change). Long periods of stability could be succeeded by short
periods of radical change, caused by external factors like a natural or a
political crisis. However, not every crisis leads to radical change, and not
every change needs to be caused by a crisis. In other words, there could be
many triggers for change, but it depends on the conditions if a trigger, or a
combination of triggers, results in change. It also depends on the conditions
if triggers result in more radical or more incremental change. For a theory on
regime change we need to identify such conditions, which determine the
effect of triggers.
Hypothesis 1
The path dependency argument leads us to the conclusion that the institutional
sustainability of water resource regimes – as desired by the EU – will be better and
faster adopted by member states the better the required regime changes fit into the
existing institutional structure of the national water regime.
This first hypothesis could be used to investigate to what extent member states are
able to adopt the institutional requirements of the European Water Framework
Directive (the adaptive potential of a state). For instance:
– A river basin approach will be easier to adopt if a decentralized water
management structure already exists which based its administrative scale on
watershed boundaries. It will also be easier to adopt if a country adopted
subsidiarity as a principle for multilevel governance.
– A participatory structure (‘getting users involved’) will be easier to adopt if
some form of user participation in water management already exists.
– An integral water vision for a water basin will be easier to develop if a
planning structure for water management exists.
– The streamlining of legislation will be easier if a country has already adopted
integral water legislation.
– ‘Getting the prices right’ by full cost recovery pricing will be easier to adopt if
a country is already accustomed to water taxes based on the polluter pays
principle and on full cost recovery of water services.
– Coordination of implementation will be more effective if a country is
characterized by a strong interplay between central and decentral authorities in
the field of water management.
72 Chapter 3
In search of such conditions, let’s have a closer look at the theories by
Baumgartner & Jones, Hall, and Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith. The punctuated
equilibrium theory (Baumgartner & Jones 1993) argues that stability results
from the existence of a policy community with a dominant position (policy
monopoly) within the policy sector. The equilibrium will change if a rival
policy community succeeds in challenging the legitimacy of the dominant
policy program which is in force, by mobilizing individuals or groups with
indifferent opinions. The social learning theory (Hall 1993) argues that the
political establishment in a policy sector is following a paradigm, which is
the basis for their perceptions and argumentations resulting in a policy
program. Such a policy program is constantly being adapted on basis of
social learning. The basic paradigm remains in force as long as adaptations
are a matter of incremental change based on routine learning processes.
Radical change, which is the replacement of a paradigm by another one, is
based on a process of more fundamental rethinking, motivated by ideological
or political-tactical considerations. The advocacy coalition theory (Sabatier
& Jenkins-Smith 1993) argues that a policy sector remains stable as long as
rival policy coalitions (advocacy coalitions) within the policy sector are
competing on the basis of their own set of values and beliefs. This rivalry
will only result in incremental changes. Radical change can only result from
a crisis or a changed power configuration at the more central collective
choice level under which the policy sector operates.
Comparing these three theories we find that they all identify both
intellectual based and power configuration based causal mechanisms leading
to policy change, which in fact goes back to Heclo’s distinction between
‘puzzling’ and ‘powering’, meaning that policy processes are about ideas
and learning as well as about power and interest constellations (Heclo 1974;
Yesilkagit 2001). We also learn from these theories that radical change
seems to be a fundamental change of the underlying power configuration or
a fundamental rethinking of the underlying intellectual perspective or
paradigm, or both.
In search for conditions that, as underlying or intermediate mechanisms,
determine the change effects of triggers, Bressers & Kuks (2000; 2001;
2003) identify in their theory on the stability and dynamics of governance
systems three causal mechanisms for stability or change. Their main
assumption is that stability in a governance system results from mutual
adjustment between the five elements of such a system (see chapter 2).
Changes within a governance system occur because external change agents
affect one or more of these five elements to some extent, which may result in
an adjustment by the other elements. Whether a mutual adjustment really
takes place depends on three causal mechanisms. The first mechanism is that
Governance of water 73
adjustment arises from the tendency of actors to act from a set of constant
and coherent values (objectives: ‘will’; normative component). The second
mechanism is that adjustment arises from the tendency of actors to use a
common reference frame to interpret cognitions (information: ‘knowledge’).
The third mechanism is that adjustment arises from the dependence of actors
on each other’s resources (power: ‘ability’). Each of these three mechanisms
could be an explanation for stability. On the other hand, each mechanism
could be triggered to become a generator of change.
In the case of the first mechanism, there could be a specific arrangement of
water rights in a nation, based on some specific set of values. For instance,
there could be a strong value placed on keeping water in the public domain,
or on water being controlled as common property, or on privatization of
water services. It could be assumed that the stronger the value to keep water
in the public domain, the better rivalries are managed in terms of taking care
of all uses involved, or the better the non-institutionalized users are
protected. In this context, the openness of the legal system to ‘protective
interests’ is mentioned as a kind of catalyst to participation (Jänicke &
Weidner 1997). Even the influence of a national policy style is mentioned. A
cooperative policy style (with participatory values) is good for policy
innovation, because innovators are integrated earlier into the decisionmaking
process than is the case in countries with a more confrontational
tradition (Jänicke & Weidner 1997; Richardson 1982; Vogel 1986).
However, Arentsen, Bressers and O’Toole (2000) warned that closed forms
of neo-corporatism might hamper policy learning, due to the screening of
strong incentives from the outside. Furthermore, one could think of
adherence to specific water principles like the polluter pays principle, the
principle of affordability of water prices, or the principle of full cost
recovery, as examples of values adopted by a nation. It could be assumed
that rivalries are better managed when these principles are adhered to
because they are based on public values, like incorporating the costs of
externalities and guaranteeing access to all interested users in the society on
the basis of equity. Also social mechanisms for dispute settlement should be
regarded as based on values. Young (1982) mentions a few types of social
choice mechanisms which are most relevant to the allocation of resource
harvests (for instance in the fisheries, or oil and gas extracts). One of the
simplest solutions is to rely on the principle of ‘first come, first served’ or
the law of capture. The basic idea here is to honor the claims of those actors
getting the resources first. Alternatively, these allocations can be made
through some process of administrative decision making. Under this option,
interested parties could submit proposals pertaining to the harvesting or the
exploitation of resources, designated administrators make selections among
74 Chapter 3
these proposals, and permits or licenses are issued to successful applicants.
A third method of allocating limited resource supplies is to rely on explicit
bargaining. The essential idea here is to create a competitive auction for
permits, licenses, or leases granting exclusive rights to portions of the total
possible harvest. Young emphasizes that resource regimes have few
mechanisms that are unique to themselves. Instead, they may share these
mechanisms with other regimes or rely heavily on the institutional
arrangements of society as a whole in coming to terms with specific
problems of social choice.
In the case of the second mechanism, the common reference frame to
interpret cognitions could be the way in which water resources and water
issues are perceived in a nation. The national orientation is probably
determined by the appearance of water resources in a country. Arid countries
in the Mediterranean area will have a different perception of resources and
availability than the more humid countries in Northern Europe. Countries
that are dependent on transboundary inflows (like the Netherlands) might
have a different view than countries that do not (like France). In policy
science literature it has been recognized that such an ‘image’ of natural
resources will influence the national policy style (Eberg 1997; see also
literature on cultural theory). Also Jänicke and Weidner (1997) recognize the
societal interpretation of the environmental situation as what he calls a
‘cognitive-informational framework condition’ (a condition, under which
environmental knowledge is produced, distributed, interpreted and applied).
Knowledge about environmental dangers is the necessary condition for
public awareness. But it is not only the scope of knowledge that matters. The
leading paradigm of policy actors or ‘the structure of available knowledge
and thinking’ is seen as increasingly important in policy research. The
leading paradigm of environmental protection has crucial influence on the
strategy.
An additional way to understand the meaning of a cognitive reference
frame of a nation is to consider the way in which the boundaries of a
resource regime are formulated. Young (1982) differentiates among three
distinct dimensions in thinking about boundaries of resource regimes. First,
there is the dimension of functional scope or issue area. For instance, issues
of water quantity and quality could be dealt with quite separately in a
country, which could mean that separate regimes are functioning for the
same water resource. A second, spatial dimension involves the geographical
coverage or catchment area of a regime. For instance, this is the way the
European Union would like to think of water resources, advocating a river
basin or water catchment approach, which might require an expansion of the
geographical scope of a resource regime. A third dimension focuses on the
Governance of water 75
membership or beneficiary group associated with any given regime. For
instance, a use-driven development of a resource regime may lead to overexploitation
and certain blindness for ecological aspects and non-economic
values of the resource. Young recognizes that these three distinct
dimensions, although helpful for analytical purposes, are apt to be highly
interdependent under real-world conditions. Speaking of the size of resource
regimes, he prefers to consider an increasing size as the extent that its
functional scope expands, its catchment area widens, or its membership
grows.
Instead of national leading paradigms, water institutions or networks also
could have a dominant cognitive reference frame. As examples of such
networks, we could think of the existence in the water sector of policy
communities (Rhodes 1985; Jordan 1990), iron triangles (Jordan 1981),
advocacy coalitions (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith 1993), and expert
communities (Jasanoff 1990) or epistemic communities (Haas, 1992). Such
policy networks could be rather closed and difficult to enter for new actors
with an interest in water management. For instance, the developed level of
expertise in civil engineering or flood risk management could have built an
expert community having problems with the entrance of other disciplines in
water management. On the other hand, new water issues could help to
develop issue networks resulting in the opening of policy communities
which have been rather closed before (Heclo 1978; Bressers, O’Toole &
Richardson 1995). In that context, epistemic communities have also been
considered as a condition for successful water management (Jänicke &
Weidner 1997). The openness of the scientific community to new problems
and paradigms as well as the openness of the media to new issues are
important for the development of new policy directions. We should
understand openness also as adaptive and innovative capacity.
In case of the third mechanism, the dependence of actors on each other’s
resources should be understood as the power configuration reflected in the
structure of the water sector in a nation. Such dependence is not only
expressed in the demarcation of powers between administrative levels and
authorities (centralism/decentralism) and in the power positions of specific
public actors. It is also expressed in institutional links (networks) between
public authorities and non-public actors or the civil society. Jänicke and
Weidner (1997) mention two ‘political-institutional conditions’ which seem
to be important indicators for our power configuration based mechanism: the
‘participative capacity’ and the ‘integrative capacity’ of a nation. The
participative capacity refers to the input structures of the policy process, on
which it depends if all water uses have an equal opportunity to become
expressed and recognized. Decentralization and strong local communities are
76 Chapter 3
seen as a favorable condition for participation, which is especially the case in
countries which have adopted subsidiarity, a multilevel governance structure
(Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Nordic countries). The
integrative capacity refers to intrapolicy coordination (i.e. the internal
integration of the policy field), to interpolicy coordination (i.e. the crosssectoral
integration of conflicting policies), and to external integration of
environmental policy institutions and non-governmental actors, including
consultations with target groups. Integrative capacities together with
participative ones offer possibilities for describing types of political systems.
Examples might be the open, but fragmented American system, or the closed
and highly integrated French system, or the relatively open and integrated
systems of smaller democracies such as the Netherlands, or Norway.
Depending on the outlook of the three underlying mechanisms in a country,
it will be easier (a matter of incremental change) or more difficult (a matter
of radical change) for a state to develop towards an integrated water resource
regime (with a high coherence and a high extent). In other words, to follow
up our first hypothesis on path dependency and the adaptive potential of a
state, it depends on the adaptive potential of the underlying mechanisms if
and how triggers will effect the development of a resource regime. If these
mechanisms have a low adaptive potential for change towards integration,
triggers are needed that could bring about radical change. If these
mechanisms have a high adaptive potential, it is sufficient to have triggers
that bring about incremental change.
Hypothesis 2
The more the dominant set of values in a nation is in favor of an integrated water
resource regime, the easier triggers will have a chance to change a regime in that
direction.
As values and value-based institutions that are in favor of an integrated water
resource regime could be considered:
– a strong value placed on community spirit, including willingness to restrict
individual autonomy to achieve equitable distribution of water access rights;
– a cooperative policy style (with participatory values), including openness of
the water policy community to rival interests;
– a strong environmental awareness in society, including a protective
orientation and openness of the legal system to ‘protective interests’;
– common adherence to the polluter pays principle and the principle of full
cost recovery.
Governance of water 77
Hypothesis 3
The more the dominant cognitive reference frame in a nation is in favor of an
integrated water resource regime, the easier triggers will have a chance to
change a regime in that direction.
As paradigms and cognition-based institutions that are in favor of an integrated
water resource regime could be considered:
– a common understanding of water problems in terms of resource
sustainability and not in terms of isolated problems that can be resolved
with curative solutions (treatment of the symptoms);
– a water planning tradition and the presence of a supportive learning system
(in the sense of national statistics, science and research);
– the ability to adapt existing water institutions to an expanding extent (to
innovate within existing water institutions and broaden their scope).
Hypothesis 4
The more the power configuration of the water sector in a nation is in favor of
an integrated water resource regime, the easier triggers will have a chance to
change a regime in that direction.
As indicators of a power configuration that is supportive to an integrated water
resource regime could be considered:
– a tradition of effective co-governance between central and decentral
authorities (in which central authorities take responsibility for integration
and decentral authorities are equipped with sufficient resources for the
implementation and the differentiation to specific circumstances);
– a tradition of citizen participation and public debate on water issues (in
which participation is not restricted to general elections, but in which
participation rights are instituted regarding water policy making and
planning);
– a strong environmental policy sector (with environmental divisions at all
administrative levels and environmental subdivisions in all relevant
ministries and water administrations);
– a strong position of ‘green’ NGOs.
78 Chapter 3
3.6 Conclusion
While chapter 2 focused on water governance from a public policy point of
view, we added in this chapter a property rights perspective, based on the
notion that property rights determine the accessibility of water systems as a
natural resource for various users and use functions. Both perspectives are
combined as steering dimensions into a comprising concept of resource
regimes. Resource regimes are considered as social institutions in which the
public and private domains interact with each other. We developed a regime
theory on this interaction, introducing regime extent and regime coherence
as criteria for the evaluation of regimes on their contribution to resource
sustainability. Thus, different types of resource regimes (or phases in the
evolution of a regime) can be distinguished.
In general, water resource regimes will show a development from simple
into complex regimes. A regime becomes more complex when more layers
and scales, actors, perceptions of the problem and accompanying goals are
involved, more instruments are part of the policy mix and more
organizations share responsibilities for policy implementation. The central
assumption is that coherence will occur when the relevant actors
acknowledge that more coherence is necessary to prevent further
deterioration of the resource. This means that the improvement of coherence
is not a spontaneous development, but is more deliberate in character.
Coherence only becomes a relevant concept after growth involving multiple
uses. Every form of coherence creates the need for additional interaction and
increases transaction costs.
In this chapter we also dealt with the political context in which regimes exist
and develop. We focused on conditions that determine – as intermediate
mechanisms – the effects of triggers on regime change, and formulated
hypotheses on the institutional dynamics of water resource regimes. The first
hypothesis, based on the path dependency, argues that the institutional
sustainability of water resource regimes – as desired by the EU – will be
better and faster adopted by member states the better the required regime
changes fit into the existing institutional structure of the national water
regime. The other hypotheses are built on the three mechanisms which are
identified in chapter 2.
The second hypothesis, based on the tendency of actors to act from a set
of constant and coherent values, argues that the more the dominant set of
values in a nation is in favor of an integrated water resource regime, the
easier triggers will have a chance to change a regime in that direction. The
third hypothesis, based on the tendency of actors to use a common reference
Governance of water 79
frame to interpret cognitions, argues that the more the dominant cognitive
reference frame in a nation is in favor of an integrated water resource
regime, the easier triggers will have a chance to change a regime in that
direction. The fourth hypothesis, based on the dependence of actors on each
other’s resources, argues that the more the power configuration of the water
sector in a nation is in favor of an integrated water resource regime, the
easier triggers will have a chance to change a regime in that direction.
The formulated hypotheses are statements about the dynamics of resource
regimes as well as their stability (restraints to change). In the following
chapters of this dissertation we will investigate the conditions of regime
change (chapters 4 to 7) and governance change (chapters 8 to 10) as
identified in chapter 2 and chapter 3. In chapter 12 we will revisit the last
three hypotheses to formulate conclusions on the institutional dynamics of
resource regimes and water governance.
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82 Chapter 3
Part two
Institutional dynamics of water regimes

83
Chapter 4
Evolution of the national water regime in the
Netherlands
4.1 Introduction: the context of the Dutch regime
In this study of the Netherlands national regime, we describe the long-term
evolution of water rights (property rights) and public policies in the country
over a period of almost 200 years (1800-2000), with an emphasis on the
post-World War II period. In fact, water management has a much longer
history in the Netherlands. As early as the 11th and 12th century, local
communities started to organize themselves to manage water systems. Dykes
were built to protect against flooding from the sea and the rivers. At that
time, removal of peat (used as fuel) and clay (building material) was already
causing land subsidence, demanding additional measures. The first
democratic district water boards were established in the 13th century. The
rulers of the Netherlands soon recognized them as competent water
authorities. They were democratic stakeholder organizations consisting of
elected representatives from local farming communities. For a long time
(until the 19th century), they remained independent of national developments.
In the 15th century, land subsidence was so great that agricultural fields
remained water-logged for a large part of the year. More drastic measures
were needed, and windmills were introduced to pump the extra water from
the land. In the 16th century, windmills started to be used to drain the lakes
resulting from peat-extraction, in order to create new land. In the 18th and
19th century more windmills were built to pump water out of local collection
canals (‘boezems’) into open waters. The need for central coordination led in
1798 to the establishment of a state water authority ‘Rijkswaterstaat’. This
state department became the leading agency for the large-scale construction
of a flood protection infrastructure consisting of dykes along the shores and
main rivers, as well as for large land reclamation projects. In fact, our
analysis of the Dutch national regime starts around the period 1798-1814,
since in that period the first attempts at a centralized approach of water
84 Chapter 4
management started. In 1814, the Netherlands became a monarchy and
received a new constitution after a period of French domination (the
Batavian Republic 1795-1806 and the Napoleonic era 1806-1814).
In this study we analyze how the scope or extent of both water rights and
public policies has increased over time, taking into account the everincreasing
use of water resources. The more resource uses evolve, the more
use conflicts or rivalries arise around a resource. A resource regime is
understood as the combination of water rights (both ownership and use
rights) established on a water resource, and the public policy attempts to
intervene in the uses of a water resource. Our assumption is that, to solve
rivalries between resource uses, a more coherent regime (i.e. a regime of
public policies redistributing property rights) will be more effective and
therefore lead to more sustainable resource use. This hypothesis is examined,
while simultaneously investigating the triggers that have resulted in regime
transitions. In section 4.1 we briefly explain the administrative-political
structure of the Netherlands as well as the actual physical context of this
country (water resources and rivalries), to create a framework for better
understanding the sections that follow. In section 4.2 we describe the
evolution of water rights in the Netherlands and in section 4.3 we do the
same for the evolution of water policies. Both evolutions will be considered
together in section 4.4, which identifies the main phases of regime evolution
and the way in which both subsystems (property rights and public policies)
interact over time, based on the dimensions ‘extent’ and ‘coherence’. In
section 4.55 we analyze and explain the regime evolution in concluding
terms, while considering the conditions that have impulsed the regime
evolution towards more integration.
4.1.1 The administrative-political structure of the Netherlands
4.1.1.1 Central and decentral levels of administration
The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of 12 provinces, each divided into
municipalities. There are about 500 municipalities (in the year 2000).
Another administrative division within the provinces are the water boards,
which are responsible for surface water management. There are about 55
water boards (in the year 2000). Water policy is drawn up and implemented
at both the national level and at the level of provinces and water boards.
From a historical perspective, provinces, water boards and municipalities
have a quite autonomous jurisdiction. However, since World War II their
autonomy has been increasingly framed in terms of a model of close cooperation
with central government, in which the central government takes
the initiative in policy making, and decentral authorities co-operate by
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 85
additional policy making and implementation within the national policy
framework. Provinces and municipalities even depend on subsidies from the
national budget. Water boards, on the other hand, cannot rely on such
subsidies, and have to fully recover the costs of their activities by their own
taxation.
Water boards are an old and special level of administration. They were
primarily responsible, from the Middle Ages until the middle of the 20th
century, for protection against flooding and for management of water in the
polders in the low-lying regions. After the Second World War, and
particularly since around 1970, water boards have acquired wider powers to
combat water pollution (including the responsibility for the construction and
operation of waste water treatment facilities). Water boards have a
democratic structure, based on a profit-payment-participation principle
(those having an interest in water management may participate and have to
pay for water services in proportion to their interest). The general council of
a water board comprises representatives of farmers, landowners, owners of
buildings, industries and inhabitants. A water board has regulatory and
taxation authority, raising its own taxes separately for quality and quantity
management (based on the principles of full cost recovery and polluter
pays). Municipalities are responsible for planning, building and operating
sewerage networks in their areas. Besides the water boards, they are also the
authority that licenses industrial discharges into the networks. Further, there
are about 20 water supply companies for about 16 million inhabitants in the
country, which means on average 800,000 inhabitants or 250,000 households
per water supply company connected. These are public enterprises, often at
provincial scale, with municipalities and provinces as shareholders, but
operating under civil law.
At the level of central government, water policies are coordinated by the
Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (V&W). This
is the leading ministry that also supervises the 200-years-old
‘Rijkswaterstaat’, the water-engineering department taking care of all state
waters and the state water infrastructure. The main (navigable) rivers and
canals, all coastal waters and estuaries, the territorial seas, and the inland
IJsselmeer fall under the jurisdiction of this ministry. The other (regional)
waters fall under the jurisdiction of the water boards, with an exemption for
regional navigable waters, which come under the jurisdiction of the
provinces, and an exemption for local waters (like harbors, city canal
systems), which fall under the jurisdiction of the municipalities. While water
quantity management at the national level is completely supervised by
V&W, water quality management is in the hands of the Ministry of Housing,
Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM), although it is still
coordinated by V&W. A separate ministry for environmental affairs was
86 Chapter 4
established in the Netherlands in 1971. This ministry also oversees drinking
water quality. As far as water management has a recognized relationship
with agriculture and nature conservation, which started to be recognized in
the 1980s, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries is
also involved in national water policy making. The involvement of this
ministry with fisheries has a longer history, of course.
4.1.1.2 Consensus-based and planning-based decision making
The Netherlands may be described as a highly consensus-based community
with a planning tradition covering a wide range of aspects of society. In
1989 the Netherlands was the first country to present an integrated national
environmental policy plan. In the field of water policy, the Netherlands
started a planning tradition as early as 1968 with a First National Water
Policy Document, followed by a second one in 1984, a third one (the first
integral water policy plan) in 1989, and a fourth one in 1998. The Dutch
system of integrated water management, adopted in 1985, takes account of
all the many functions fulfilled by water systems in the Netherlands. It is
internationally recognized as a very good example of integrated water
management.
Another typical Dutch feature is the long tradition of government
consultation of various groups in society. This tradition has its origins in the
division of society on religious and political grounds from 1917 until 1967,
known as the pacification-democracy. During this period, Dutch society was
organized pluralistically according to four separate compartments (catholic,
protestant, socialist and liberal), each having a strongly corporatistic
structure. Compartmentalization could also be found in the media, education,
sports and social clubs. The co-existence in political and social life of
organizations with similar goals, but different ideological bases, resulted in
mutual consultations and pacification among the political leaders of these
compartments. Related to this, many consultation bodies have been
established for consensus-based policy decision making (like the Socio-
Economic Council, ‘SER’) (Lijphart 1968; Daalder 1974; Van Putten 1982).
Although this compartmentalization went into a steep decline after 1967, it
experienced a powerful revival in socio-economic politics in the early 1980s.
Known as the ‘polder model’, it is believed to have generated high economic
growth for the Netherlands. Nowadays, it is still current practice in the way
water boards always have operated, and in the way environmental policies
are implemented by means of covenants since the late 1980s. Around 1985,
the Dutch environment department has adopted ‘consensual steering’ as one
of its main policy strategies, which means that policy target groups are
consulted and committed to environmental policy goals and to policy
implementation by means of policy agreements (covenants). Other
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 87
departments, like those for economic affairs, agriculture, and water
management, have followed this approach (Bressers, Huitema & Kuks 1995;
Bressers & Plettenburg 1997).
4.1.1.3 International commitments
The Netherlands was one of the founding members of the European
Community in the 1950s. The country always had a strong interest in
pushing the community towards sound directives for water quality
protection, since three international rivers (Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt),
which drain a large and densely populated part of western Europe, cut across
the Netherlands to join the sea. With respect to its water availability, the
country depends heavily on transboundary inflows, especially from the
Rhine and the Meuse. On the other hand, since the early 1990s, the country
has started to experience severe problems in meeting EU standards for
groundwater quality protection. So, we also see that EU policy is pushing the
Netherlands to speed up with the implementation of water quality standards.
Further, the international Rhine and North Sea Action Plans play a central
role in setting water quality standards for Dutch water and environmental
policies.
4.1.2 Physical conditions and main water bodies in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is situated at the downstream end of three European river
basins (Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt). The inflows of the Rhine and Meuse are
the country’s main freshwater resources. Compared to other European
countries, the Netherlands depends a lot on external water resources, with
over 75% of its total resources coming from abroad rivers. About 30% of the
total surface area of the Netherlands lies below sea level, protected in the
west and north from the sea by barriers of dunes and dykes. The need to
protect the land from high water from rivers and sea, and the tradition of
artificially draining low-lying areas, have combined to give the country a
complex hydraulic infrastructure. The country practices highly intensive
agriculture and has developed water-based transport for passengers, products
and raw materials to and from the European hinterland. The combination of
physical circumstances and human pressures has led to a technically unique
system of water management: the flow and level of almost every water body
in the country is under human control.
The main water bodies in the country are:
– The major rivers (Rhine/Meuse/Scheldt/Eems). These transboundary
European rivers have their deltas in the Netherlands. Such reliance on
transboundary rivers leads to cross-border tensions; the Netherlands has
88 Chapter 4
always faced serious deterioration of surface water quality due to
pollution sources in upstream countries (Germany, Switzerland, France,
Belgium).
– The southern delta (Province of Zeeland and Rotterdam region). In 1953,
a huge flood disaster around the Zeeland estuaries led to dyke breaches
and a large part of the province came to lie under water. This was the
start of a Delta program, constructing a system of storm barriers,
completed in the 1980s. Rotterdam is the world largest harbor and the
main entrance for water transportation of goods to the European
hinterland.
– Coastal and marine waters (North Sea / Wadden Sea). The North Sea’s
continental waters are an important source for fisheries and for oil
drilling. The Wadden Sea has an important underground gas reserve.
However, it is also considered to be a very important area for nature
conservation, and therefore gas drilling in this area is very controversial.
The Wadden Sea is a shallow salt-water sea (a wetland during low tide)
between the northern coastline and a strip of key islands. It has an
interesting bird life and seal population.
– The Blue Heart (IJsselmeer). This is a former inland sea, which has been
closed by a storm barrier and turned into a very large freshwater lake
after a serious flood disaster in 1916. The construction of the storm
barrier (‘afsluitdijk’) was the start of huge land reclamation projects in
the newly created IJsselmeer, resulting in various new polders from the
1920s until the 1970s (1930 Wieringermeer; 1942 Noordoostpolder; 1957
Oostelijk Flevoland; 1968 Zuidelijk Flevoland; 1975 unfinished land
reclamation of the Markerwaard, with only a surrounding dyke
completed). From the 1970s on, the IJsselmeer has been rediscovered as
an important nature reserve. The IJsselmeer gets most of its water from
the river IJssel, coming from the Rhine and entering the lake from the
east.
Almost every water body in the Netherlands is under human control and
managed through a sophisticated system. The physical infrastructure is now
in place. Apart from upgrading of sewage reticulation and wastewater
treatment, there is no need for further large-scale works of the type built in
recent decades. An appropriate legislative and policy framework for
integrated water management is also in place. Attention has shifted to policy
implementation. Remarkable results have been or will likely be achieved:
industrial discharges meet most of the targets; municipal discharges meet the
targets for oxygen demanding substances and phosphates. However,
inadequate results must be noted concerning the issues of water depletion,
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 89
too limited space for water, diffuse pollution, and toxic substances (OECD
1995). These issues will be discussed below.
4.1.3 Actual problem pressures in the Netherlands
Water depletion and desiccation
The good average rainfall (769 mm a year) in the Netherlands does not
prevent water deficit during summer. In all, 10% of the total area of the
country is affected by a permanent lowering of groundwater tables, making
desiccation (water depletion) a major concern for nature protection as well as
agriculture. The situation is due to drainage of agricultural land and
increased abstraction of groundwater for drinking and irrigation. Drainage of
farmland alone has caused the area of wetlands to dwindle by perhaps as
much as 25% since 1950. A region is regarded as being affected by
desiccation if it is designated as having a nature conservation function and
the water table is too low to guarantee protection of groundwater-dependent
ecological characteristics. While this issue is important enough to be one of
the eight main environmental issues in the Netherlands, so far most activity
has been confined to studying and defining the problem. Since measures to
solve this problem will take time to be implemented, it is unlikely that the
target for 2000 – a 25% reduction of the area affected – will be reached.
Solutions involve partially switching from ground to surface sources for
water supplies, preventing the discharge of rainwater run-off into the sewer,
and various water management measures. Progress with the latter is
complicated by the conflict of interest between agriculture and nature
protection. This renders decision making difficult, especially at the level of
the water boards, where farming interests always have had a large say. The
intensity of socio-economic development in the Netherlands is such that the
supply of water of adequate quality has become an important issue, and
further increases in groundwater abstraction are constrained by nature
conservation considerations. The Dutch authorities have recognized the need
to promote more efficient use of water (OECD 1995).
Flooding and limited space for water
Two-thirds of the population lives in floodable areas: land below sea level
requires permanent protection, and further large areas need protection from
temporary inundation by the sea and the rivers. During the 1990s the
Netherlands experienced serious river floods in 1992, 1995 and 1998,
causing evacuations of people and extensive material damage. The
Netherlands thus faces not only a potential shortage of usable water, but also
an increasing scarcity of space. Space around the rivers is needed not only
for safety reasons (to allow rivers to rise and fall without risk to human life
90 Chapter 4
or harm to economic interests), but also for the ecological and navigational
development of the river. Increasingly, water will have to compete with
other interests for the limited remaining space in the Netherlands. An
important new objective of Dutch water policy will therefore be to make
water and its natural movements a key-determining factor in spatial
planning. This renders decision making difficult, especially at the level of
the water boards and municipalities, where the former have an interest in
considering water as a guiding principle in physical planning and to leave
areas unbuilt if a risk of inundation exists, while the latter have a final say in
physical planning and have an interest in economic and urban expansion.
Submitting their plans to a ‘water risk assessment’, before adopting them,
will be a huge challenge to regional and local authorities in the next decades
(OECD 1995).
Surface water pollution
Samples taken from state waters to test compliance with EU Directives on
surface water quality (for drinking water, bathing, fish and shellfish)
generally show good results. More than 97% of the Dutch population is
connected to a sewerage system, and via that to a wastewater treatment
plant. On average 93% of biochemical oxygen demand is removed. As a
consequence, oxygen depletion of surface waters has become a rare
phenomenon, although the Meuse and the Scheldt can still pose problems
during summer periods of low flow. Reduction of discharges of nutrients
(phosphorus and nitrogen) has shown significant progress in terms of
industrial and municipal point sources and continues to do so (with rates of
75% phosphates removal and 70% nitrogen removal, due to tertiary
treatment; see: Kuks 2001). However, eutrophication of surface waters
remains a major problem because the surface water quality performance is
not matched for diffuse discharges. The main problems are with diffuse
flows of nutrients and pesticides, mainly from agriculture, as well as heavy
metals, mainly from communal wastewater treatment. The reduction of point
discharges of heavy metals is being tackled through the permit system and
negotiation of covenants with industries (e.g. chemical, graphics). However,
transboundary flows, via water and air, represent the dominant share of the
total load of heavy metals. Disposal of sewage sludge has been tackled since
the beginning of the 1990s. The practice of spreading sludge on agricultural
land has almost ceased (OECD 1995).
Contaminated water soils
The accumulation of pollutants in soil and bottom sediments is such that
surface waters and suspended sediments, in terms of nutrients, heavy metals
and micro-pollutants, do not meet water quality standards and will not do so
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 91
for a considerable time in many watercourses. The contamination of bottom
sediments in many Dutch watercourses is the result of long years of poor
water quality, and will not disappear at the same rate as pollution loads are
being reduced. The situation has become a hazard for human health and
impairs the functioning of ecosystems. Remediation is expensive (OECD
1995).
Groundwater pollution
The quality of groundwater depends on land use, soil type and the
contaminant considered. Target values for groundwater contamination are
frequently exceeded in the upper meter of groundwater, particularly for
copper but also for some other heavy metals. In 1990, nitrate concentrations
in the upper meter of groundwater were still in excess of the drinking water
standards (50 mg of nitrate/l), in 41% of the total area of the country,
contrary to the EU Nitrate Directive. With respect to pesticides, it has been
estimated that 1 to 2% of the 27 millions kilograms (active ingredients) of
pesticides sold annually ends up in the soil and groundwater. Out of 50
pesticide compounds being monitored, 35 have been detected in
groundwater, 33 of them at concentrations exceeding the drinking water
standard of 0.1 μg/l (OECD 1995).
Coastal water pollution
Eutrophication is also a major concern in coastal waters. While phosphate
concentrations have generally declined since the mid-1980s as a result of
reduced inputs, there has been no clear trend for nitrogen inputs and
concentrations. Although the load of almost all heavy metals into coastal
waters was considerably reduced from 1980 to 1990, there are still problems
with heavy metals in the coastal areas of the North Sea and the Wadden Sea,
harming the ecosystem health. In the Wadden Sea there is a continuing
problem with releases of oil from ships’ bunkers and their effects on sea
birds (OECD 1995).
4.1.4 Human pressures (water uses) and main rivalries in the
Netherlands
Uses which affect water quantity and water levels
In the Netherlands, where a large part of the country is below sea level, a
typical water use has always been the interventions for flood protection, in
order to achieve water security and to protect land uses. Construction of
dykes, storm barriers, and even land reclamation are intended to keep the
water at bay. A related and very old use in the Netherlands, concerns the use
of drainage systems to develop agricultural land, as well as for urban
92 Chapter 4
development areas. Land reclaimed from the sea even requires the
permanent pumped extraction of water. At the present time, these uses are
still important for the country, and are even on the increase due to an
increase of land uses for urban expansion and new infrastructure (like roads).
In rural areas more than half of the drainage capacity is needed to get the
water out of developed areas. Urban areas and roads occupy 14% of the
territory, and water covers 9%. Nowadays, there is a heavy rivalry between
urban expansion and leaving floodplains unbuilt for water storage in times of
severe rainfall, because of inundation risks and resultant damage to property.
As a reaction to growing urban development and land reclamation,
compensation in the form of space for water storage is requested, although
space is increasing in value due to a growing scarcity in the Netherlands.
Another rivalry exists between drainage and overexploitation of groundwater
(for drinking and industrial water supply) versus the water demanded by
ecosystems, natural areas and wetlands, which suffer from water depletion.
The demand for drainage in wet periods results in desiccation in dry periods
(summertime). For that reason too, more space for water storage is
requested.
Uses which affect water quality
Although the Netherlands succeeded rather well in controlling point source
pollution, surface water pollution from transboundary sources and diffuse
pollution from agricultural sources are still major problems. Both sources are
not only detrimental to the improvements of effluent from waste water
treatment facilities, they also do harm to water which is needed for drinking
water, which requires large investments in the purification of raw surface
and groundwater. In the Netherlands, about one-third of drinking water is
produced from surface water, and two-thirds from groundwater. So, there is
still a strong rivalry between intensive agricultural operations and drinking
water companies, as well as a rivalry between polluters and the demand for a
certain environmental quality, like that requested by the EU Nitrate Directive
concerning groundwater (Kuks 1998).
Intermediate uses of water systems
In the Netherlands, very old and important intermediate uses of water
systems are their use for navigation and fisheries. The strategic interest in
navigation resulted in state control over the navigable rivers, after rivalries
between the state and appropriate landowners along the rivers that were
important for navigation. In case of fisheries, overexploitation of fish
populations (as common property) has resulted in state interventions to
redistribute fishing rights. In the twentieth century, other intermediate uses
became important, like sand and gravel extraction from riverbeds, or the use
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 93
of water soils for oil and gas drilling, especially in the continental seas, the
IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. In the latter areas, this has resulted in
important rivalries with those having an interest in nature protection,
supported by the EU Bird and Habitat Directives. Another intermediate use,
which is often at rivalry with nature protection, concerns the recreational use
of water systems, like recreational navigation. This rivalry is especially
manifest on the lakes, in the IJsselmeer area and in wetland areas.
4.2 The evolution of water rights in the Netherlands1
4.2.1 Constitution of the public domain (1814-1841)
In 1814 a period of French domination ended for the Netherlands. In the
same year, property rights on water started to be redefined in a new
Constitution, followed by a new Civil Code in 1838 (which replaced the civil
code from the French era, going back to 1804). The Constitution of 1814 and
the Civil Code of 1838 both reflected the political liberalism, proclaimed by
the French revolution, and the upcoming economic liberalism in the early
19th century. The French revolution proclaimed individual freedom, the
liberation of property, and the abolition of privileges for the upper class.
This resulted in a clear distinction between public law and private law (civil
law) with three intentions: 1) to detach political rights from ownership of
land; 2) to prevent public authority falling into private hands and being
traded as private property rights; 3) to prevent arbitrary public interventions
in private property. The economic liberalism movement, which came alive
later on with a different focus from political liberalism, proclaimed that the
public government should not intervene in the free play of economic forces.
The economic order would perform best with every individual pleading his
own interests. The French ‘Code Civil’ of 1804 did not yet reflect this

economic liberalism. It still adhered to the idea that property could be
restricted in many ways. The Dutch Constitution of 1814 stated that no right
on property could exist, but also that expropriation would only be possible
on the basis of public interest and on the condition of compensation for
property loss. In other words, if someone enjoys a property that harms the
public interest, he could be forced to surrender it in exchange for
compensation. However, the Dutch Civil Code of 1838 declared that
property is the right to freely enjoy a matter as well as the right to
completely dispose over it and to use it. Only two limitations are listed:
1 The following references have been used as general background for writing this section:
Van den Berg & Van Hall 1995; Van Hall 1997, 1999; Van der Heide 1992; Perdok &
Wessel 1998.
94 Chapter 4
limitations by written public law or unwritten public rules, and civil law
based limitations by other property right holders. These limitations place
severe restrictions on the extent of private property, especially in the case of
flowing water (Van den Bergh 1979).
In the case of water, the Dutch Civil Code of 1838 specifies that the State
owns the territorial seas and coastal waters, including the Wadden Sea and
the beaches. The State also owns the public navigable rivers, unless another
public body owns these. Like the sun and the atmosphere, the territorial seas
are considered as matters that could not be handled by individuals. Therefore
they are not subject to private law. The same argument has been applied to
other public water bodies in the country (like transboundary rivers, other
navigable rivers and canals, natural harbors, beaches and dune barriers,
lakes, and so on). As far as private ownership of water resources is
concerned, the Civil Code states that property of land could include the
property of the underground water, but only after it has been extracted.
Aquifers cannot therefore be the subject of private property. A watercourse,
or a part of it, could be privately owned, but this has always been interpreted
as meaning that the underground of the watercourse (the waterbed) is owned,
not the water itself in as much as it is flowing. Only non-flowing water on
one’s land, if not in conjunction with the water on someone else’s property,
could be privately owned by the owner of the land. Private property of land
and water is limited according to the Civil Code in two ways: 1) water runoff
from one’s property should not hinder neighbors; 2) one should not
hinder neighbors in the natural run-off of water from their property (Asser
1990).
In 1841 a new Expropriation Act was passed by the Dutch legislature, to
replace a previous one from the French era, going back to 1810. This act
elaborated further on the expropriation title in the Constitution of 1814. First,
it listed the general public interest titles under which expropriation would be
allowed. Secondly, it required a careful, law-based procedure for
expropriation. In fact, a separate act was required to create a title for
expropriation in the public interest. Third, it provided arrangements for
compensation, on the basis of the principle that the government could take
away a right on property, but not the value of property. During its more than
150 years of existence (this Expropriation Act still exists in the Netherlands),
it has been amended over 55 times, each time enlarging the extent by adding
one or more new titles for expropriation. In practice, the expropriation
instrument operates as the big stick, but in only 3 to 5% of cases does it
result in involuntary expropriation of land. In the other cases it leads to
negotiations on selling one’s property, using the instruments’ procedure for
determining the property’s value (Van Zundert 1980; 1991).
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 95
Throughout most of the 19th century, there was a struggle between the
central government and the Dutch water boards over the autonomy of the
boards. In fact, these water boards operated as common property structures,
even before the period of French domination. They were bottom-up
organizations of owners of land and adjacent water courses, having an
interest in common decision making on the water bodies in their area in
terms of flood protection and water drainage. The water boards agitated
against the centralization tendency during the French domination and the
continuing centralization afterwards by the Dutch government, which
adopted the French approach. Although the central state succeeded in
acquiring the control over navigable rivers and other main water bodies (as
early as the Constitution of 1814), it also had to recognize the autonomous
jurisdiction by the water boards over the non-state waters. However, the
Competences Act [Bevoegdhedenwet] of 1841 deprived the water boards of
their administration of justice, since this was no longer considered to be
compatible with the general administration of justice. In 1848, a new
Constitution was adopted, which recognized the autonomous position of the
water boards within the general administrative structure of the Netherlands.
It also proclaimed the need for separate constitutional legislation for each of
the lower administrations, which in the second half of the 19th century
resulted in a Provinces Act and a Municipalities Act for provinces and
municipalities, but which did not result in a separate Water Boards Act. The
central state and the provinces on the one hand and the water boards on the
other could not agree on interventions by the state and the provinces in cases
where water boards would fail, according to the view of the other parties
(Brainich von Brainich-Felth 1993).
4.2.2 Expropriation and compensation for national water works
(1891-1908)
In 1895 the dispute of the central state and provinces versus the water boards
came to a preliminary end by the adoption of the so-called By-Laws Act
[Keurenwet], which allowed the water boards to have their own regulatory
authority (by ordinance, called a ‘Keur’), supervised by the central and
provincial governments. So, since 1895 the common property structure of
the water boards is supervised and backed by the state.
The first state legislation on water management was passed a few years
earlier, in 1891. The so-called ‘Act of 1891’ was the first one in a series of
classical water legislation passed between 1891 and 1908 on
institutionalization of state and regional water management. This legislation
had to empower the State for the construction and operation of state water
works with a national interest. The Act of 1891 allowed the State to set up
96 Chapter 4
regulations that are necessary for State water management. In fact, as early
as 1887 an amendment of the Constitution recognized the State as main
supervisor of the nation’s water management. Next to it, the so-called ‘Water
State Act 1900’ [Waterstaatswet 1900] introduced various far-reaching
competences for the State and the provinces, allowing them to take over
water works from the lower administrative levels (provinces or water
boards), or to supervise these works. The Act on Reclamation and
Embankment [Wet op de droogmakerijen en indijkingen] of 1904 entitled
the State to reclaim land and created a concession system for land
reclamation by others. The Rivers Act of 1908 made the State responsible
for the various functions of rivers. It entitled the State to start up water works
serving these river functions, taking into account procedural and material
conditions. Serious river floods at the end of the 19th century (1876, 1880)
had already forced the State to invest huge amounts of money in dyke
fortifications. Because of the dynamic movements of the rivers and because
river management would have an impact on large parts of the country, state
control was considered to be of crucial importance.
During this period, important titles were added to the Expropriation Act
to allow expropriation for navigation, flood protection and land reclamation
(1891, 1900, 1908). These have been important for the construction and
improvement of water works by the State, like dykes, roads, bridges, harbor
works, as well as for the improvement and widening of rivers and canals. In
addition, the Water State Act 1900 and the Rivers Act of 1908 allowed the
State to use someone’s land property for the maintenance of water works and
rivers (to have access through maintenance roads) without expropriating the
underground needed for this, on the condition of compensation for the
negative effects of public water works on private property. These legal
compensation provisions are very early examples of what has become
known in the Netherlands as compensation for citizens who have to suffer
lawful public action. Starting from the early 20th century, the Netherlands
developed an extensive jurisprudence on how to recover damages to private
property due to public water works. Not only financial compensation is
being considered, but also other forms of compensation, like displacement of
a firm, house or building, or economic investments in a region to
compensate loss of employability. This so-called ‘disadvantage
compensation’ [nadeelcompensatie] results from civil law-based
compensation rights between a private and a public neighbor (as a variation
on private neighbor rights) (Van der Schaaf 1971; Van Wijk 1999).
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 97
4.2.3 Controlled use expansion, deliberation of interests, and
redistribution of rights (1954-1967)
Industrialization, urbanization and population growth in the first half of the
20th century increased the demand for better housing, water supply and
sanitation. After World War II and during the period of economic recovery,
this tendency continued strongly, which in the 1950s raised concerns about
how to meet the demands for natural resources needed by a growing
economy and a growing population, which was also demanding a higher
living standard. The increased density of living, economic activities and
public services on the one hand required that property rights and neighbor
rights had to be protected. For that purpose a Nuisance Act was adopted in
the first half of the 20th century. On the other hand, the increasing density
required that private property owners suffer lawful public action affecting
their property rights in the interest of public services. As a result, the 1950s
and 1960s are characterized by controlled use expansion, deliberation of
public versus private interests, and redistribution of property rights (Van
Hall 1992). In this context, a clear demarcation point is the Groundwater Act
for Water Supply Companies, which was passed in 1954 to better guarantee
a constant and undisturbed water supply. Landowners had to permit
extractions from aquifers under their property in the interest of an increased
demand by the public water supply, even if these withdrawals would
negatively affect the harvest from their property. An appeal under the
Nuisance Act, which had been very commonly practiced before, would no
longer work. Again, a provision for disadvantage compensation was
included. The Groundwater Act of 1954 created a concession system for
water suppliers, which was the start of a process of institutionalization of the
public water supply. A following step in that process was the adoption of the
Water Supply Act in 1957, introducing delivery and quality standards for
drinking water.
Other demarcation points with respect to the deliberation of public versus
private interests were the adoption of a Physical Planning Act in 1962, a
Fisheries Act in 1963, a Clearances Act [Ontgrondingwet] in 1965, and a
Nature Conservation Act in 1967. The Physical Planning Act allowed
expropriation to the benefit of water drainage as a public service, and
introduced disadvantage compensation for private property effects of public
planning. Through the 1960s and 1970s this resulted in a huge expansion of
water drainage infrastructure by a restructuring and canalization of many
watercourses which had been quite natural before. Natural curves
(meanders) were cut off in the context of parceling out of agricultural land,
to improve agricultural productivity. The regional water boards, until the
1980s dominated by farmers, had a powerful hand in the restructuring of
98 Chapter 4
rural areas. The Fisheries Act of 1963 was introduced to prevent overfishing
and to generate a more efficient fisheries branch. The Act is interesting,
because it could be considered as an attempt to prevent exhaustion of natural
resources as well as an attempt to protect certain species and water related
biodiversity. The Act is also interesting since it redistributed informal fishery
rights and formalized a practice of self-regulation. Fishery rights were
transformed into exclusive rights and tied to the ownership of a water body.
Since the main water bodies were in public hands, fishers had to get
permission form the State to acquire use rights for fishery. Both the
Clearances Act [Ontgrondingwet] of 1965 and the Nature Conservation Act
of 1967 have been the start for the protection of nature and landscape
resources against rival water and land uses. The Clearance Act requires an
assessment of the impact of clearances on landscape, natural resources or on
private properties, before a clearance could be started. The result of such an
assessment could be to cancel the clearance, or a decision to recover or
compensate the externality. The Nature Conservation Act of 1967 allows the
State to establish nature reserves on private or state-owned land, to protect
specific flora and fauna or biodiversity. This act provides an extra title for
expropriation, because the impact of a preserved area could also be a
restriction of use rights on natural resources in such an area. For example, in
1980 the Dutch State applied the Nature Conservation Act to delineate the
Wadden Sea as a preserved area, which restricted fishery rights in the coastal
waters of that area (Van der Schaaf 1971; Warburg 1992).
4.2.4 Limitation of discharge rights to prevent water pollution
(1969-1975)
In the 1950s restrictions on discharge rights were enacted with respect to
pollution of seawater. The 1958 Act on Oil Pollution of Seawater
implemented the London Treaty of 1954 with respect to seawater pollution
by oil. The extensive legislation on seawater protection was expanded with
the adoption of a Seawater Pollution Act in 1975, which also restricted
discharge rights with respect to other pollutants from ships and aircraft on
the continental waters (dumping of waste produced on land). This Act was
an implementation of the Oslo Treaty of 1972. In general, prevention of
surface water pollution became an important issue in the 1950s and 1960s,
especially in northwestern European countries. At the local and regional
level, preliminary initiatives were already developed for wastewater
treatment in the Netherlands, with some initiatives going back to the 1920s
in urbanized areas. In some case, cities were forced to treat urban sewage
water, because downstream private estate owners who complained that the
upstream urban source was polluting the part of the watercourse they owned
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 99
challenged them in court. These challenges were based on civil law
(neighbor rights) or on the public Nuisance Act. In 1969 the Netherlands
adopted a Surface Water Pollution Act, which became the main legislation to
control surface water quality, setting up a permit and funding system to
regulate discharges. The permit system of this Act implies a limitation of
wastewater discharge rights to protect surface water. Moreover, from the
beginning when the Act was adopted, the Netherlands implemented a
funding system based on full cost recovery of wastewater treatment by
retribution. According to the polluter pays principle, all waste water is
charged for the amount of pollution units that are discharged. This pollution
charge is the only budget source for the construction, operation and
maintenance of wastewater treatment facilities. No subsidies or contributions
from the general budget are involved. Together with the adoption of the
Surface Water Pollution Act, a new title has been added to the Expropriation
Act of 1841, to allow expropriation of private property to the benefit of
sewage collection and wastewater treatment facilities, and again on the
condition of disadvantage compensation.
4.2.5 Towards integrated public control over water use rights (1981-
1992)
After the expansion of the public domain into the restriction of use rights
with respect to surface water, the 1980s reveal a further increase of extent
with respect to groundwater. In 1981 water supply companies, like the
previous Groundwater Act of 1954, adopted a Groundwater Act to further
regulate extractions of groundwater and not only extractions. While the Act
of 1954 aimed to better serve public supplies, the Act of 1981 intended more
to redistribute extraction rights among all users with extractions above
100,000 m3, by creating a concession system. A provision was also added, to
have the extractors compensate those who bear the negative effects of water
extraction and lower groundwater tables as an effect. As a result, farmers
especially could profit from compensation payments by water supply
companies, since lower groundwater tables in some areas have led to a loss
of harvest compared to the average possible yield. An important change with
the Groundwater Act of 1981 is that it proclaimed that the interest of public
supply could no longer dominate the deliberation of interests. All interests
should be treated in an equal way, which indicated that not all demands nor
any specific demand could be met any longer to an unlimited degree (De
Loor 1992). The Act also allowed having groundwater extractions charged
by the provinces. The charge revenues have to be used for anti-desiccation
measures.
100 Chapter 4
The Groundwater Act of 1981 should be considered as an act dealing
with water distribution, and not as an act dealing with water level
management to prevent water depletion (Teeuwen 1992). For that goal,
another act was adopted in 1989, called the Water Management Act. This
Act signified a real transition towards integrated water management, since it
considered the entire water system and the interconnectedness between
surface and groundwater, which is a necessary step towards a water basin
approach. The Water Management Act provided instruments for the level
control of surface and groundwater, which could restrict all use rights
affecting water tables, not only to prevent water depletion, but also to protect
ecosystems. So another reason why this Act forms a transition towards
integrated water management is that it allowed a deliberation of interests that
also takes ecological aspects of the water system into account. The Water
Management Act has been the vehicle for the regional water boards on the
basis of which they could pass ordinances for the regulation of water uses, in
order to protect the natural and ecological values of water systems (IJff
1993).
With respect to groundwater, not only its quantity aspects started to be
regulated in the 1980s, but also its quality. In 1986, a Soil Protection Act
was adopted for the prevention, limitation, and remediation of changes in
soil properties, especially as applied to preventing agricultural pollution of
ground- and surface water. It resulted in the limitation of farming practice
rights to protect groundwater, by means of standards for the application of
animal and artificial fertilizers on soils. Since 1989, more stringent standards
have been applied to groundwater protection zones, to be preserved for the
protection of public drinking water sources. During the 1990s, the restriction
of farming practicing rights has gradually become more stringent,
importantly induced by the EU Nitrate Directive for Groundwater (Kuks
1998).
In the 1980s, another important change for the public domain was the
Constitutional revision of 1983, which proclaimed that the public domain
should be dedicated to the protection and sustainable improvement of the
living environment, including the natural water system. The newly added
Article 21 of the Constitution provided a fundamental title for expropriation
of all property rights that could harm the protection of the living
environment. To underline the importance of water resources for the
country, the revised Constitution of 1983 also established (with Article 133)
a right of competence for the regional water boards, providing them a fully
recognized position within the Dutch administrative model, equal to the
regional and local competence of provinces and municipalities, but restricted
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 101
to so-called functional administration in the field of water management
(Heringa & Zwart 1991).
In 1992, the Dutch Civil Code of 1838 was fundamentally revised, with
an important consequence for water rights. The new Civil Code changed
ownership of water into ownership of the water bed, which was already
practice, but which formally made (surface and underground) water become
a ‘res nullius’ (no property). Water cannot be owned, not even by the State,
because it is considered to belong to the public, or in fact to the entire
society (‘res omnium communis’ or ‘une chose commune’ according to
French law). In this context, it is important to look at the meaning of public
property (state property, common property) and no property (water as a ‘res
nullius’) on the one hand versus private property on the other. Even in the
early 19th century, water resources and the benefits they could generate were
never completely subject to private property. There have always been
restrictions on private ownership and private use rights by the legal
definition of some public domain. During the 20th century, an increasing
nationalization or communalization of water resources could be perceived, in
spite of the ownership arrangement. The State is increasingly controlling the
access to water resources and is allowing more and more users to claim some
form of access. Ownership and publicity are two separate sides of a water
resource, which could conflict with each other. While the ownership
definition is subject to private law, the publicity definition is a matter of
public law. The publicity of water could be guaranteed by means of state or
common ownership. Private ownership by the public could then serve as a
guarantee for access by all interested users. However, what is important for
the access of non-public users is the question if these public ownership rights
operate as a ‘dominium serviens’ or as a ‘dominium eminens’. In case of a
‘dominium eminens’, the public owner might use its rights to exclude other
users in order to protect the public domain. In case of a ‘dominium serviens’
the public owner is using its rights to make the resource subservient to every
user in order to protect the public domain. Of course, both conceptions could
work together quite well, since restricting uses can only protect free use.
However, to prevent the state or the common from being too exclusive and
too arbitrary, in the Netherlands the ownership of water has been changed
into a ‘no property’, which forces the state to protect the public domain only
by public law. In the Netherlands, this is known as the ‘two ways doctrine’
[tweewegenleer], requiring the State to intervene preferably on the basis of
public law, in the case that intervention by means of private law is also a
possibility (Hennekens 1993; 1999).
To conclude, the Netherlands has been moving to a model in which it has
become more and more irrelevant for the State to acquire ownership as a
mean to gain resource control for the public interest. During the 20th century,
102 Chapter 4
the evolution of the property rights structure has shown for the Netherlands
that the State increasingly requires allowance of public use as a limitation on
private property (Van der Hoeven 1989).
4.2.6 Considering limitation of land use rights to prevent flooding
(after 1992)
During the 1990s river floods in 1993 and 1995 as well as high rainfall
pressure in 1998 resulted in a rediscovery of flood protection and the need to
anticipate climate change, combined with a chance for natural and ecological
restoration of water systems. A preference has grown for natural protection
by developing retention areas for water storage in periods of high rainfall,
instead of artificial protection by means of dyke fortifications along the
infrastructure of rivers and watercourses for drainage. These retention areas
could also help replenish groundwater stocks in order to prevent water
depletion in dry periods. Extra space for water storage is required in a
country with a high population density and where spatial claims for water
have to compete with many other claims on the limited remaining space. In
terms of a change of property rights structure, the Dutch legislator is
considering expanding the public domain of water management into the
public domain of land use decision making, by creating titles for
expropriation of flood plains and for limitation of land use rights in flood
plains, as well as by means of attribution of liability for flood damage to
water boards and land owners (Commissie WB21). Since these are
considerations, not enacted yet as legal rights, we cannot say that the
property rights structure already has changed to support these policy goals.
4.3 The evolution of water policies in the Netherlands
4.3.1 Centralization of water governance from 1798 until the 1950s
Centralization as a French legacy
As described in the previous sections, the history of public water
management started as early as in the 13th century with the recognition of
water boards as public authorities by the rulers of the Netherlands at that
time. As bottom-up organizations of farmers and landowners with an interest
in flood protection and water drainage, they operated on a rather small scale.
Water boards were powerful local organizations, often labeled ‘farmer
republics’. They combined legislative, executive and jurisdictional powers.
For many centuries they have been able to resist pressure from the central
state. In the 17th and 18th century water management was still under the
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 103
jurisdiction of these local authorities. The central government could not
intervene in the jurisdiction of decentral authorities, except when the
interests of military defense were at stake. However, throughout the 18th
century various flood disasters in Dutch river basins demonstrated that the
rather small-scale approach of water boards lacked central coordination and
a broader scope. At that time many people were concerned about the
devastating impact of these flood disasters, which even threatened the safety
and survival of large parts of Dutch territory. It was evident that the rather
fragmented water governance system, ruled by provinces and water boards,
was losing its grip on the situation. Despite incidental cases of interprovincial
coordination in river domains, the water policies of provinces and
water boards became increasingly criticized. However, in the political
culture of that time, the autonomy and mutual independence of public bodies
was regarded as an important acquisition. Decentral authorities were not
willing to give up even the smallest part of their jurisdiction. Another
obstacle was that private landowners in the flood plains could assert their
rights by obstructing public intervention. Nevertheless, by the end of the 18th
century the criticism of water managers gave an impetus to a movement of
state reformists to politicize water management and to plead for a more
centrally governed unitary state. In 1795 the reformist ideas got a chance
when the French invaded the Netherlands, wiped out the existing ‘Republic
of the Seven United Provinces’, and allowed the reformists to establish a
Batavian Republic (1795-1806). In 1798 the new republic adopted
legislation which allowed the central government to exercise supervision
over all decentral public authorities with a water governance task. Related to
this, a state water authority (‘Rijkswaterstaat’) was established to take the
lead in a nationally coordinated approach to water governance. In practice,
this appeared to be a form of extreme centralization resulting in great
tensions between the state and provincial authorities. During the following
Napoleonic era (1806-1813) the French rulers vigorously pursued their
centralization of water governance (Bosch 2001). In fact, the establishment
of Rijkswaterstaat in 1798 marks the transition from a solely local,
uncoordinated approach to tackling water problems in the main water
systems based on a nationwide overview.
Rivalry between state, provinces and water boards during the 19th century
In 1813 the Netherlands became sovereign again and changed into a
constitutional monarchy. Although the rather conservative rulers of the water
boards agitated strongly against centralization as ‘a French habit’ and
regarded the centralization legislation from the French period as an
arrangement of an occupying power, the centralized system of water
governance remained in place. Several arrangements from the French period
104 Chapter 4
were continued, like the Dyke Act of 1806, which attributed all property
rights in the river domains up to the river dykes to the central state. Those
who were deprived of their property rights had to be compensated on a fair
basis. This act has always been regarded as the first water management
legislation in the Netherlands. The Constitution of 1814 even incorporated
the supervisory role of the monarch and the central government with respect
to water governance. According to this constitution, the water boards could
only retain their own jurisdiction insofar as no jurisdiction was defined by
the central state. In practice, however, the monarch was aware that
successful water governance had to rely on broad support in society and on
cooperation with water boards and provinces. During the period 1814-1848
he partially restored the jurisdiction of provinces and water boards as it
existed before the period of French domination. He even repealed substantial
parts of the controversial Dyke Act of 1806. Another reason was that the
central government did not have the financial means required for the
effectuation of an all-embracing supervisory role. While the Competences
Act (Bevoegdhedenwet) of 1841 deprived the water boards of their
administration of justice, which was considered to be no longer compatible
with the general administration of justice, the water boards remained strong
thanks to their legislative and executive powers. A revision of the
constitution in 1848 put an end to the personal influence of the monarch on
water governance (Bosch 2001). It placed the government under
parliamentary control and incorporated changed ideas about the form of
governance. The new constitution recognized the autonomous position of the
water boards within the general administrative structure of the Netherlands.
It also proclaimed the need for separate constitutional legislation for each of
the lower administrations, which in the second half of the 19th century
resulted for provinces and municipalities in a Provinces Act and a
Municipalities Act, but which did not result in a separate Water Boards Act.
The central state and the provinces on the one hand and the water boards on
the other hand could not agree on interventions by the state and the
provinces in cases where water boards would fail, according to their view. In
1895 the dispute of the central state and provinces with the water boards
came to a preliminary end by the adoption of the so-called By-Laws Act
(Keurenwet), which allowed the water boards to have their own regulatory
authority (by ordinance, called a ‘Keur’), supervised by the central and
provincial governments. In general, the evolution of water governance in the
19th century shows an ongoing rivalry between the central government, the
provinces and the water boards. Although the divide between central,
provincial and local jurisdictions was stabilized in formal terms, the practice
of water governance demonstrated a lot of unclarity on how this divide
should be understood. Besides the continuation of a centralized system for
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 105
water governance, this system developed further into one of co-governance
between the central and decentral levels of administration (Brainich von
Brainich-Felth 1993).
The adoption of a basic pattern for co-governance around 1900
Disastrous river floods in 1876 and 1880 strengthened the central
government in its endeavor to centralize flood protection and river
management. The central government wanted to have more control over the
main water systems, and was willing to invest much larger amounts of
money than the decentral authorities ever could do on their own. During the
period 1887-1916 several important items of legislation were adopted to
institutionalize the division of responsibilities among the state water
authority and the regional water authorities. The classical design of ‘the
water state’ in the Netherlands goes back to that period. In 1887, an
amendment of the Constitution recognized the State as main supervisor of
the nation’s water management. The so-called ‘Act of 1891’ provided that
the State could construct and operate state water works with a national
interest, allowing the State to set up regulations necessary for state water
management. The ‘By-Laws Act’ (Keurenwet) of 1895 allowed the water
boards to have their own regulatory authority (by ordinance, called a
‘Keur’), but required the central and provincial governments to supervise
such ordinances. The ‘Water State Act 1900’ (Waterstaatswet 1900)
introduced various far-reaching competences for the State and the provinces,
allowing them to take over water works from the lower administrative levels
(provinces or water boards), or to supervise these works. On the other hand,
the same act made it possible to transfer the responsibility for dyke
fortification programs from the state to provinces and water boards. The ‘Act
on Reclamation and Embankment’ (Wet op de droogmakerijen en
indijkingen) of 1904 entitled the State to reclaim land and created a
concession system for land reclamation by others. The ‘Rivers Act’ of 1908
made the State responsible for the various functions of rivers. It allowed the
State to start up water works serving these river functions, taking into
account procedural and material conditions. Because of the dynamic
movements of the rivers and because river management would have an
impact on large parts of the country, state control was considered to be of
crucial importance.
More planning and centralization after flood disasters in 1916 and 1953
In 1916, a flood disaster along the coast of the ‘Zuiderzee’, an inland sea in
the heart of the country and with an open end at the north side, strongly
impelled the state water authority to develop a large-scale plan for flood
control in that area. The disaster occurred due to the poor state of specific
106 Chapter 4
dykes and locks along the coast. The state supervision of the many small
water boards in the area was disputed, and one of the effects of the disaster
had been a concentration and scale enlargement of water boards in the
flooded area. Another consequence was a state plan for the construction of a
series of dyke fortifications along the coast and a huge storm barrier
(‘Afsluitdijk’) closing off this inland sea at the north side and turning it into
one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes, called the ‘IJsselmeer’. Drafts of
such a plan were in circulation before the disaster, but the disaster itself
directly settled the matter, which is typical of the way water management in
the Netherlands reacts to calamities: plans circulate for a long time, until a
calamity tilts the scale and evokes immediate and radical action. The
construction of the Afsluitdijk was followed by a series of land reclamation
projects in the IJsselmeer area, creating new land (‘polders’) for agricultural
purposes to meet the food demands of a growing population and to make the
country more or less self-sufficient. The first polder was created in 1930,
followed by new polders in 1942, 1957, 1968, and an unfinished one in
1975, with only a surrounding dyke completed. From the 1970s on, the
IJsselmeer has been rediscovered as an important natural reserve, where it
counts to have open water instead of land. From 1916 on, the dyke
fortifications, the storm barrier construction, and the land reclamation
projects have provided the state water authority ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ enormous
power and prestige and made it dominant in all issues of national water
management. Until the 1970s Rijkswaterstaat has predominantly been an
organization of civil engineers approaching issues of water management as
issues of safety, security, flood protection and technocratic design. The
debate on water management was hardly politicized until that time. Water
management projects were considered as univocal, one-dimensional projects.
There was hardly any debate about conflicting values that could be involved.
In 1953, another flood disaster in the southeast of the country (the
province of Zeeland) reinforced and continued this image. Many people lost
their life due to severe flooding of an entire province with a rather well
developed standard of living. The nation was shocked, and strongly
demanded a final solution to prevent future flooding. A modern, post-World
War II state should no longer allow this kind of risk. Since then, risk
prevention and risk exclusion strongly influenced and dominated the water
management approach adopted by the state water authority. Like earlier
disasters, that of 1953 resulted in two typical reactions. First, immediate,
drastic action was initiated, resulting in a so-called ‘Delta Plan’ for the
construction of dyke fortifications and storm barriers along the entire North
Sea coast of the Netherlands, with an accent on the Zeeland coast. Secondly,
the water boards in the flooded area, which in the first half of the 20th
century strongly resisted institutional change, had to fundamentally change
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 107
their closed and internal-oriented attitude. The resistance of the many small
‘farmer republics’ was broken. They merged into larger, better equipped
organizations (Brainich von Brainich-Felth 1993).
4.3.2 Integration attempts around 1968 and 1969
Until the 1950s the Dutch national water regime had low complexity. Water
management was mainly a matter of flood prevention, water level control,
and sanitation (developing systems for drinking water supply and sewerage).
During the 1950s and 1960s the complexity increased, and at the end of the
1960s first attempts towards integrated water management could be
perceived. These attempts are the adoption of a first national water policy
plan in 1968 and the adoption of a Surface Water Pollution Act in 1969. The
water quantity oriented policy plan not only focused on flood protection and
drainage (water security), but also on water scarcity and the competing
demands of water supply, agriculture and navigation. The Surface Water
Pollution Act involved the quantity-oriented water managers in active and
passive water quality management. This means that they not only had to
construct and to operate wastewater treatment plants (active quality
management), but also to work on the prevention of surface water pollution
by permitting and charging for wastewater discharges (passive quality
management). Water demand control and water quality protection thus
became an additional focus of water managers (Grijns & Wisserhof 1992).
The 1968 transition with respect to water demand control has been part of
a transformation process, which started as early as in the 1950s. As we
described in the previous section on the evolution of water rights, the period
after World War II developed as a period of use expansion and increasing
rivalry between public and private interests. Concerns were raised about how
to meet the demands for natural resources (water, space, nature), needed by a
growing economy and a growing population that also demanded a higher
living standard. A Groundwater Act for Water Supply Companies was
passed in 1954 to better guarantee a constant and undisturbed water supply.
Landowners had to allow extractions from aquifers under their property in
the interest of an increased demand by the public water supply. In 1962 a
Physical Planning Act was adopted, allowing expropriation of land to the
benefit of water drainage as a public service, and introducing disadvantage
compensation for the private property effects of public planning. In 1963 a
Fisheries Act was introduced to prevent over-catching and to generate a
more efficient fisheries branch. The Act is an early attempt to prevent
exhaustion of natural resources and to protect certain species and waterrelated
biodiversity. In addition, the Clearances Act (Ontgrondingwet) of
1965 and the Nature Conservation Act of 1967 formed the start for the
108 Chapter 4
protection of nature and landscape resources against rival water and land
uses. As a result, the 1950s and 1960s are characterized by controlled use
expansion, deliberation of public versus private interests, and redistribution
of property rights (Van Hall 1992). This finds reflection in the first national
water plan of 1968, since it mainly focused on how to meet future demands
of an increasing population and how to prevent rivalries related to water
resources. The plan clearly recognized problems of groundwater scarcity and
the need for demand-side management (Snijdelaar 1993).
While water management became more integrated in terms of extent
during the 1960s, the improvement of integration in terms of coherence
appeared to be mixed. In particular the Physical Planning Act of 1962,
allowing expropriation to the benefit of water drainage as a public service,
was initially responsible for increased fragmentation rather than more
integration. During the 1960s and 1970s, this act enabled a huge expansion
of water drainage infrastructure by a restructuring and canalization of many
watercourses, which had previously been quite natural. Natural curves
(meanders) were cut off in the context of parceling out agricultural land, to
improve agricultural productivity. The regional water boards, which at least
until the 1980s were dominated by farmers, had a strong hand in the
restructuring of rural areas, at the cost of their biodiversity. On the other
hand, in 1974 the Physical Planning Act was extended with a set of
participatory instruments for large scale infrastructural works, which allowed
other use considerations than solely flood protection and land reclamation to
enter decision making on water infrastructure. In fact, these new instruments
require consultation of interest groups in decision making on large scale
infrastructural water works, to better account for rival water values and
ecological effects. The extension of the Physical Planning Act was triggered
by the democratization and participative tendency of the 1960s and 1970s,
and especially by broad opposition in society to the traditional way of water
management, which paid no heed to other water values.
The 1969 transition with respect to water quality protection can also be
seen as part of a transformation process, which started in the 1950s. It
represents a transformation from sanitation to quality protection. Sanitation
had already been a focus of water management since the early 20th century,
when sewage and supply systems started to be constructed as public
services, mainly at municipal scale. After World War II the infrastructure for
sewage and water supply has gradually been extended to rural areas. In the
1950s the Dutch water supply became institutionalized by national
legislation to guarantee a supply of good quality, in sufficient amounts and
with affordable prices for all Dutch citizens. To achieve sanitation in terms
of drinking water quality, the Water Supply Act of 1957 was adopted,
introducing quality standards for drinking water. In the meantime, there has
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 109
been a growing awareness that sanitation measures would not be enough,
and that something should be done about the increasing pollution of water
resources which is related to the expansion of economic activities after
World War II. Triggered by international treaties on protection of the seas,
the Dutch adopted their first legislation to prevent seawater pollution in
1958, followed by more extended legislation on this topic in 1975. With
respect to inland surface water pollution, as early as in the 1950s and early
1960s, many water boards and municipalities became active in the
preliminary construction of wastewater treatment plants, to prevent direct
discharges of untreated sewage into surface waters. However, water boards
and municipalities were insufficiently equipped to handle this in a systematic
way. Initiatives were mostly restricted to areas with a high concentration of
inhabitants and industrial activities. This changed when, around 1970, many
European countries, on the basis of international agreements, adopted
legislation to protect surface water quality. So did the Netherlands in 1969.
The contents of such legislation varied greatly among European countries at
that time. The Dutch Surface Water Pollution Act includes a permitting
system to regulate industrial wastewater discharges and a charge system with
strong incentives based on the polluter-pays principle as well as the principle
of full cost recovery. The costs of construction, operation and maintenance
of waste water treatment plants should be fully recovered from the polluters,
equivalent to their emitted amount of pollution. The charge system applies to
both industrial and domestic polluters (Leemhuis-Stout 1992).
The 1969 transition not only resulted in more integration in terms of
increased extent, it also contributed to an increased coherence of Dutch
water management. The question which governance level should be
responsible for the operational water quality management was resolved by
allowing the provinces to delegate this responsibility to the regional water
boards, which is what most provinces did. Only three provinces (Utrecht,
Friesland and Groningen) carried out these tasks themselves, while two cities
(Amsterdam and Tilburg) refused to relinquish their active role in sewage
treatment. In 1992, however, a constitutional act on water boards finally
determined that water boards should have the primacy over regional water
management, which means that provinces and municipalities had to transfer
their operational water management tasks to the water boards. The new
responsibility for water quality protection completely changed the ‘water
board world’ as it existed before 1969. In fact, the 1969 transition formed a
crucial step towards the creation of so-called ‘all-in water authorities’ at
water basin scale, because the water boards were already involved in water
quantity management at basin scale (IJff 1993; Schorer 1993). Water boards
could expand their personnel and their expertise in water management. Small
water boards merged into larger scale water boards, since the construction
110 Chapter 4
and operation of wastewater treatment plants especially required a certain
economy of scale. The participatory structure of water boards, already
allowing farmers and landowners to be represented on the board as parties
with an interest in water quantity management, also admitted participation
by industrial and domestic polluters as users of the water basin. Their
involvement is based on the fact that the Surface Water Pollution Act
requires that they be fully charged for all costs of water quality management
(both the costs of active and passive quality management). To facilitate an
effective implementation of the Surface Water Pollution Act, the water
boards were granted the taxation authority to charge polluters, in order to
acquire the resources they need for their water quality tasks. The
implementation is also facilitated by water quality planning at the national
level, prescribing water quality objectives for the water boards in terms of
reduction levels for nitrogen and phosphates as main surface water
contaminants. The Dutch pollution charge appeared to be very successful in
achieving water quality objectives and also cost effective considering the
social costs and technological innovations involved (Bressers 1983;
Andersen 1999).
Although the institutionalization of water quality management has been
an important step towards integrated water management, it did not mean a
direct integration between water quality and quantity management. Initially,
water quality management was settled as a sectoral water policy, including
its own separate water planning. In 1975, 1980 and 1985 the Dutch
environmental department introduced sectoral plans for water quality
protection, while in 1968 and 1984 sectoral policy documents for water
quantity issues were presented by the water department (Snijdelaar 1993).
While the Ministry for the Environment coordinated water quality issues,
other water issues were controlled by the Ministry of Transport, Public
Works and Water Management. So the period from 1969 until at least 1985
could also be characterized as a period of increasing complexity and
fragmentation. Other indicators of fragmentation in that period are the fact
that not all provinces delegated water quality management to water boards (a
situation which lasted until 1992), the fact that groundwater management
and surface water management were still handled completely separately, and
the still existing fact nowadays that the responsibility for the construction
and operation of sewage systems is completely in the hands of
municipalities. Municipalities even have a regulatory instrument (a permit
system) to control wastewater discharges into the sewerage, which means
that water boards and municipalities have to cooperate in wastewater
management.
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 111
4.3.3 Integration attempts around 1985
A second important transition occurred around 1985. In that year the Dutch
national water ministry launched a policy view on ‘integrated water
management’ as a new approach for water managers. It advocated
considering water as a system in which surface water and groundwater are
interconnected. This new approach should not only integrate quantity and
quality aspects of the water system, but should also take the system’s
ecology into account. Policy makers were of the opinion that the natural life
in river banks and river soils had been too much neglected by water
managers and should be respected much more. The policy view on
‘integrated water management’ also advocated improving the decision
making process on water management. The so-called external functional
relations of water systems should be recognized, which means that water
managers should consider the complete variety of use functions of a water
system, including the interests of nature, landscape and the environment. In
fact, the second transition has been a crucial step to implementing a water
basin approach which allows ecological considerations to enter water
management decision making (Grijns & Wisserhof 1992). The policy vision
of 1985 became formalized in the Third Integral Water Policy Plan of 1989,
and it was preluded by the Second Sectoral Water Policy Plan of 1984. The
second policy plan recognized water depletion due to over-drainage as a
major problem for water management. It also advocated integration between
surface water and groundwater quantity management, but did not include
quality aspects (Snijdelaar 1993). Generally speaking, the 1985 transition
had been triggered by a general growing environmental and ecological
awareness in society, as well as by a trend towards deregulation and
integration in politics in the early 1980s, resulting in a political demand for
more coordination by means of policy planning. The same developments are
clearly visible in Dutch environmental politics of the 1980s, culminating in
the National Environmental Policy Plan of 1988, was been the first Dutch
policy plan intending to coordinate all sectoral environmental policies at the
national level. Another important change in the 1980s was the Constitutional
revision of 1983, which proclaimed that the public domain should be
dedicated to the protection and sustainable improvement of the living
environment, including the natural water system. The newly added Article
21 of the Constitution provided a fundamental title for expropriation of all
property rights which could harm the protection of the living environment.
Besides these more general triggers, there are several more specific contexts
in the water policy field in which the 1985 transition is embedded and which
we shall explain further now.
112 Chapter 4
First, the ‘ecological’ transition of 1985 should be considered in the context
of an evolutionary change in the water management approach of
‘Rijkswaterstaat’ (the state water authority). In terms of policy learning at
the national level, the experiences with two long-term national waterengineering
projects have been important. The first long-term project was
the construction of a huge storm barrier (‘Afsluitdijk’) in combination with
large-scale land reclamation in the heart of the country (‘IJsselmeer’) during
the period 1918-1975, as a reaction to very serious flooding in 1916. This
project turned a former inland sea into one of the largest freshwater lakes in
Europe, while gradually creating areas of new land (‘polders’) in this lake by
means of surrounding dykes and permanent protection by water pumping.
The second project concerns a sophisticated system of storm barriers in the
southwest of the country (to protect the entire province of Zeeland),
constructed during the period 1956-1986 as a reaction to a huge flood
disaster in 1953. These storm barriers have closed off several estuaries in
this region, which again has changed former salt water into brackish and
freshwater. Although these have been very prestigious projects for
Rijkswaterstaat, they also elicited criticism from various groups in society on
the predominant civil engineering orientation of this organization. In fact
these criticisms, which started to find expression in the 1960s and 1970s,
changed the approach of Rijkswaterstaat by politicalizing water management
and initiating a debate in society on water values. The critics placed a greater
value on the meaning of ‘open’ water for recreation, nature conservation,
water storage, and the experience of unspoiled space in an already crowded
and highly planned country. For the land reclamation project this resulted in
the canceling of the last polder that was scheduled, the Markerwaard. In the
beginning of the 1980s, the societal debate on water values and the
politicalization of water management continued, resulting in the introduction
of an ecosystem approach. This approach has changed the design of the last
storm barrier that had to be constructed in the Zeeland area. This became a
permeable barrier, allowing salt water to enter the estuary behind the barrier
and leaving the ecosystem of that estuary untouched. The confrontations in
the 1970s and 1980s threatened the authority and autonomy of the water
engineers and water managers in the Netherlands. Recognizing other use
functions of water systems and developing an ecosystem approach has been
their way to survive and to get along with their critics. The same kind of
evolution, however delayed, happened at the decentral level of water boards,
where the farmers’ dominance of regional water management could no
longer be maintained, and where rival user groups claimed participation
rights to have their say in water management (Snijdelaar 1993; Disco 1998).
Secondly, the ‘ecological’ transition of 1985 should be considered in the
context of an increasing attention for groundwater aspects of water systems.
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 113
After the extension of Dutch water management into the field of quality
protection of surface water in the 1960s and 1970s, the 1980s were important
years for the institutionalization of groundwater management in the
Netherlands. In 1981, as we described in the previous section on water
rights, a Groundwater Act was adopted to redistribute extraction rights
among groundwater users. A provision was also added to have the extractors
compensate those who are bearing the negative effects of water extraction
and lower groundwater tables. The importance of this act is that it
proclaimed that the interest of public supply could no longer dominate the
deliberation of interests. All interests should be treated equally, which
indicated that not all demands nor any specific demand could be met any
longer in an unlimited amount. The act also allowed the provinces to charge
for groundwater extractions. The charge revenues should be used for policy
measures to prevent water depletion. While the Groundwater Act of 1981
mainly deals with water distribution and only in a limited way with water
depletion, a so-called Water Management Act was being developed
throughout the 1980s (and adopted in 1989) to create more regulatory
instruments for water level control of surface and groundwater. These
instruments may be applied to restrict all use rights affecting water tables,
not only to prevent water depletion, but also to protect ecosystems. In fact,
the Water Management Act has been the vehicle for the regional water
boards the basis of which they could have ordinances for the regulation of
water uses, in order to protect the natural and ecological values of water
systems. Ecological considerations may be included in decision making on
water basins, according to a so-called ‘broad water system approach’ (IJff
1993; Teeuwen et al. 1993). It has been decided that ecological
considerations are in the interest of the general public, and therefore the
general public should have seats on and be represented on the water boards.
Since the charging system administered by the water boards is based on a
‘profit-payment -participation-principle’, the extended approach also implies
that citizens should bear a certain share in the total costs of water
management. In other words, since the early 1990s Dutch citizens are
identified as ‘ecological users’ of water resources, for which use they are
charged.
With respect to groundwater, not only its quantity aspects started to be
regulated in the 1980s, but also its quality aspects. In 1986, as we described
in the previous section on water rights, a Soil Protection Act was adopted,
which resulted in the limitation of agricultural practice rights to protect
groundwater in general and more specifically public drinking water sources
by means of standards for the application of fertilizers on soils. During the
1990s, the restriction of agricultural practice has gradually become more
stringent, thanks in no small part to the EU Nitrate Directive for
114 Chapter 4
Groundwater. In 2002 this resulted in a greatly strengthened control of
nitrate applications on agricultural grounds by means of tradable emissions
rights to meet EU nitrate standards and to tackle diffuse water pollution from
agricultural sources. Since 2002 the Netherlands is believed to have finally
solved its obstinate manure problems, which started to be recognized even in
the 1960s. A very cold-blooded intervention in the agricultural sector was
needed to achieve that goal, and in that context a system of tradable emission
rights has been introduced.
The rising influence of ecological and environmental considerations in
Dutch water management during the 1980s is an indicator that the need for
interpolicy cooperation between water policy, environmental policy, nature
conservation and agricultural policy increased strongly during that period.
The groundwater protection policy, with restrictions on fertilizer applications
for instance, has been the result of an active involvement in the early 1980s
by the Dutch environmental ministry in other policy sectors, attempting to
consult directly with target groups and to break through existing iron
triangles (like the one between the agricultural ministry, farming interest
groups, and their representatives in parliament). Although these are attempts
towards more integration, or at least interpolicy coordination, they started to
result in more complexity and even fragmentation. While sectoral policy
plans for water, environment, nature and land use have individually become
more integrated during the 1980s, the integration between these policy
sectors appeared to be very difficult. For instance, this has been very visible
in the case of groundwater protection plans which are formally dealt with as
part of environmental policy planning instead of water management
planning, from which they are excluded for reasons of demarcating
competencies. Together with an increasing complexity at the national level,
the complexity also increased at decentral levels of administration where the
strategic national plans need to be implemented as operational plans.
4.3.4 Integration attempts around 1995
In 1995 the Dutch authorities fundamentally changed their traditional
approach to river management and flood protection based on the
construction of dyke fortifications along the riverbanks. Triggered by serious
river floods in 1993 and 1995, ascribed to climate change, a new policy
document (entitled ‘Space for Water’) was presented in 1995, which stressed
the need to integrate water management with land use planning. The
document advocated a better anticipation of climate change by creating more
space along riverbanks for water retention as a means of natural flood
protection, in contrast to artificial protection by means of dyke fortifications.
The Netherlands should be regarded as a delta area in a European context.
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 115
This new approach could be combined with the water basin approach of
1985, since retention areas are a chance for natural and ecological restoration
of water systems. Moreover, retention areas could help to replenish
groundwater stocks in order to prevent water depletion in dry periods. So in
fact, the 1995 transition has not only been triggered by river floods in the
early 1990s, but also by the international alarm over climate change, the
problem pressure of water depletion, as well as the preference to restore the
natural flow of rivers and valuable ecosystems along the river banks. Like
the 1985 transition, the policy document of 1995 has been formalized as a
Fourth Integral Water Policy Plan in 1998. Compared to the previous policy
plan of 1988, this plan focuses especially on climate change and on the
restoration of the natural dynamics of water systems. It advocates regarding
water and its natural movements as key determining factors in land use
decision making. It also emphasizes the value of water in terms of open,
unspoiled landscape. In fact, the 1995 and 1998 documents are attempts to
get a principle adopted for the integration between land use decision making
and water management: ‘where natural water is competing with other claims
on the limited remaining space in the Netherlands, space for water should
prevail’ (Hofstra 1999).
To better understand the 1995 transition, it should be considered in the
evolutionary context of river management in the Netherlands going back to
the 1950s. The huge flood disaster of 1953 in the province of Zeeland
resulted in the adoption of a national program (the ‘Delta Plan’) for flood
prevention, not only along the coasts but also along the main rivers. As usual
it was based on normalization of rivers and fortification of river dykes, being
the traditional Dutch approach as practiced by the national water authority
Rijkswaterstaat since it was established in 1798. While the Delta Plan started
to be implemented in the 1960s, the extensive and irreversible landscape
interventions along the rivers attracted increasing criticism from inhabitants
of the river areas. To remove some unrest among the inhabitants, a state
commission concluded in 1975 that procedures for getting support from
citizens and citizen participation should be better incorporated in the process
of decision making on dyke fortifications. During the 1980s, however, the
recommendations of the state commission remained unimplemented and
ongoing dyke fortifications were often debated in court. Valuable pieces of
landscape and authentic cultivation along the rivers disappeared, due to the
size dimensions applied by the state water authority for fortification of river
dykes. In 1993, triggered by political pressure to reconsider the dyke
fortification program, another state commission recommended incorporating
values on landscape, nature and cultural heritage into decision making on
dyke fortifications, in addition to safety aspects. Such a broader deliberation
of interests is in line with the integral water system approach adopted in
116 Chapter 4
1985. This state commission was asked again to advise on how to continue
dyke fortification along the river Meuse, when this became a question after
heavy flooding in 1993. One year later, the commission recommended to
enlarge and to deepen the river basin in combination with the natural
development of river flood plains and restoration of the river dynamics. In
fact, this advice has been the basis for a fundamental rethinking of river
management at a national scale (Heegstra 1999).
The threat of dyke bursting in December 1993 and again in January 1995,
due to unexpected high water flows in the main river basins, resulting in the
evacuation of more than 200,000 people, drew a response at the national
level by a Main Rivers Delta Plan in 1995, in addition to the policy
document ‘Space for Water’. At first, this Delta Plan aimed to speed up the
fortification of the remaining weak spots in the dyke infrastructure along the
main rivers, by means of an emergency act (‘Deltawet Grote Rivieren’). This
approach has been successful, because within two years all dyke
improvement works were completed. Secondly, the Delta Plan aimed to
speed up the adoption of the Act on Flood Protection (‘Wet op de
Waterkering’), which had been delayed since the 1980s due to a political
debate on values that should prevail in dyke fortification projects. In 1996
the act was adopted, by which parliament agreed to a system of better
founded safety norms and improved participation rights for citizens. Thirdly,
the Main Rivers Delta Plan aimed to introduce a new approach to river
management, which has been effectuated by the presentation of the policy
document ‘Space for the River’ in 1996. The new approach advocates
protection against high water flows in rivers by developing sustainable river
basins, which means that the flood plains should be reserved for the dynamic
flows of the river combined with natural development. Dyke fortifications
should only be used at places where flood plains are no longer available. The
policy document strongly appeals to the use of space for the river as a
guiding principle in land use planning along the river banks: construction of
housing and other economic activities in flood plains should be avoided in
principle (Heegstra 1999; Hofstra 1999).
In the fall of 1998 the Netherlands had to resist high rainfall pressure.
Polders had to be inundated to prevent dyke bursts close to cities and
villages. High water levels in the IJsselmeer and other estuaries hampered
the clearance capacity of the Dutch drainage infrastructure. This situation,
which is typical of a delta area like the Netherlands, triggered the powerful
awareness that a rising sea level in combination with extreme rainfall
pressure, both due to climate change, creates dangerous inundation risks. It
has been the basis for broad political consensus that ‘integral river
management’ (integral in the sense of sustainable flood protection) should
have high political priority, which has been a definite breakthrough in
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 117
political terms. The state decided to amend the River Management Act, in
order to broaden its jurisdiction with respect to the expropriation of flood
plain grounds. The state also decided to amend the Physical Planning Decree
(art. 10) in order to require that local land use plans must always be assessed
by the regional water board on water risks, before the plan can be adopted.
Further, a state commission on Water Management 21st Century was asked
how to institutionalize integral river management. When this commission
reported in 2000, one of the recommendations was to create extra titles for
expropriation of flood plains and for limitation of land use rights in flood
plains. Another recommendation was to divide the liability for flood damage
among the national water authority, regional water authorities and private
property owners. Water boards could avoid such liability by developing
sufficient areas for water retention, based on a system of safety norms which
determines what the storage capacity in a region should be (Commissie
WB21).
Although we can see many attempts towards integral river management
and development of sustainable river basins in the 1990s, we need to be
aware that the policy sectors of water management and physical planning are
still rather separated. So, despite the many integration attempts, high
complexity and fragmentation still dominate. This renders decision making
rather difficult, especially at the level of the water boards and municipalities,
where the former have an interest in considering water as a guiding principle
in spatial planning and to leave areas unbuilt if a risk of inundation exists,
while the latter have a final say in spatial planning and have an interest in
economic and urban expansion within their geographical boundaries. The
coherence between water management and land use planning might increase
as soon as the intended titles for expropriation of flood plains and for
limitation of land use rights in flood plains will go into effect.
118 Chapter 4
4.4 Main regime phases and transitions in the
Netherlands
Phases 1 and 2
Property rights Public Policies Institutional regime
1814-1891
Centralization of dyke
construction and river
management (the state
versus the water boards).
Public domain constituted
by Constitution (1814), Civil
Code (1838) and
Expropriation Act (1841).
Common property of
regional waters in the hands
of water boards.
Policy focus of the state:
centralization of flood
protection and river
management for navigation
(river floods in 1876, 1880).
Policy focus of the water
boards: building
infrastructure for water
pumping and drainage to
develop land and
agriculture.
Simple regime:
low extent
medium coherence
1891-1954
Institutionalization of state
water management (for
flood protection and land
reclamation) and
institutionalization of
regional water management.
Large-scale development of
systems for drinking water
supply and sewage
discharge (sanitation).
Expropriation for
navigation, flood protection
and land reclamation (1891,
1900, 1908).
Creation of a concession
system for land reclamation
(1904).
Common property of water
boards supervised by the
state (1895).
Compensation for negative
effects of public water
works on private property
(1900, 1908, 1925).
Centralization and
institutionalization of water
management by the state
(constituting ‘the water
state’: 1891, 1900).
River management (1908)
and construction of canals
for navigation.
Zuiderzee Plan for flood
protection and land
reclamation (development
IJsselmeer and polders after
flood disaster 1916).
Large-scale development of
systems for drinking water
supply (organized by
separate companies) and
sewage to discharge urban
waste water to surface
water.
Delta Plan for construction
of storm barriers (after flood
disaster 1953 in Zeeland
province).
Simple regime:
low extent
high coherence
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 119
Phases 3 and 4
Property rights Public Policies Institutional regime
1954-1969
Institutionalization of
water supply.
Awareness of exhaustion
of water resources and
water dependencies.
Attempts at systematic
seawater and surface
water protection.
Creation of a concession
system for water supply
(1954).
Expropriation at the benefit
of water supply (1954) and
water drainage (1962).
Limitation of discharge
rights on seawater (1958).
Redistribution of fishery
rights, which get connected
to water ownership (1963).
Protection of nature property
against rival water and land
uses (1965, 1967).
Compensation for negative
effects of public water
works on private property
(1954, 1958, 1962, 1965,
1966).
Institutionalization of water
supply to guarantee supply of
good quality, sufficient
amounts and affordable prices
(1954, 1957, 1960).
Prevention of seawater
pollution (1958).
Preliminary construction of
waste water treatment plants
by water boards and
municipalities (early 1960s).
Prevention of resource
exhaustion by regulation of
fisheries (1963), regulation of
clearances (1965), regulation
of mining in sea bottoms
(1965), and nature
conservation (1967).
First sectoral water policy plan,
not only focusing on flood
protection and drainage, but
also on water scarcity and
demands by water supply,
agriculture and navigation
(1968).
Complex regime:
medium extent
medium coherence
1969-1985
Environmental protection
of surface waters.
Large-scale development
of waste water treatment
plants.
Planning of water
quantity and quality
policies.
Water use regulation to
prevent water depletion.
Limitation of waste water
discharge rights to protect
surface water (1969).
Full cost recovery of waste
water treatment by
retribution (1969).
Expropriation at the benefit
of waste water treatment
(1969).
Creation of a concession
system for all groundwater
extractions above 100,000
m3 (1981).
Compensation for negative
effects of public water
works on private property
(1971, 1981).
Prevention of surface water
pollution by means of
permitting and charging waste
water discharges (1969).
Large-scale construction of
waste water treatment plants
by water boards (since 1970).
Controlled distribution of
groundwater use rights, by
permitting and charging for
groundwater extractions (1981,
1984).
Second sectoral water policy
plan, recognizing water
depletion and advocating
integration between surface
water and groundwater
quantity management (1984).
Separate planning for water
quality management, taking
care of the progress of surface
water quality protection (1975,
1980, 1985).
Complex/Integrated
regime:
high extent
medium coherence
120 Chapter 4
Phases 5 and 6
Property rights Public Policies Institutional regime
1985-1995
Groundwater protection.
Integrated water
management (integrating
quantity and quality
aspects of the water
system, and including
ecology).
Limitation of farming
practicing rights to protect
groundwater (1986).
Limitation of all use
rights affecting water
tables (1989).
Limitation of drainage
rights to protect
ecosystems (1989).
Water becoming a res
nullius and being
separated from property
on land and water beds
(1992).
Compensation for
negative effects of public
water works on private
property (1986, 1989,
1995).
Prevention of groundwater
pollution from diffuse sources,
by means of regulating and
charging the application of
manure (1986). Delineation of
groundwater protection areas
with more stringent standards,
drinking water quality based
(1989).
Integral vision of water
management, based on a
regional water system
approach, also taking into
account ecological aspects
(1985). This resulted in the
Third integral water policy
plan, integrating quantity and
quality management (1989).
Integral water management
legislation to organize water
policy planning, to complete
the system of ‘water state’
legislation, and to allow
ecological protection of water
systems (1989).
Concentration of all local and
regional water management in
the hands of the water boards,
underling the primacy of a
water basin approach (1992).
Integrated regime:
high extent
high coherence
After 1995
Rediscovery of flood
protection combined with
ecological restoration of
water systems: natural
protection instead of
artificial protection.
Anticipation of climate
change: attempts at water
management through
land use decision making
(water competing with
other claims on the
limited remaining space).
Consideration of:
expropriation of flood
plains;
limitation of land use
rights in flood plains;
attribution of liability for
flood damage to water
boards and land owners.
Integral vision of connection
between water management
and land use planning: more
space around rivers needed;
water and its natural
movements as key determining
factor in land use planning
(1995, after river floods in
1993 and 1995).
Fourth integral water policy
plan, focusing on climate
change and restoration of the
natural dynamics of water
systems (1998).
Long term vision of water
management 21st century:
water will become a strong
claim in physical planning;
physical plans have to be
assessed for water risks, before
adoption (2000, after highwater
problems in 1998).
Integrated/Complex
regime:
very high extent
medium coherence
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 121
4.5 Concluding analysis of regime transitions in the
Netherlands
In the previous section we identified six phases in the evolution of the Dutch
national water regime. Using the two dimensions of regime evolution (extent
and coherence), we identified the period 1814-1954 (phases one and two) as
a simple regime, the period 1954-1985 (phases three and four) as a complex
regime, and the period after 1985 (phases five and six) as an integrated
regime. We also noticed that the first indications of a movement towards
integration already appeared around 1969 (at the start of phase four). In this
section we summarize the regime evolution in terms of extent and
coherence. The coherence of a regime distinguishes between the internal
coherence of property rights, the internal coherence of public governance
and the external coherence between public governance and property rights.
At the end of this section we consider what conditions have triggered regime
transitions towards more integration.
4.5.1 Evolution of extent
The extent of a regime refers to the extent to which relevant uses of a water
basin are recognized by the regime. It is an indicator of the completeness of
the domain or scope of the regime. Compared to the broad variety of use
functions that we recognize nowadays, the Dutch water regime had a
relatively low extent during the 19th century and the 20th century until the
1950s. The traditional concerns of the national regime in dealing with water
management were protection against flooding and the development of rivers
for navigation for transport and military defense. Building an infrastructure
for water security has constantly been high on the national agenda. At the
regional level water managers for a long time dealt predominantly with
water drainage to develop land for agriculture and urban expansion. From
the 1950s on the extent gradually increased. In the 1950s water supply gets
attention as a problem of how to meet future demands of an increasing
population. In the 1960s, physical planning and nature conservation become
important issues on the national agenda. There is a growing awareness that
water management should be based on a deliberation of interests. Water
infrastructural works become subject of a public debate. Other values than
water security jump into the discussion, like the natural value, the
recreational value and the spatial value of water. At the end of the 1960s
water management planning starts to be used as an attempt to control
overuse of water resources and to prevent water depletion. This should be
considered an important transition towards integral water management.
Another important transition in that period is the active start of surface water
122 Chapter 4
quality protection and the related recognition of environmental concerns.
During the 1970s and 1980s further attempts are made to complete the extent
of water management. Groundwater issues, like over-use, over-drainage,
water depletion and the degrading quality of groundwater, gain recognition
and become the subject of water rights and water policies. Attempts are also
made to develop a more integral perspective on water systems, in which
surface water, groundwater, quantity issues and quality issues are considered
in terms of their mutual linkages. A resulting shift in thinking is that a water
resource not only includes the water itself, but also the immediate
surrounding ecosystem. Therefore, we consider 1985 as another important
marking point in the regime’s evolution, since in that year the ecosystem
approach of integral water systems was widely introduced. It was the start of
a period in which national and regional water management authorities
gradually adopted and incorporated a so-called ‘broadened perspective on
water management’. Around 1995 the extent broadens further when, due to
river floods and expectations of climate change, a strong need is felt to
integrate water management and spatial planning in order to prevent
flooding and create a more resilient, effective water management in the
catchment areas. Creating space for water by means of retention areas
becomes a paradigm shift in thinking about flood protection, while being a
logical consequence of the ecosystem approach adopted earlier.
4.5.2 Evolution of the internal coherence of property rights
The internal coherence of property rights refers to the degree to which the
interdependencies in the water system and its management are reflected in
the distribution of property rights among the users which are involved. The
internal coherence of property rights improves when newly recognized uses,
identified as extent, become supported by property rights. Speaking about
property rights, we distinguish between private property, common property,
and public domain (which could be state property or ‘no property’ in the
sense of ‘res nullius’). Private use of water resources has never been
unlimited in the Netherlands. Even in the early 19th century, there were
always restrictions on private ownership and private use rights by the legal
definition of some public domain. During the 19th century, the public domain
was mainly reserved for expropriation of private and common property in
the interest of flood protection and navigation. From the beginning,
compensation provisions have been available for cases of expropriation of
private property. Even more, titles were increasingly created to compensate
for the negative effects of expropriation on neighboring private properties
(so-called disadvantage compensation). Expropriation of common property,
which had been in the hands of water boards, happened in cases where the
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 123
state judged that water boards were not able to guarantee water security for
the public. In fact, the state expropriating common property has been a
matter of centralization. During the 20th century, an increasing
communalization of water resources took place, in spite of the ownership
arrangement. The state increasingly controlled the access to water resources
and allowed more and more users to claim some form of access. In the early
20th century, getting the ownership of water resources into public hands (as
privately owned state property) has been a way for the state to guarantee
access to the public. Private ownership by the public could serve then as a
guarantee for access by all interested users. Later on, especially after World
War II, the state gave preference to the protection of public interests by
means of public law. Even more important than public ownership should be
the public control of water uses and use rights. Between the 1950s and 1990s
a whole series of water acts were adopted to guarantee a more coherent use
of water resources. Since 1992 and due to a revision of the Civil Code of
1838, natural water resources can no longer be owned in the Netherlands,
not even by the State, because it is considered to belong to the public, or in
fact to the entire society. To eliminate the option that public ownership
operates as a ‘dominium eminens’, and thus to prevent the state or the
commons from being too exclusive and too arbitrary, the ownership of water
has been changed into a ‘no property’, which forces the state to protect the
public domain only by public law. In the Netherlands, this is known as the
‘two ways doctrine’ (‘tweewegenleer’), requiring the State to intervene for
preference on the basis of public law, in case intervention by means of
private law is also an opportunity. So the Netherlands has been moving to a
water rights structure in which it has become almost irrelevant for the State
to acquire ownership as a mean to gain resource control for the public
interest.
4.5.3 Evolution of the internal coherence of water policies
We interpret the internal coherence of water policies as the degree to which
the interdependencies in the water system and its management are reflected
in the elements of public governance. In this book we distinguish five
elements of public governance: (1) levels and scales; (2) actors and
networks; (3) perspectives and objectives; (4) strategies and instruments; (5)
responsibilities and resources for implementation (Bressers & Kuks 2001).
Levels and scales
With respect to the coherence of levels and scales, the question is how
administrative scales of water management fit with the natural scale of water
basins, and how this developed over time. We have seen that the Netherlands
124 Chapter 4
has a very old form of functional democracy for water management. In fact,
water boards are a specific form of government at regional scale. Until the
19th century, water boards were the only organizations for water
management. As bottom up organizations of landowners, they mostly
operated at a small local scale. Around 1800 the Netherlands started to
centralize water management, with the argument that state involvement in
flood protection along the coasts and the main rivers is needed to safeguard a
national water security. The water board organizations were considered to be
too small and fragmented for this task. Due to strong resistance from the still
powerful and autonomous water boards, it lasted until the end of the 19th
century before a clear demarcation of central and regional powers was
settled in the field of water management. Since then, central and regional
water management authorities operate on the basis of co-governance in a
decentralized unitary state. The central authorities are responsible for the
main waters with national importance, while the water boards take care of
the smaller water bodies with regional importance. In the 20th century the
number of water boards has been cut back from 2700 in 1900 to about 55 in
2000. Especially the flood disasters of 1916 and 1953 provided a powerful
impetus for small water boards to merge into larger organizations, like
several river floods did in the 19th century. The professionalization of
regional water management, strongly encouraged by the central state from
the 1960s on, also resulted in mergers. Especially the transitions of 1968
(introducing water planning), 1969 (introducing water quality management)
and 1985 (introducing the ecology-based water system approach) have
professionalized the water boards and strengthened their position in water
management. As a result, the Constitutional revision of 1983 and the Water
Board Act of 1992 have moved the primacy in regional water management
from the provinces and municipalities to the water boards. Since the 1990s
the water boards have been searching for a further increase of scale which
better fits with the scale of river basin management as advocated by the
European Water Framework Directive. A complication that increasingly
emerges for regional water boards is that they depend on provinces and
municipalities as physical planning authorities. In order to get water visions
adopted as a guiding principle for physical planning, a complicated process
of mutual consultation and cooperation is required. In other words,
incoherence between the administrative organizations of water management
and physical planning is complicating water governance.
Actors and networks
With respect to the coherence of actors and networks, the question is to what
extent actors with an interest in water resource use acquired opportunities to
participate in water management, and how this developed over time. We
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 125
noticed that initially farmers and other landowners organized themselves in
water boards to get water management (drainage and flood protection) in
their area under control. Since the beginning of the 19th century the central
government has become a player in water management, trying to articulate
the interests of all citizens with respect to flood protection, as well as the
interests of navigation on rivers. This articulation became stronger and more
effective after each flood disaster during the 19th and 20th century. After
World War II the national government increasingly arranged opportunities
for ‘new’ uses to be represented or ‘new user groups’ to participate in water
management, proportionate to the increase of extent.
We could distinguish between four types of participatory arrangements.
First, property rights have been attributed to specific uses and user groups.
Examples are the Fisheries Act of 1963 redistributing fishery rights, the
Nature Conservation Act of 1967, the Surface Water Pollution Act of 1969
protecting the quality of surface water and its use functions, the
Groundwater Act of 1981 and Water Management Act of 1989 both
protecting nature by preventing water depletion, the Soil Protection Act of
1986 protecting the quality of groundwater and its use functions. However,
in case of ecological use functions there are no specific user groups
identified to which use rights could be attributed. So, use rights aiming to
protect ecological functions of water resources remain in public hands and
could only be claimed by the public authorities involved.
Secondly, policy planning has been used as a forum to account for new
uses and user groups. Since 1968 water management has been based on
policy planning, especially considering traditional water uses in a broader,
resource-based context. Physical planning has also been important to give a
voice to new uses, especially if they rival traditional uses. In 1974 a
participatory approach to physical planning was adopted, which allowed
other use considerations than solely flood protection and land reclamation to
enter decision making on water infrastructural projects. This new approach
was triggered by broad opposition in society to the traditional type of ‘water
engineering’, which had no eye for rival uses, like the recreational value, the
natural value or the spatial value of water (Disco 1998). It was also triggered
by a more general democratization and participation tendency in society in
the 1970s.
A third type of participatory arrangements has been the representation of
interest groups in the regional water boards. Representation on the water
boards has always been based on a ‘profit-payment-participation-principle’,
meaning that those having an interest in water management should pay for it
according to their interest share, in exchange for participatory seats on the
water board’s council. Until the 1970s, farmers and real estate owners (in
rural and urban areas) have been the most important contributors to the water
126 Chapter 4
boards. They have been paying a property value tax in order to keep their
feet dry in otherwise wet areas needing drainage and flood protection.
Although real estate owners were important contributors, they were not
equally represented in the councils of the water boards, in which farmers
continued to have a dominant position until the 1970s. This happened
despite the fact that provinces had a task in supervising the water boards and
guaranteeing an equal representation for all tax paying interest groups.
Although real estate owners in urban areas were paying for the burden of
water discharge from urbanized into rural areas, water management at that
time was primarily considered as a living condition for rural areas. In the
early 1970s the central government appealed to the water boards to allow
more seats in their councils to real estate representatives. The central
government was pressured by a national debate on extending the scope of
land use planning, including in land use planning for rural areas those
interests which could be rival to agriculture, like traffic infrastructure, nature
conservation or recreation. Around that time the representation on water
boards also extended due to the water quality tasks which officially were
delegated to the water boards from 1969 on. As a result, industrial and
domestic surface water polluters acquired a percentage of the seats, since
they had to pay a pollution tax on wastewater discharges. Especially the
representation of urban real estate owners and domestic surface water
polluters settled a certain influence of urban people and their interests within
the water boards, in opposition to the traditional dominance by farmers’
interests. This created a basis for more deliberation of interests and the
adoption of a more environmental and nature oriented approach to water
management. As a result, the visibility of water boards and their work
increased, taking into consideration that water boards had a very low profile
among the general population until the 1970s. During the 1980s the debate
on representation in water boards continued. The central government
decided that water boards should have a constitutional position in the Dutch
administrative model (formalized by the Constitutional revision of 1983 and
the adoption of an institutional Water Board Act in 1992). The central
government also decided that water boards should not only recognize the
specific interests of specific user groups, but should also act on behalf of the
general interest. Therefore, the Water Board Act of 1992 introduced a
general water board taxation for all citizens (additional to the already
existing taxations for specific user groups), while allowing general citizens
to acquire a proportion of water board seats equivalent to the share of their
contribution. The seats for general citizens are attributed on the basis of
general elections, which increases the democratic legitimacy of water
boards. While water boards since the 1980s became more important as a
forum for deliberating rivalries in water management, another important
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 127
forum evolved during the 1990s on which the water boards as
representatives of water interests are encountering provinces and
municipalities as physical planning authorities. This is a forum where
institutions for functional democracy (water boards) meet with institutions
for general democracy (provinces and municipalities) which consider water
interests as a limited facet on a broad spectrum of land use interests.
Nowadays, water boards have problems finding adequate channels for
participation in physical planning, in order to be able to advocate the need
for space for water.
This relates to a fourth type of participatory arrangements. Since the early
1970s water boards have become increasingly aware that representation of
interest groups within the water board council is not sufficient. Additional
consultations of interest groups are needed. Therefore, they increasingly
involve intermediate organizations, to have especial representation of the
interests of agriculture, nature conservation, the environment, and recreation
in consultation rounds during the policy making process.
Perspectives and objectives
With respect to the coherence of perspectives and objectives, the question is
to what extent official policy visions and policy objectives administer justice
to existing rivalries between different water uses. We noticed – while writing
about the evolution of the regime’s extent – that at the national level
subsequent policy documents on water policy have been constantly
progressive in recognizing new water uses and rivalries. However, since the
implementation of such policy documents needs to be importantly financed
by regional authorities, the question is to what extent such national policy
documents have legitimacy at the regional level. Especially at the level of
water boards the dependency on the agricultural sector (both in terms of
powerful representation and in terms of their land ownership in rural areas)
often limits the ability to restore water systems in a natural way. For
instance, prevention of water depletion is complicated by the rivalry between
agriculture and nature protection. This renders decision making difficult at
the level of the water boards, where farming interests have always had a
large say. In other words, implementation mechanisms are slowing down the
ambition of national policy documents.
Besides the complexity of vertical coordination between central and
decentral water policies, there is also a complexity of horizontal coordination
between water policy planning and the planning systems for water related
policies (especially environmental policy planning, nature policy planning,
and physical planning). We perceived an evolution in which these policy
sectors developed separate policy planning systems since about the end of
the 1960s. While these separate systems took a high flight during the 1970s
128 Chapter 4
and 1980, first attempts towards interpolicy co-operation and fine-tuning
between sectoral plans started around the mid-1980s. Since then, a lot of
fragmentation has disappeared due to various mechanisms introduced for
integration of perspectives and objectives. Around the mid-1990s, when the
national government shed a spotlight on the rivalry between space for water
and other land use interests, it became a challenge to intensify the
coordination between water policy planning and physical planning.
Especially at the regional and local level, where decision making on space
for water and leaving flood plains unbuilt is a matter of policy co-operation
between water boards (having a strong water interest) and municipalities
(having a strong interest in urban expansion and a final say in local land use
planning), it still appears to be difficult to coordinate the perspectives and
objectives of both policy sectors. Submission of local spatial plans to a
‘water risk assessment’, before adopting them, has become a mandatory
instrument and a first attempt at an integrating mechanism at the end of the
1990s.
Strategies and instruments
With respect to the coherence of strategies and instruments, the question is to
what extent there are tools available for water managers to redistribute use
rights in order to better account for the broad variety of relevant uses. While
writing about the evolution of water rights and water policies, we perceived
an evolution in which at the national level tools have been increasingly
arranged for public intervention in private use rights, especially to better
account for the ecological functions of water resources. Important legislative
steps, introducing new policy instruments for the redistribution of water
rights, have been: the 1969 legislation for the control of surface water
pollution by adoption of a waste water charging system, based on full cost
recovery and the polluter pays principle; the 1981 legislation for the control
of groundwater abstractions by permitting and charging for groundwater
abstractions over 100,000 m3 a year; the 1986 legislation for the control of
surface and groundwater pollution from agricultural sources by means of
manure application standards and a manure charge based on full cost
recovery and polluter pays; the 1989 legislation for the control of drainage
by means of ‘water level ordinances’ to prevent water depletion and to
protect ecosystems. As we noticed before, adequate instruments are still
missing to get more grip on physical planning from a perspective of
sustainable water resource management.
During this evolution of the Dutch water legislation, mechanisms have
been adopted for getting the prices right to ensure that the price charged to
water users integrates the true costs. Especially at the regional level of water
boards, the principle of full cost recovery of water services has been closely
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 129
adhered to. The taxation instruments of the water boards (one taxation for
water quantity measures and one for water quality measures including waste
water treatment) are based on a profit-payment-participation-principle. This
means that the costs of all water services from the water boards are borne by
those who profit from these services. Proportional to their payments, user
groups are represented in the water board’s council. Especially after the
transition of 1985 towards more ecology-based water management, the costs
of ecology-based water measures have gradually shifted more and more
from farmers and rural land owners to the citizens in urban areas. Nowadays,
urban citizens are the major contributors to the water boards, and as a
consequence they have the majority of the seats on the water board councils.
Responsibilities and resources for implementation
With respect to the coherence of responsibilities and resources for
implementation, the question is to what extent the policy implementation
process is sufficiently equipped and concerted. There are several kinds of
resources one could think of, like authority, legitimacy, finance, time, human
capacity, information, etcetera. In terms of authority we noticed that water
management depends on the co-governance between the national and
regional water authorities. The national government has been rather
progressive in providing policy visions, and creating policy tools for the
realization of those visions. Only in case of the most recent vision on the
linkage between water management and physical planning they have not yet
been able to create adequate water policy tools. This is more a problem of
horizontal policy co-operation, since it needs co-operation between two
countervailing powers (water management authorities and physical planning
authorities).
In terms of legitimacy as a necessary implementation resource, we
observed that various participatory arrangements have been created to
facilitate the acceptance of policy measures. We also noticed that it is hard to
identify user groups which represent the interests of ecological water
functions. Although citizens in general bear the costs of ecologically based
water measures, it is rather unclear to what extent they share the objectives
on which such measures are based. Since only a minority group of citizens
strongly advocates ecology-based water management, it is easier for rival
user groups like farmers to oppose such management (not only because they
still think they pay for those measures, but also for reasons that agricultural
activities have to step aside along watercourses due to such measures). As a
consequence, direct consultations with farmers often slow down the
implementation process.
This relates to three other, more physical resources which are necessary
for the implementation. One is the so-called mobility of ground, which is a
130 Chapter 4
spatial resource. A policy based on the idea of more space for rivers and
flood plains enters into rivalry with other spatial claims and ownership
rights, like the spatial claim on open areas by urban planners or the strong
presence of agricultural ownership in rural areas. Another physical resource
is time, which is needed for consultations as part of the implementation
process. Consultations to acquire legitimacy and ground resources are rather
time consuming during the implementation phase. A third important physical
resource is money, needed for the acquisition of land, for the physical
realization of water and ground works, and for the employment of human
capacity. As we noticed, the legitimacy of national policy visions often
depends on the willingness of regional water board councils to adopt them
and to vote money for implementation measures. An important trigger,
which often improves such willingness, is the availability of provincial,
national or European subsidy programs to which water boards may apply for
co-funding.
Another important resource concerns the human capacity available for
implementation. Not only does its quantity matter, which is especially
money-based, but also the quality of personnel matters, which also relates to
the availability of information as an implementation resource. We have seen
that Dutch water management authorities, both national and regional, have
expanded their expertise into the environmental field since the early 1970s as
well as into the ecological field since the mid 1980s. Not only due the
expansion of scope and expertise, but also due to the many water board
mergers during the 20th century, regional water management importantly
professionalised and achieved equality with the expertise of Rijkswaterstaat,
the national water authority (IJff 1993; Bressers, Huitema & Kuks 1995;
Kuks 1998).
4.5.4 Evolution of the regime in general and conditions for regime
change
Now we have analyzed the internal coherence of water rights and water
policies separately, we are able to consider the external coherence between
both, in order to understand the evolution of the Dutch national regime in
general. We interpret the external coherence between water rights and water
policies as the degree to which changes in public governance are reflected in
changes of the property rights. In section 4 of this chapter we identified six
phases in the evolution of the Dutch national water regime. Using the two
dimensions of regime evolution (extent and coherence), we identified the
period 1814-1954 (phases one and two) as a simple regime, the period 1954-
1985 (phases three and four) as a complex regime, and the period after 1985
(phases five and six) as an integrated regime. We also noticed that the first
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 131
indications of a movement towards integration already appeared around
1969 (at the start of phase four). A remarkable development during the sixth
phase is that the national regime turns back from an integrated into a
complex regime due to a further increase of extent and a decrease of
coherence. The reason for this is that in the early 1990s policy makers
started to link water resources with spatial resources. This brought along the
need for an extra integration effort in order to bridge the gap between water
management and spatial planning.
Let us finally consider the conditions that have generated the successive
regime transitions in Dutch water management. We already mentioned in
this chapter that the regime transition in the early 1950s from a simple to a
complex regime had been triggered by the economic recovery after World
War II. In that period concerns were raised about the growing demand for
natural resources (water space, nature) by a growing population which tried
to achieve a higher living standard. The national regime answered to this
growing use demand by allowing use expansion based on a deliberation of
individual versus general interests and a redistribution of private rights. The
regime change was not only ‘use driven’, but also ‘protection driven’ in the
sense that exhaustion of natural resources had to be prevented in the public
interest. This created a climate for water use planning, resulting in the first
national water policy plan in 1968 (being the next regime transition).
The regime transition of 1969 resulted from a growing awareness during
the 1960s that economic expansion involves environmental pollution. The
state of the environment in general, and the poor surface water quality in
particular, came high on the political agenda, not only in the Netherlands but
also in other western democratic countries. The regime change in 1969
(adoption of the Surface Water Pollution Act) was fully ‘protection driven’.
Not only international agreements on the quality protection of seawaters and
surface waters triggered this transition, but also the various regional and
local initiatives to built waste water treatment plants. The water boards,
predominantly on water quantity issues, had a strong interest in expanding in
the field of surface water quality protection. The idea of financing surface
water quality protection on the basis of the polluter pays principle fitted
quite well with the water boards’ tradition of having water management
funded by charges based on full cost recovery.
During the 1970s the trend to democratization and participation in society
resulted in broad opposition to the traditional manner of water management,
which did not have an eye to rival uses. At the national level this resulted in
the adoption of a participatory approach in land use decision making. This
approach allowed other use considerations than solely flood protection and
land reclamation to enter decision making on water infrastructure. In the end,
132 Chapter 4
this tendency has been the prelude to an ecologisation of Dutch water
management with its culminating point in the regime transition of 1985. In
that year an integrated water system approach was adopted, integrating
quantity and quality management and allowing ecological considerations in
water policy making. The ‘protection driven’ 1985 transition was also
triggered by a strongly developing environmental policy in the Netherlands
during the early 1980s, and by a growing awareness of the interrelatedness
between surface and groundwater. Other triggers were the deregulation and
integration tendency in politics in the early 1980s (functioning as a ‘meta
policy’), and the ongoing debate on the position of water boards, implying
the political wish to merge them into all-in water boards at water basin scale.
In the early 1990s problem pressure from serious river floods triggered
the development of a new policy approach. We marked the adoption of the
‘space for water’ approach in 1995 as the most recent transition in Dutch
water management. This transition was not only impelled by incidental river
floods, but also by the international alarm over climate change, including the
expectation that river floods will happen more often and more intensively in
the future. The ‘space for water’ approach also followed up on the water
system approach of 1985 and the growing preference to restore ecosystems
and the natural flow of rivers. The 1995 transition definitely changed the
classical ‘dyke and drainage approach’ in Dutch water management.
If one surveys the evolution of the Dutch national water regime, one can see
three major conditions playing a role all the time. First, there has been a
constant problem pressure for the Netherlands related to its position at the
sea edge in a low lying area, with large parts of the country below sea level
and being the delta for three European rivers (Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt).
The need to protect the land from high water from rivers and sea, and the
tradition of artificially draining low-lying areas, have triggered the country
to develop a complex hydraulic infrastructure. Through the ages the flow
and level of almost every water body in the country have been subject to
human control. Most flood disasters also resulted in a further centralization
of water management. River floods in the 1990s fundamentally changed the
classical approach of flood protection and given the regional water boards a
more prominent role (a form of decentralization as a counter-movement).
Besides problem pressure from flooding, there has also been pressure from
water quality deterioration. The position of the Netherlands at the edge of the
North sea and in the delta of some important European rivers has given the
country not only the advantages of developing the world’s largest sea harbor
as a main port to Europe, but also the disadvantages of being an end-of-pipe
country with a lot of transboundary pollution. The country developed a
strong environmental attitude based on a strong interest in protecting the
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 133
potential of surface water for fishing, drinking water production, and water
related ecosystems. On the international stage the Netherlands have been in
the forefront of preparing international agreements on the environmental
protection of sea and surface waters. Another kind of problem pressure is
related to economic and demographic circumstances (strong economic
development after World War II and a high population density) which have
made the country aware of its scarcity of space while being confronted with
many, often rival spatial claims. This has given a powerful impetus to the
development of spatial planning as an instrument to deal with rivalries. Since
the 1970s, spatial planning has increasingly been used to revaluate nature
and water related ecosystems. Economic and demographic circumstances
have also contributed to problem pressure in the field of groundwater.
Excessive manure applications by a severely intensified agricultural sector
have caused serious air, surface water and groundwater pollution. Overuse of
groundwater sources by households, industries and agriculture has caused
groundwater depletion. These groundwater problems led to groundwater
regulations in the 1980s.
A second condition that has been important throughout the evolution of
the Dutch national water regime concerns the water board tradition in the
Netherlands. Since 1798 a form of co-governance between national and
regional water authorities has developed. Despite a constant centralization
tendency, the water boards succeeded in maintaining a position in regional
water management. Meanwhile, water management not only
professionalized at the national level, but also at the regional level where
water boards changed from very small-scale water boards for drainage and
flood protection into ‘all-in’ water boards at the size of tributary water
basins. Water boards appeared to be effective organizations for the
implementation of national water policies, while also being successful in
taking responsibility for regional water management. Since the 1980s the cogoverning
position of water boards in the Dutch administrative structure has
been recognized by the revised Constitution of 1983 and the Water Boards
Act of 1992. They both approve that water boards are of essential interest to
a country that is living with flood risks for large parts of its area. The
taxation system of water boards has given the Netherlands a tradition of
water services based on full cost recovery charges, which corresponds with
the idea of the EU Water Framework Directive ‘to get the prices of water
services right’. The democratic and participatory structure of water boards
corresponds with the idea of the EU Water Framework Directive ‘to get all
users involved’.
A third major condition in the evolution of the Dutch national regime has
been the public debate on the effects of large water works and the need to
take rival interests into account. Already in the 19th century provisions were
134 Chapter 4
created to compensate citizens not only in cases of expropriation but also in
cases where private properties are disadvantaged by public water works.
During the 20th century more and more titles for compensation were added.
In the 1960s some legal provisions were adopted for a better deliberation of
interests in order to prevent the exhaustion of specific types of natural
resources. In the 1970s public protests against the classical water
engineering approach by Rijkswaterstaat politicized water management and
initiated a debate in society on various water values. Since the 1970s spatial
planning has been used as an instrument to deal with rival interests in case of
large infrastructural water works. Not only spatial planning was important.
The water management sector also developed its own planning instruments.
Since 1968 the Netherlands has a tradition of national water policy plans,
which started out being sectoral plans mainly focusing on water quantity
issues (1968, 1984), but which later became integral plans (1989, 1998).
Planning is used as an instrument for policy coordination between the higher
and lower administrative levels (vertical integration) as well as between
policy sectors at the same administrative level (horizontal integration
between water policy, environmental policy, nature policy, spatial planning).
The functioning of the Netherlands as a decentralized unitary state is to a
great degree based on coordination by planning.
With respect to the question if European water policy should also be
considered as a major condition in the evolution of the Dutch water regime,
the answer is mixed. The Dutch have always had a strong European
orientation. The Netherlands is one of the founding fathers of the European
unification process. International agreements on water quality protection are
important for the country, due to its transboundary water dependence. Until
the 1980s the Netherlands was among the foremost member states with
respect to the initiation and implementation of European water directives.
However, in the 1990s the Netherlands started to delay implementation,
especially in case of the EU Nitrate Directive for Groundwater and the EU
Directive on Urban Waste Water. The country is also struggling with how to
implement the EU Bird and Habitat Directives in water areas where other
spatial claims (like recreation or navigation) are also at stake. The problem is
that it is difficult to integrate European Directives in fields where the country
has already developed its own national policy (for instance, like the Dutch
did in case of groundwater protection and nature conservation). This is often
mentioned as a reason why European Directives are easier to implement in
countries which had not previously developed a national policy in those
fields (Bennett & Verhoeve 1994). The expectation is that European water
policy will increasingly be a condition for the further evolution of the Dutch
water regime (Bressers, Kuks & Schrama 2001). The EU Water Framework
Directive, in particular, will influence the institutional structure of Dutch
Evolution of the national water regime in the Netherlands 135
water policy organization. Again, the challenge will be how to integrate the
European ideas about institutional organization of water management at
water basin scale with the typically Dutch structure of co-governance
between regional water boards and a national water authority. The
Netherlands might have a lead of this structure, although the existing
structure might also be a brake on institutional change.
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138 Chapter 4
139
Chapter 5
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in
Europe
5.1 Introduction
In this chapter we present a comparative survey of regime development in
six European countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and
Switzerland. The survey focuses on the main regime transitions in each
country and explains what has actually changed in terms of water rights and
water policies. We also summarize the most important triggers that have
generated the various transitions in a country. Before we review the regime
transitions and change triggers per country in sections 3 to 8, we describe in
section 2 the common pattern of regime evolution that we found in the
country descriptions, which have been produced for the Euwareness-project
(see: Kissling-Näf & Kuks 2004)
The idea behind screening the evolution of the national water regime in
various countries has been to determine whether we find an evolution from
simple to complex to integrated regimes and to explore in particular the
transitions from one regime phase to another. Although we find a common
evolution pattern in all our selected countries, from simple to complex to
integrated, the transition moments appear to vary in time. It is interesting to
see when and how a regime changes in a country, and to identify the triggers
and circumstances that have generated or allowed change. Especially the
transition from a complex regime to an integrated regime appears to be a
complicated one. While all countries are showing attempts towards
integration, they vary in the degree to which these attempts have improved
the institutional sustainability of the national water resource regime. The
Netherlands, France and Switzerland were relatively early in their attempts
at integration, while Belgium, Spain and Italy are lagging behind in very
different ways. In the concluding section of this chapter we summarize in
140 Chapter 5
greater detail the ways in which these six countries vary on their way
towards an integrated regime.
5.2 General comparison of countries in terms of regime
development
For a screening of the historical evolution of national water regimes we had
to go back in time more than at least a hundred years. For the countries
selected it even made sense to go back to the early 19th century, because
many countries adopted a new constitution and civil code around that time,
which formed the start of a simple water regime in those countries. We can
see a common pattern in our selected countries in which the period 1800-
1900 could be identified more or less as a simple regime. During the period
1900-1950 these regimes develop into a regime with low complexity. In the
period 1950-1985 the complexity increases and the period can be divided
into one of medium complexity (1950-1970) and one of high complexity
(1970-1985). From 1985 onwards we see many attempts at integration in the
various countries. Therefore we mark the period 1985-2000 as a period
characterized by attempts at integration, although this period remains a
period of high complexity for most countries.
Simple regimes (1800-1900)
In the selected countries the development of a simple regime starts with the
definition of a public domain in the early 19th century. In the first half of that
century, most countries adopted a new constitution and a civil code as the
Napoleonic era came to an end around 1815 as well as due to the adoption of
civil rights and the restructuring of Europe around 1840. For many countries
this civil code was a French legacy. The definition of a public domain in
general implied that the ownership of continental waters and navigable
waters, and the responsibility for flood protection were placed in the public
domain. In fact, the extent of the public domain was restricted during this
period to the ownership and use of continental waters, the ownership and use
of navigable waters (for navigation), and flood protection. The definition of
a public domain was accompanied by the definition of principles for
expropriation and compensation. In many countries forms of expropriation
were allowed for reasons of flood protection (in case of dyke construction,
for instance) and to improve the navigability of rivers. The extent of the
private domain or the common property domain also embraced the right to
drainage for agriculture, the right to irrigation for agriculture, and the right to
use water for domestic, agricultural or industrial purposes. The reason for
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 141
considering this period as a simple regime phase is that scarcity first became
apparent, which was the reason for the constitution of a public domain.
Regime changes towards low complexity (1900-1950)
In the first half of the 20th century we see in most countries a concern for
public health and sanitation. This was a driving force for most countries to
add sanitation (by the construction of sewage and supply systems) to the
extent of the public domain. This means that public authorities (mostly local
authorities) started initiatives to develop an infrastructure for sanitation,
mostly in urbanized areas at first. In the first half of the 20th century, too,
public authorities took initiatives to develop an infrastructure for resource
exploitation, especially for industrial uses. This was necessary to facilitate
the industrial expansion due to the industrial revolution in the second half of
the 19th century. The low complexity refers to the fact that various users,
relatively few in number, were claiming the use of the same resource,
resulting in rivalries. To a very limited extent some deliberation between
these various users was necessary, often co-ordinated by public authorities.
Regime changes towards medium complexity (1950-1970)
After World War II and the growing expansion of national populations and
national economies, the complexity of water regimes increased due to
increasing demands for water resource use, which were more often in mutual
rivalry. In many countries we find that the concern about public health and
sanitation was on the increase, due to urban expansions, resulting in the
development of more systems for public water supply and wastewater
treatment. Although more initiatives for wastewater treatment can be
perceived, systematic surface water protection was still not common in this
period. The intention was still to satisfy as many water demands as possible,
without imposing restrictions. However, this had to go along with some
forms of redistribution. For that reason we choose to mark this period as one
of medium complexity. Redistribution is even more necessary because of the
growing concern about degradation of natural areas, resulting in first
attempts at systematic nature conservation. Some countries adopted a nature
conservation act in this period. Regarding the extent of the public domain in
this period, we could say that public service to water demands, attempts to
protect surface water and attempts to conserve nature have been added to the
extent of the public domain. This period is also characterized by the start of a
communalization of water use rights, which means that the private domain
becomes increasingly restricted in its water use rights and that water uses are
increasingly regulated from the public domain. The public domain takes
responsibility for guaranteeing access to water resources by all users, for a
reasonable distribution and redistribution of use rights, and for the protection
142 Chapter 5
of water values or functions that are not directly represented by specific
users.
Regime changes towards high complexity (1970-1985)
Around 1970 many European countries adopted some form of a surface
water protection act, impelled by international agreements on the reduction
of surface water pollution. From 1976 onwards the European Community
started to force its Member States to develop protective policies for bathing
water and drinking water which had to comply with European quality
standards. From that time on the European Community becomes an
important player in harmonizing water sanitation policies across Europe.
Especially the countries that were lagging behind in the field of sanitation,
compared to frontrunning Member States, were forced to speed up the
development and implementation of sanitation policies. As a result, the
expanding domestic and industrial uses of water resources, which were
permanently facilitated since the 1950s, started to be confronted with
restrictive regulations concerning their effluent discharges. Besides
systematic sanitation and systematic surface water protection, attempts to
control water overuse were also added to the extent of the public domain in
this period. Water demands could no longer be met in an unrestricted way,
and the awareness rose, partly also due to a growing environmental
movement, that the limits of growth would be reached. Water depletion
came onto the agenda as a policy problem, but still no systematic prevention
policy was adopted in this period.
Regimes changes towards integration (1985-2000)
Around and after 1985 several countries became aware of the crisis around
water resources in terms of problems with both water quality and water
quantity due to heterogeneous overuse. A wide scale of rivalries demanded
new, innovative solutions. In many countries this resulted in the
development of integrated policy approaches in which quantity and quality
issues of both surface and groundwater were combined into one coherent
policy perspective. The linkages between quantity and quality issues, as well
as between surface and groundwater, required a water system perspective
that allowed countries also to incorporate ecosystem aspects of water
systems. This new perspective was accompanied by the expansion of the
extent of the public domain. In many countries groundwater quality
protection and diffuse pollution control, water use and irrigation control,
water drainage control and ecosystem protection were added to the extent of
the public domain during this period. Several national authorities adopted
policies and legislation for groundwater protection and overuse control.
After flood incidents in the 1990s attempts were also made to add to the
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 143
extent of the public domain a better control of flood plains and a better
anticipation of water risks due to climate change. While both ecosystem
protection and floodplain control were attempted during this period, they did
not result in systematic policies and legislation. Also remarkable for this
period is that several countries had a debate on a redefinition of the public
and the private domain. States like the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy
made explicit legislative statements that water belongs to the state or the
public, and that use concessions (as private or common property) need
public control.1 However, in the same period there was a debate in many
countries, induced by the introduction of an open European market in 1992,
that water services should be liberalized and that more market forces should
be permitted. There are obvious contradictions with respect to opinions on
the demarcation between the public and the private domain of water
resources. Although we perceive several highly complex regimes suffering
from fragmentation after 1985, we also find clear attempts at integration in
most countries. Evident attempts are the adoption of water policy planning2,
the institutionalization of some form of a water basin approach3, the adoption
of integrated management4 and legislation5, and the allowance of more and
extended user participation with respect to water management in the public
domain during this period. Table 5.1 is showing a comparative survey of
selective institutional milestones in the six European countries we studied.
1 In 1992, the Netherlands revised its civil code, formally proclaiming that water cannot be
owned, not even by the State, because it is considered to belong to the public. In the same
year, France formally proclaimed water an object of national heritage, which could be
interpreted as proclaiming that it is ‘state property’. In 1994, Italy formally proclaimed that
all waters are public and belong to the public domain. Spain did the same in 1985, but it
has not been able to eliminate pre-existing private property rights over water.
2 Water policy planning was started in the Netherlands in 1968, but the first integrated water
policy plan was adopted in 1989. Belgium started water policy planning in 1995, France in
1992, Italy in 1990. Spain presented a draft water distribution plan in 1993, but it was not
adopted before 2001. Switzerland has not developed water policy planning.
3 In the Netherlands these are water boards, already existing before 1985, but allocated
primacy in regional water management in 1992. In Belgium these informal basin
committees in Flanders and river contracts in Wallonia were both adopted around 1995. In
France these are river basin committees, created in 1992. In Spain these are drainage basin
authorities, which already existed before 1985. In Italy these are river basin authorities,
created in 1989. In Switzerland no water basin approach has been adopted.
4 The Netherlands adopted integrated management in 1985, Belgium in 1995, France in
1992 and Italy in 1989. Spain and Switzerland have not developed integrated water
management. Adoption of integrated water management means co-ordination between
quantity and quality management.
5 The Netherlands adopted integrated legislation in 1989 and France in 1992. Switzerland
and Italy show attempts that have an integral outlook but are based on an incomplete
integral approach. In Spain, the 1985 Water Act and the 1999 Water Act take care of
environmental and ecological effects of water use, but not of pollution.
144 Chapter 5
The milestones related to changes in property rights and public policies
represent attempts towards regime integration. The selective milestones
related to institutional context seem to have been important background
determinants for a country’s regime evolution towards integration.
Table 5.1 Comparative survey of selective institutional milestones in six European countries
Netherlands
Belgium France Spain Italy Switzerland
Property rights
Redefinition of public
domain
1992 1992 1985 1994
Public policies
Adoption of water
policy planning
1968 1995 1992 2001 1990
Adoption of integral
water legislation
1989 1992
Institutional context
State reform 1970-93 1978 ongoing
EU membership early
member
early
member
early
member
since
1985
early
member
no
member
Establishment of
environment ministry
around
1970
around
1970
around
1970
1996
1986
around
1970
Table 5.2 Comparative survey of regime phases in six European countries
General regimeevolution
1800-1900 1900-1950 1950-1970 1970-2000
Netherlands 1814-1891 1891-1954 1954-1969 1969-1985
1985-1995
1995 >
Belgium 1804-1893 1893-1950 1950-1971 1971-1980
1980-1990
1990 >
France 1789-1898 1898-1945 1945-1964 1964-1992
1992 >
Spain 1879-1953 1953-1978 1978-1985
1985-1999
1999 >
Italy 1865-1933 1933-1976 1976-1989
1989-1994
1994-1999
1999 >
Switzerland 1912-1953 1953-1975 1975-1991
1991-1997
1997 >
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 145
Table 5.2 shows how the specific regime-evolution of the various countries
is positioned in the context of the general regime-evolution we just
described. In the following sections of this chapter we will summarize the
regime phases for each of these countries separately.
5.3 Regime transitions and change triggers in the
Netherlands
Period 1814-1891
In this period the regime was mainly based on concerns about flood
protection and drainage to develop agricultural land. Dyke construction and
river management was gradually centralized by the state and taken over from
the relatively autonomous water boards. Several expropriation titles were
adopted, allowing expropriation (with compensation) for the purpose of
flood protection, land reclamation and improvement to the navigability of
rivers. In this period, too, a rivalry existed between the state and the water
boards. Until the 19th century water boards were the only organizations for
water management. They were organized at basin scale and dealt mainly
with quantity issues (mainly flood protection and drainage). Induced by a
period of French domination, the state started to centralize water
management, with the argument that state involvement in flood protection
along the coasts and the main rivers is needed to safeguard national water
security. The water board organizations were considered to be too small and
fragmented for this task. Due to strong resistance from the still powerful and
autonomous water boards, it lasted until the end of the 19th century before a
clear demarcation of central and regional powers was settled in the field of
water management.
Period 1891-1954
Between 1891 and 1908 – important pieces of water legislation were adopted
in 1891, 1900 and 1908 – the co-governance between state water
management (for flood protection and land reclamation) and regional water
management became institutionalized. This is referred to as the
establishment of a decentralized unitary state for water management in the
Netherlands. The central authorities are responsible for the main waters with
national importance, while the regional water boards take care of the smaller
water bodies with regional importance. In the period from 1916 on, the state
water authority commenced large-scale engineering projects for: river
management and the construction of canals for navigation; for flood
protection and land reclamation (Zuiderzee Plan), resulting in the
development of the IJsselmeer and its surrounding polders after the flood
146 Chapter 5
disaster in that area in 1916; and for the construction of storm barriers after a
huge flood disaster in the province of Zeeland in 1953 (Delta Plan). The first
half of the 20th century was also a period of large-scale development of
systems for drinking water supply (organized by publicly owned companies)
and sewage systems to discharge urban wastewater to surface water. These
systems focused on sanitation and public health.
Period 1954-1969
Since the 1950s the extent of water management gradually increased. In the
1950s water supply received attention as a problem of how to meet future
demands of an increasing population. This resulted in the institutionalization
of water supply to guarantee a supply of good quality, in sufficient amounts
and at affordable prices. A concession system for water supplies was created.
Expropriation is allowed to benefit of water supply and water drainage. In
the 1960s physical planning and nature conservation become important
issues on the national agenda. There was a rising awareness that water
management should be based on a deliberation of interests. Water
infrastructural works become the subject of a public debate. Other values
than water security enter into the discussion, such as the natural value, the
recreational value and the spatial value of water. In 1968 water management
planning started to be used as an attempt to control overuse of water
resources, to balance demand rivalries and to prevent water depletion. The
first sectoral water policy plan not only focused on flood protection and
drainage, but also on water scarcity and demands on the water supply,
agriculture and navigation.
Period 1969-1985
Together with the 1968 water policy plan, the start of active surface water
quality protection and the related recognition of environmental concerns in
1969 mark an important transition in Dutch water management. In 1969 the
Pollution of Surface Waters Act was adopted. This resulted in the large-scale
construction and exploitation of wastewater treatment plants, as well as the
systematic control of surface water pollution by means of a permitting
system and a wastewater charging system based on full cost recovery and the
polluter pays principle. Since 1970 water boards have been responsible for
this water quality protection and wastewater discharge control, besides their
water quantity tasks. During the 1970s and 1980s further attempts were
made to complete the extent of water management. Groundwater issues like
over-use, over-drainage, water depletion and the degrading quality of
groundwater became recognized, became the subject of water rights and
water policies, resulting in more demand-side management. In 1981 a
Groundwater Act was adopted, controlling groundwater abstractions by
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 147
permitting and charging for groundwater abstractions over 100,000 m3 per
annum. In 1986 a Soil Protection Act was adopted, controlling surface and
groundwater pollution from agricultural sources by means of manure
application standards and a manure charge based on full cost recovery and
polluter pays. After the adoption of a Nature Conservation Act in 1967,
nature conservation started to receive more attention in this period. Several
water infrastructural projects were reconsidered, to better account for
ecological effects, especially after the adoption in 1974 of a participatory
approach in land use decision making, which allowed other use
considerations than solely flood protection and land reclamation to enter
decision making on water infrastructure.
Period 1985-1995
In 1985 an integrated approach to quantity and quality management was
adopted, allowing ecological considerations to enter water management
decision making. Since 1985 water boards have been allowed to exercise
water management according to a so-called ‘broad water system approach’.
The integrated approach, introduced in 1985, formed the basis for the Third
National Water Policy Plan of 1989, which is the first integrated water
policy plan in the Netherlands. Until 1985 separate plans were made for
water quality management, taking care of the progress of surface water
quality protection, and water quantity management. Just before 1985, in
1984, the Second National Water Policy Plan was adopted. This was still a
sectoral water policy plan, recognizing water depletion and advocating
integration between surface water and groundwater quantity management. In
the field of groundwater management, groundwater quality protection was
added. The Soil Protection Act of 1986 aims at the prevention of
groundwater pollution from diffuse sources by means of regulating and
charging for the application of animal fertilizers. On basis of this act, from
1989 on, groundwater protection zones are delineated with more stringent
standards to protect water supply sources and drinking water quality. The
Water Management Act adopted in 1989 provided integrative legislation
with regard to water management in its entirety. It introduced policy
instruments for the control of drainage by means of ‘water level ordinances’
to prevent water depletion (due to over-drainage) and protect ecosystems.
Period from 1995 onwards
Due to river floods in the early 1990s an integral vision on the connection
between water management and land use planning was adopted in 1995.
This vision proclaims that more space around rivers is needed, especially in
response to flood problems in river flood plains, and to better anticipate
climate change. Water and its natural movements should become key
148 Chapter 5
determining factors in land use planning, when water is competing with
other spatial claims. This paradigm change in flood protection (recognition
of climate change and space for water instead of “dyke and drainage
approach”) is also a reinforcement of ecological restoration of water
systems. Natural protection is preferred to of artificial protection. In 1998
this new policy approach formed the basis for the Fourth National Water
Policy Plan, which focuses on climate change and restoration of the natural
dynamics of water systems. A remarkable movement during this phase is
that the national regime turns back from an integrated regime into a complex
regime due to a further increase of extent and a decrease of coherence. The
reason for this is that in the early 1990s policy makers started to link up
water resources with spatial resources. This introduced the need for an extra
integration effort in order to bridge the gap between water management and
spatial planning. After high water problems in 1998 a state commission
developed a long-term vision on water management in the 21st century.
Water will have a strong claim in spatial planning, because spatial plans will
have to be assessed for water risks before their adoption. In 2003 it became
mandatory to give water boards a say in land use planning to prevent
building activities in floodplains. To create space for water and to prevent
flooding it is considered to allow expropriation of flood plains, to restrict
land use rights in flood plains, and to attribute liability for flood damage to
water boards and landowners.
Triggers
The regime transition in the early 1950s from a simple to a complex regime
was triggered by the economic recovery after World War II. In that period
concerns rose about the growing demand for natural resources (water space,
nature) by a growing population which was trying to achieve a higher living
standard. The national regime answered this growing use demand by
allowing use expansion based on a deliberation of individual versus general
interests and a redistribution of private rights. The regime change in the
1950s was not only ‘use driven’ but also ‘protection driven’ in the sense that
exhaustion of natural resources had to be prevented in the public interest.
This created a climate for water use planning, resulting in the first water
policy plan in 1968 (signaling the next regime transition).
The regime transition of 1969 resulted from the growing awareness
during the 1960s that economic expansion involves environmental pollution.
The state of the environment in general and the poor surface water quality in
particular, came high on the political agenda, not only in the Netherlands
but also in other West European countries. However, the awareness in the
Netherlands was especially triggered by the perception that much of its
surface water pollution originated across the country’s borders. The regime
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 149
change of 1969 was fully ‘protection driven’. Not only international
agreements on the quality protection of seawaters and surface waters
triggered this transition, but also the various regional and local initiatives to
built wastewater treatment plants. The water boards, predominantly oriented
to water quantity issues, had a strong interest in expanding into the field of
surface water quality protection. The idea of financing surface water quality
protection on the basis of the polluter pays principle fitted quite well with the
water board’s tradition of having water management funded by charges
based on full cost recovery.
During the 1970s, the style of water management, which had no eye for
rival uses, changed. At the national level the democratization and
participation tendency in society resulted in broad opposition to the
traditional management style. This resulted in the adoption of a participatory
approach in land use decision making, allowing other use considerations
than solely flood protection and land reclamation to enter decision making
on water infrastructure. Ultimately, this tendency was the prelude to an
ecologization of Dutch water management with its culminating point in the
regime transition of 1985.
In 1985 an integrated water system approach was adopted, integrating
quantity and quality management and allowing ecological considerations in
water policy making. The ‘protection driven’ 1985 transition was also
triggered by a strongly developing environmental policy in the Netherlands
during the early 1980s, and by a growing awareness of the interrelatedness
between surface and groundwater. Other triggers were the deregulation and
integration tendency in politics in the early 1980s (functioning as a ‘meta
policy’), and the ongoing debate on the position of water boards, implying
the political wish to merge them into all-in water boards at water basin scale.
The adoption of a Soil Protection Act in 1986, which was the start of the
regulation of agricultural pollution, was triggered by on the one hand
growing problem pressure on air, surface and groundwater from excessive
manure applications, and on the other hand by the influential position of the
environmental ministry in the 1980s, leaning heavily on consultation with
target groups and breaking through the agricultural iron triangle.
In the early 1990s problem pressure from serious river floods triggered
the development of a new policy approach. The adoption of the ‘space for
water’ approach in 1995 is considered as the most recent transition in Dutch
water management. This transition was not only impelled by incidental river
floods, but also by the international alarm over climate change, including
the expectation that river floods will happen more often and will be more
severe in the future. The ‘space for water’ approach also followed up on the
water system approach of 1985 and the growing preference to restore
ecosystems and the natural flow of rivers. The 1995 transition definitively
150 Chapter 5
changed the classical ‘dyke and drainage’ approach in Dutch water
management.
5.4 Regime transitions and change triggers in Belgium
Period 1804-1893
During this period water management mostly focused on stimulating the
development of agriculture. Water ownership was included in land
ownership. The sole exceptions were navigable rivers and canals, which
were State property. This status is justified by the necessity to maintain the
rivers for navigation.
Period 1893- 1950
As early as the first half of the 20th century, the low quality of water
provisions and its danger to public health became recognized. The regime
shifts its focus to the development of water distribution networks, in order to
improve public health. So, besides the development of agriculture
(promotion of drainage and irrigation), there is a focus on water distribution
and the building of water distribution networks.
Period 1950-1971
After World War II Belgium experiences an increasing degradation of
surface water quality due to industrialization and urbanization. In 1950 the
country adopts an act on the protection of water against surface water
pollution, to be supervised by the Ministry of Public Health. The
implementation of this act fails, because local communities are not interested
to invest in wastewater treatment at the benefit of downstream communities.
Period 1971-1980
In 1971 the national Law on the Protection of Surface Waters against
Pollution was adopted. This was an attempt to organize water management
at a river basin scale for the three main river basins (Meuse, Scheldt, and the
basin of the Coast). The designed basins cross the Regions. The main idea
was to limit emissions and to accelerate the flow of water in order to
transport wastewater more quickly to the sea. This policy, which focuses on
purification, was still driven by a concern about public health. The final aim
was to secure water supply. The regime focuses more on water exploitation
than on water protection.
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 151
Period 1980-1990
From the beginning of the 1970s the former central state started to evolve
progressively towards federalization. The Belgian State became a full federal
state in 1993. In the field of water, the management of freshwater became a
regional responsibility while the Federal Government looks after coastal
waters. Most competencies were already transferred to the Regions in 1980
(in 1980 for the quality aspects and in 1990 for the quantity aspects). Each
region had to set up its own water administration, which resulted in very
different regional water regimes in Flanders and Wallonia. In each region,
the water management administration (except the responsibility for
navigable waters) has been positioned within the environmental
administration. In 1980, Flanders and Brussels decided to implement the
laws of 1971 on the protection of surface water and groundwater and to
adopt an environmental permission system for industrial discharges. The
picture is quite different in Wallonia, where water is more abundant and
more related to economic interests, like tourism. The Region hindered the
development of an environmental policy. It did not implement the national
law of 1971 and waited until 1985 to regulate surface water quality and 1990
for groundwater. As in Flanders, the Region takes the leading role, but
leaves a bigger role for the local authorities. Communes are closely involved
through the intercommunales for water supply, sewage and wastewater
treatment. Wallonia prefers to restart with a new legislation, more suitable to
the existing actors in place, the intercommunales.
Period from 1990 onwards
In the 1990s it appears that the complicated process of federalization delayed
– compared to other European states – an effective approach to water
problems. In the context of federalization the 1971 law failed
implementation, despite its ambition. In the 1990s, the country tried to make
a determined management effort to make good the neglect of the past. Its
activities were partly driven by EU and other international obligations
(North Sea Conferences, Oslo-Paris Convention, Scheldt and Meuse rivers).
Much work has been done in recent years to create a coherent water
management framework of legislation, institutions, policies and plans. New
water pricing and wastewater charge and tax systems have been in place
since the early 1990s to help finance the investments being made in new
sewers and wastewater treatment plants. Industrial pollution discharges have
been reduced. With respect to purification, Flanders chose the privatization
route, while Wallonia opted for contracting.
In the early 1990s, Flanders intensified wastewater purification,
regulated discharges through global permission, limited manure spreading
and defined absolute protection zones. The goal of the regime is both to
152 Chapter 5
improve the reserves of potential drinking water and to preserve ecosystems
and biodiversity. Formal ownership rights to land, including riverbanks, are
modified for purposes such as nature conservation and the development of
recreation activities along the rivers. Expropriation has been applied as a
regulation tool. In the same period, the management of surface water quality
was reinforced. As a reaction to the persistent pollution of rivers and to
European obligations, Flanders partly privatized its purification activities,
extending the regulation of direct and indirect discharges to new target
groups, such as the farmers with measures limiting fertilization.
The motivations for regime change in Wallonia are the same as in
Flanders, i.e. a persistent pollution of water and the need to satisfy European
requirements. At the end of the 1990s, Wallonia chose to reinforce water
protection measures with a process of contractualization between the
regional authority and the industrial water operators. As in Flanders, the
major innovation concerns the actors’ network. A public company was set
up in 1999 to manage, according to a management contract signed with the
Region, all financial movements linked with water purification and the
protection of wells. The problem is that co-ordination between the water
distribution cycle and other uses are not considered, e.g. minimum flows or
nature conservation.
In the mid-1990s Belgium took steps to promote more integrated water
management. Flanders and Wallonia recognized the need to co-ordinate
different water uses at a tributary basin scale and to co-ordinate quantity and
quality management. In Flanders, informal basin committees were set up for
each of the eleven basins in the region. The committees are composed of
representatives of regional, provincial and municipal administrations and
local environmental organizations. In Wallonia, river contracts have been
developed in order to integrate stakeholder interests. These are voluntary
agreements between stakeholders of a river basin for the purpose of
improving the physical and biological qualities of the river. In general, the
contract is made between municipalities, but other stakeholders like industry,
landowners and local organizations may participate.
With respect to flood protection and nature conservation and riparian
restoration, Flanders allows expropriation of formal ownership rights, while
Wallonia only allows interventions in use rights (prohibition of building on
riverbanks with adverse consequences for fauna and flora). In that context,
the Belgian case is interesting for it shows two regions with different types
of public domains. Although both sub-states show an expanding public
domain, in Flanders the public domain is based on private ownership by the
state, while in Wallonia the regulation of use rights on the basis of public
law is a way to gain public control. In Flanders water management
procedures are more centralized and more subject to central planning, while
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 153
in Wallonia the local level is much more autonomous and water management
is characterized by bottom-up decision making. Neither regional system is
sufficiently integrated. The Flemish system lacks the participation of local
actors, while the Walloon system is poor in planning.
Triggers
Above all, the European Union puts strong pressure on the Member States.
The requirements of the 1991 directive on wastewater led to the
reorganization of regional water sectors. The main problem for all Belgian
Regions is the financing of the required infrastructure for purification. The
Regions thought up new systems to finance the investment, organized the
collection of new taxes and opened up the institutional arrangement to the
private sector. As a result, Belgium was blamed for delays in implementing
most European water directives and has frequently been condemned by the
European Court of Justice.
The pressure of the problem itself also provokes change. Differences in
the levels of internal pressure induce different paces of adaptation. Flanders
is in advance because of the strong pressure exerted on its capacity to
produce drinking water. Flanders is more integrated and pushes more in the
direction of integration because of a greater threat of water shortages.
Environmental groups also play a significant role in regime transitions
towards more integration. However, their influence is more indirect. In
recent times, environmental groups have become more influential, especially
after the accession of the green parties (Ecolo/Agalev) to the government in
1999. The acceptability of their claims also comes from the fact that they are
complementary to the interests of water producers.
Regional differences are partly explained by institutional settings. The
federalization process led to new regimes at the beginning of the 1980s and
weaknesses of the new regional structures contributed to the last regime
changes. In Flanders, people are keener on concentrating power in broad
structures, a position reflected in the 1971 law, while Wallonia favors the
development of local competencies. The communes keep their hand on the
water purification sector (under the control of the political parties) while
they were expropriated in Flanders.
Finally, water regimes are influenced by inter-policy co-ordination.
Water policies seem to be systematically legitimized by other dominant
policies. The dominant policies in question are agriculture, industry and
public health. They justify needs for infrastructure. Nowadays, the dominant
policy that seems to emerge is the environment. Environment, for instance,
is invoked to justify a limitation of industrial emissions (environmental
permits), while in the past the justification was based on public health
concerns (workers’ protection).
154 Chapter 5
5.5 Regime transitions and change triggers in France
Period 1789-1898
This period may be characterized as a simple regime. There are few uses
recognized, but the appearance evolves of some new uses (irrigation,
industry, water treatment and waste disposal). There are disputes linked to
the absence of clear laws concerning non-navigable or floatable water, the
status of which was clarified in the law of 1898.
Period 1898-1945
From the 1898 Act up to the middle of the 20th century, a series of particular
regulations (navigation, hydroelectricity, agriculture, public health and water
supply, etc.) resulted in sectoral management of water. The period is
characterized by a diversified and complex regime, with management of
different uses weakly co-ordinated.
Period 1945-1964
This period is characterized as a complex regime with increasing and
particularly intensification of uses linked to industrialization and
urbanization. However, the first attempts to co-ordinate different uses
appear. New actors such as EDF and regional development companies start
to play a role.
Period 1964-1992
The particularly innovative Water Law of 1964 incorporated the concepts of
integrated management by river basin, partnerships, and the combination of
regulatory instruments and financial incentives based on the polluter pays
principle. The 1964 Act focused mainly on surface water. The main
innovation of this law was to set up a dialogue between users (industrialists,
farmers, and local authorities) and government representatives on the Basin
Committees of the Water Agencies. These were defined in relation to the
main river basins. The main objective was to create financial solidarity
between the different users in order to control water pollution. It was
considered that the growing needs of the consumers could be met by
maintaining the quality of waterways. In spite of the creation of basin
authorities, the Act of 1964 did not simplify the administrative organization
of water management. In fact it allowed different bodies to intervene. The
organization at basin level did not lead to the removal of the other
administrative levels of management. Instead, these were superimposed on
the existing ones, which retained their responsibilities. It thus became
necessary to create co-ordinating bodies. The overall supervisory role of the
Ministry of the Environment over the activities of the different parties was
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 155
insufficient to remedy this problem. This ministry relied on the decentralized
departments of the other ministries that it was meant to supervise since it did
not have operational staff to supervise different uses at basin level and at the
national level. From 1964 on, the regime has departments in the field itself.
Overall, this period is characterized by a weakly integrated and highly
complex regime, ensuring co-ordination as a basis for surface water quality
protection, already applying the polluter pays principle in a preliminary form
and making use of regular pollution checks of watercourses. Later on, the
regime was extended with limitation of conflicts over ground water between
industrial uses and water supply, and application of an ’abstractor-payer’
system. From 1981 on, France experimented with river contracts. Since the
Fishing Law of 1984, the ecological quality of the water environment has
also been taken into consideration.
Period from 1992 onwards
The Water Law of 1992 created a new legislative framework for water
resource management by introducing the concept of ecological planning and
management. By proclaiming water as an object of national heritage, the
legislator recognized, for the first time, the need to protect this resource for
itself, both in terms of its quantity and its quality. Therefore this legislative
step is considered as the start of an integrated water regime in France. The
law provides for a water resource development and management plan for
each river basin, together with objectives for the exploitation and protection
of water resources, aquatic ecosystems and wetlands. The idea of balanced
management (integrated management) was introduced, based on the creation
of new planning and negotiation tools (SDAGE and SAGE6), as well as on
the creation of new institutions at the local level (the Local Water
Commission composed of local authorities, state public administrative
bodies and user representatives). The fundamental principles of the Water
Law of 1992 were based on: simplifying the regulation and policing of
water, bringing together the departments responsible for the administration
of this resource, creating a united legal framework for water, conserving
water on the basis that it should be protected, in general and unlimited terms,
against pollution. This last aspect was actually initiated in the Fishing Act of
1984 and its need was implicitly recognized in the context of river contracts
from 1981 onwards. It involved a closer co-ordination of administrative
bodies at the local level (MISE – Interdepartmental Water Mission) and a
local planning policy more closely linked to the SAGE.
6 SDAGE: Master plans for water development and management (Schéma
Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux); SAGE: Local plan for water
development and management (Schéma d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux).
156 Chapter 5
The financial system administered by the Water Agencies was given a
substantial boost by the decision to increase their capacity for intervention
by doubling water charges in the 1992-96-programme period. The Water
Agencies have enabled local authorities to speed up their investments under
the EU wastewater directive and have secured substantial funds for joint
operations, including monitoring networks, general studies and restoration of
the natural environment. As drinking water and sewerage service providers
are obliged to recover their costs through water pricing, widespread volume
pricing has helped improve the management of these services from an
industrial and commercial standpoint, as well as sending appropriate
economic signals.
Triggers
After World War II, the strengthening of state intervention and an awareness
of water as an important issue in managing economic development led to the
initiation of a system of global management of water resources (distribution
and anti-pollution measures) with the Water Act of 1964. In the 1960s, the
depletion of water stocks was the main concern of the water authorities,
industrialization being a large consumer of water as well as an important
factor in water pollution (through discharge of waste products into surface
water). With the modernization of agriculture, which increased the need for
water, as well as urbanization leading to increased domestic needs, the 1964
Act introduced a water management regime, which took into account the
compatibility, and requirements of all the different users.
The gradual emergence of new concerns since the 1970s (the creation of
the Ministry of the Environment, the Nature Protection Act of 1976, the
Fishing Act of 1984) has given a higher profile to the protection of the
natural environment in matters of water management. Following the Fishing
Act of 1984, water management started evolving towards a greater
integration of environmental issues. This development was linked to a
growing awareness of the strong interdependence of economic activities,
impact management and the resulting quality of the environment.
Contractual policies such as that initiated by the Ministry of the Environment
from 1987 within the framework of ’river contracts’, gradually followed the
experiences of integrated water management at basin level. Moreover,
several important water calamities (successive dry summers in 1989, 1990,
1991; the catastrophic flooding of Nîmes in 1988; the impact of storms on
fish mortality in the Seine in 1990 and 1992, etc.) helped to accelerate the
change in attitude towards water. The unitary aspect of the water resource
became apparent with the impact of drought on the pumping of large
quantities of groundwater by farmers. Elsewhere, the accident at the Protex
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 157
factory near Tours in 1988 led to the water supply being cut off due to
contamination of the Loire and the Vienne.
The Water Law of 1992 was not only the result of a continuing debate on
innovating water management. It was also influenced by European
legislation: a large part of this law deals with the integration of the European
directive of 1991 on urban wastewater. At the same time, the innovative
experience of water management at the river basin level was gradually
implemented at the more operational level of the ’sub-basin’. The
contractual policies such as the river contracts initiated in 1981 also played a
part, since water quality could not just be improved by the policy of
installing water treatment plants. At the same time, setting up environmental
protection organizations, and the increasing awareness of inhabitants of the
water issue, were contributing factors in the change of the water
management regime in France.
5.6 Regime transitions and change triggers in Spain
Period 1879-1953
The 1879 Water Act re-organized institutional arrangements for surface
water allocation, as they existed before and were previously introduced
under Muslim rule on a national scale. The modernization (in the early 20th
century) of agriculture, industrialization and the growth of the cities led to
the development of a large-scale water storage and transfer infrastructure. In
1926 the Confederaciones Hidrograficas (Drainage Basin Authorities) were
created to group all major water users of each river basin, and to allocate the
water resources made available by major hydraulic engineering works.
Period 1953-1978
The 1953 economic reforms and, more particularly the 1959 Stabilization
Plan, put an end to a fully autarchic economy. This led to an increase of
industrial development, an unprecedented push of tourism, a rise in
consumption, an increase of the standard of living and a demographic boom.
Water demands increased and became heterogeneous in their uses
(agriculture, industry, tourism, population supply, energy production). The
state’s response consisted of adopting strong supply-oriented policies
through the promotion of subsidized large infrastructural works (in the
context of an authoritarian and paternalistic political regime).
Period 1978-1985
In 1978 Spain became a democracy and adopted a new constitution. The new
constitution is transforming the political and administrative structure. It is a
158 Chapter 5
transition towards decentralization and the creation of autonomies regions.
This created a right of autonomy for nationalities and regional identities.
Decision making on water resources and the environment shifted from the
central state to the 17 autonomous regions. Spain became a ’state of
autonomies’. The new constitution gives public authorities at all levels the
duty to ensure the rational use of natural resources, to protect and improve
the quality of life and restore the environment.
Period 1985-1999
The 1985 Water Act outlines central government responsibilities concerning
use of surface and groundwater in the public domain. The general aims are:
1. To best satisfy demands for water. The Water Act establishes that an
‘order of preference’ for water use must be set in the hydrological plan
for each drainage basin.
2. To rationalize water uses in harmony with the environment and other
natural resources. The Act includes the respect of a minimum flow, to
assure the availability of common uses and ecological and environmental
needs. The Act proclaims to incorporate environmental and ecological
considerations/values, in order to incorporate earlier EU water directives
into Spanish law.
3. To deal with the use and protection of both surface and groundwater,
considering water as a unitary resource. It provides for river basin
planning. It requires the government to formulate a National
Hydrological Plan, to deal with all water resource management issues.
The first such plan was completed in 1993, but not approved before 2001.
The 1985 Water Act brings all groundwater resources, as well as the beds of
rivers and lakes, into the public domain. Private property rights to water are
eliminated by the Act, but pre-existing rights will only expire 50 years after
its passage. In the meantime, the authorities can challenge private property
rights where the resource is over-exploited. Thus, the Act affects the
property rights structure (water becoming state property). While the new
constitution had created incoherence with the 1879 Water Act, the 1985
Water Act has restored this incoherence. Under the 1985 Water Act all uses
of water (except those consuming less than 7,000 cubic meters of
groundwater per year) require a concession. Applications for concessions are
made public and are subject to competition. Preference shall be given to the
applicants that propose the most rational use and the greatest environmental
protection. Concessions are granted by the DBAs for a maximum of 75 years
(instead of the previous 99 years). Concessions must conform to the
provisions of the local hydrological plan and the order of preference it
stipulates. The 1986 General Sanitation Act establishes procedures in the
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 159
health system for the development and implementation of the Water Act. It
outlines the jurisdiction of the different administrative levels. Since joining
the European Community in 1985, Spain has made much progress with
development of its infrastructure (including water supply and wastewater
treatment), as well as with international co-operation to protect the
environment and environmental convergence with the EC (incorporation of
environmental considerations into sectoral policies).
The 1995 Urban Waste Water Treatment Act complements the 1985
Water Act and the 1988 Coast Act concerning the protection of water from
negative effects of discharge of urban wastewater. In 1996 a new Ministry of
the Environment was created, with wide responsibilities for inland and
coastal waters, pollution, waste management, nature protection and
biodiversity. Before 1996, two ministries were responsible for environmental
policies: the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Environment and the
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Period from 1999 onwards
The 1999 amendment of the 1985 Water Act introduces legal techniques for
promoting efficiency and for increasing available resources in order to
satisfy demands. It creates a water market and allows water trading, in the
sense that concession holders may sell their surplus to other concession
holders, in order to achieve more efficiency (demand management). It also
imposes a new restriction to the exploitation system: the ecological flow or
environmental demand gets a priority over all other uses, except for
population supply.
The National Hydrological Plan adopted in 2001 (after failed attempts to
adopt such a plan in 1993 and 1994) contains some promising environmental
features, such as a suggestion that maintaining a minimum flow in rivers be
accorded second highest priority in times of drought, after population
supply. The eco-perspective of the 1985 Water Act has been extended. On
the other hand the plan of 2001 projects the building of many more reservoir
dams and interbasin transfers. It appears as if demand management aspects
have been considered quite separately from supply management issues.
Diversion policies (supply management) prevail over water saving policies.
The plan has been contested by environmental groups, the scientific
community and by some autonomous drainage basin authorities. It seems to
follow two different and contradictory directions. Despite the promising
environmental perspective, it seems to be a change of strategy: the plan is
based on an old-fashioned culture of diversion; it is contradictory to the 1999
Water Act, since it does not want to wait for the results of a demand
management policy; it does not follow the prescriptions of the 1996 National
160 Chapter 5
Irrigation Plan; it does not respect the EU Water Framework Directive that
proclaims the unity of river basins.
Triggers
Problem pressure from water over-use in the 1960s and 1970s put water
scarcity higher on the political agenda. The 1985 transition coincided with
some periods of severe drought. Extreme droughts in the mid-1990s again
had an impact on policy making.
The democratization process and the process of regionalization of
government since the new constitution of 1978 have strengthened the role of
the regions.
The Spanish entry to the European Community in 1985 resulted in the
adoption of the 1985 Water Act, in the large-scale development of
infrastructure for water supply and wastewater treatment, and in an active
Spanish attitude towards international co-operation to protect the
environment and environmental convergence with the EC (incorporation of
environmental considerations into sectoral policies).
The 1985 Water Act itself has been a trigger for water quality protection
and for the development of planning with respect to water resource use.
The democratization process in Spain and the rise of environmental
awareness during the 1980s resulted in the entrance of environmental NGOs
in the policy arena. Finally it resulted in the creation of a new Ministry of the
Environment in 1996. When a plurality of interests enters the policy arena, it
openly clashes with the traditional approaches of water policy. We see this
happening in the 1990s.
The failed attempts to adopt a Hydrological Plan in 1993 and 1994 led to
the 1999 amendment of the 1985 Water Act.
5.7 Regime transitions and change triggers in Italy
Period 1865-1933
In 1865 Italy was unified into one national state. The 1865 law on the
prevention of disasters from flooding and inundation was the start of a
simple regime. The main focus was on land protection.
Period 1933- 1976
The Water Code of 1933 addressed in a very general way the main uses for
production and consumption. It stated the need for public permits for water
uses. The content of the policy was regulative and distributive, dating back
to the unification of the country (1865). After 1933 the simple regime
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 161
evolved towards complexity, because of the regulation of more alternative
water uses, which occurs through fragmented and separate laws.
Period 1976-1989
The Water Pollution Control Law (Merli Law) of 1976 was a parliamentary
initiative, lacking government support. It was a legislative statement to start
the regulation of the discharge of industrial and municipal effluent into
surface and ground waters. The law deals essentially with water quality,
defining maximum standards, thus paving the way to the creation of a
network of purification plants both for domestic and industrial uses. After
1976, in the void at the national level, the main regulatory authorities were at
the regional level. Only after 1986, with the birth of the Ministry for
Environment and the subsequent creation of national and regional
environmental agencies, has there been an attempt to create a national
dimension in water quality policy. But the EU on the one hand and the
regions on the other had already occupied most of the policy space.
Period 1989-1994
The Framework law of 1989 on the creation of Water Basin Authorities is
considered as the first legislative effort to develop integrated management of
water resources at the level of river basins, taking into consideration both the
quantitative an qualitative dimensions and most of the potentially rival uses.
The water basin is defined as the most optimum dimension for intervention.
This law resulted in the identification of six major national watersheds
(covering the most important Italian rivers), each with a special management
authority, and 18 inter-regional basin authorities. The remaining bodies of
water were entrusted to smaller authorities under the direct control of the
concerned region. The principal occupation of the basin authorities with the
environmental protection is mostly confined to safeguarding a constant
minimum vital flow in watercourses (as required by the 1989 law). This
provided the basin authorities a crucial role in water quantity regulation.
Period 1994-1999
The Galli Law of 1994 on the optimum area for water services was a
parliamentary initiative, lacking government support. It deals with water
services and their management, allowing regions and municipalities to raise
finance and set user charges. The main objective is to overcome the
fragmentation of the water supply sector. The full implementation of the law
will on the one hand force intermunicipal co-ordination and on the other
hand it will open up the market for water services under the compulsory
open tendering required by European legislation. This in turn should bring
about a more rational price of water. The Galli Law also asserts the public
162 Chapter 5
ownership of all water resources and sets a hierarchy between various uses
of water, giving priority to human consumption. By this, sustainability was
fully incorporated in the water regime. Community rights started to play a
more relevant role. Environmental and sustainability considerations were
explicitly addressed.
Period from 1999 onwards
The 1999 Law on the quality of water bodies was the first major law pushed
by the Ministry for Environment, to implement the 1991 EU directives
concerning the treatment of water effluents and the protection of
groundwater against nitrates from agricultural sources. The law introduces
for the first time the concept of a water quality perspective for a water body,
in line with the orientation of the EU Water Framework Directive (draft
1997; adopted in 2000). This is a new perspective, since sanitary laws
traditionally regulated water quality. The aim of the new perspective is to
integrate environmental, health and economic considerations into an overall
policy of water resource management.
Triggers
Since the beginning of the 1970s the water regime started to change,
essentially due to EU pressure to adopt and implement water quality
standards, and due to the Italian State reform leading to a transfer of relevant
functions from the State to the Regions.
Since 1985 there have been efforts towards a more integrated regime due
to a growing awareness of the increasing severity of water problems
generated by excessive resource use, due to pressure from the EU, and due
to the changing structure of the Italian administration (towards
decentralization and eventually federalism).
Since the end of the 1980s attempts to integrate started at different levels.
An increasing degree of complexity and a higher degree of decentralization
(i.e. an increasing number of actors in the water policy arena) are the main
elements characterizing a complex regime. The effort towards integration is
conflictual, since it reflects the tensions between the empowerment of the
Regions and of the local municipalities, which are intrinsic to the Italian
State Reform. Institutional forces are essentially represented by the
empowerment of the Regions and by the leading role played by the
European Union. Social triggers can be identified with the increasing
awareness concerning the environment, water quality and its impact on
human health, and the strengthening of environmental movements although
their presence in Italy is still quite weak.
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 163
5.8 Regime transitions and change triggers in
Switzerland
Swiss water policies have mainly developed along three different water
issues, resulting in the development of three rather separate policy
communities:
1. After several catastrophic floods in the second half of the 19th century,
flood protection started to be regulated at the level of the Confederation.
2. At the beginning of the 20th century, this was followed by national
legislation on the use of water for energy production, responding to
technological evolution. After the Civil Code of 1912 a concession
system was established for the utilization of water for hydropower
production.
3. With the emergence of water quality problems in many parts of the
country due to growing population density and industrialization, mainly
after World War II, water quality protection was introduced as a third
issue in water policy in the 1950s.
Period 1912-1953
In 1912 the Swiss Civil Code was introduced, which set a unified regulatory
system at national level and introduced state property rights to water. Before
then, property rights were only regulated at cantonal level.
Period 1953-1975
In 1953 a new article in the Swiss Federal Constitution on the protection of
water bodies against pollution was adopted, followed in 1955 by a Federal
Law on the Protection of Waters against Pollution. Water quality protection
intensified by limitation of wastewater ‘discharge rights’ as use rights on
water.
Period 1975-1991
In 1975 a new article in the Federal Swiss Constitution was adopted, which
added a quantity dimension (mainly involving residual flows) to the existing
protection of water quality. New restrictions on water uses were added,
especially with respect to hydropower production. The article on water
resource management prescribes residual flows in watercourses and streams.
The 1975 transition is an important turning point, because of the introduction
of a principle on the ‘unity of water management’, which implies that water
management should deal with the three sectors of water policy
simultaneously. From that time on, restrictions could be placed on uses in
the interest of other uses. For instance, the drawing of large quantities of
164 Chapter 5
water for hydropower production could be restricted for reasons of nature
conservation or protection of the hydrological cycle.
Period 1991-1997
In 1991 a new Federal Law on the Protection of Waters was adopted, which
finally substantiated the principles defined in the constitutional article of
1975. The law offers a framework for the integration of sectoral policies,
which opens up the way for a more integrated regime. Water uses (like
irrigation and hydropower production) and farming activities as diffuse
pollution sources start to be considered as target groups of Swiss water
policy. This new federal law also imposes an obligation to maintain suitable
residual flows for water bodies. It establishes a series of water protection
targets, which also cover the ecological functions of water bodies. Federal
regulations set minimum flows and cantons may then establish more detailed
regulations, allowing for economic and ecological factors on a case-by-case
basis. These requirements apply when new concessions are granted or
existing ones are renewed. For existing concessions (often granted for 99
years) there is no minimum flow requirement, even when this would be
necessary to preserve or renew biological life of watercourses downstream
of abstraction points. Efforts are being made to persuade those concerned to
collaborate voluntarily.
Period from 1997 onwards
The 1991 Federal Law on the Protection of Waters was revised in 1997,
formally introducing the ‘polluter pays principle’ into Swiss water policy.
Putting this principle into effect represents a major change in Swiss water
protection policy.
Triggers
The main triggers behind regime changes in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries were natural hazards, which resulted in a need for central
intervention, due to the fact that several cantons were generally affected by
these events. The Civil Code of 1912 was more promoted by a general
political evolution of the Swiss Confederation than by a need that
specifically arose from water policy itself. Natural hazards (floods in the 19th
century) led to correction and drainage works marked by a very technologyoriented
strategy. The ‘use of water’ issue had a similar point of departure in
the sense that a new technology (hydropower) was powerfully promoted to
achieve promising economic gains. All these economically oriented uses,
growing in number and intensity, later resulted in a degradation of the
resource and provoked the entrance into the policy arena of ‘protection
oriented’ actors and objectives, and related confrontations and conflicts.
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 165
Both problem pressure (new uses, pollution, rivalries) and institutional
elements (like direct democracy) had an impact on regime development.
They forced transitions in each of the policy communities, but they did not
force integration.
Problem pressure (new uses, pollution, rivalries). Perceived
disfunctionalities of the water system politicized water issues, which
accelerated the change process. Moreover, this tendency was accentuated by
the popular initiative ‘To save our waters’ in 1984, and by the emergence of
local disputes concerning projects involving the exploitation of water. Such
disputes were widely reported in the media. There has been a bottom-up
pressure created by several popular initiatives. The rights of initiative had an
accelerating impact on the change process, whereas the rights of referendum
appear to have been used as means to finding concerted solutions (e.g.
consensus regarding residual flows before the adoption of the Federal Law
on the Protection of Water of 1991). Environmental NGOs became
increasingly involved in the process of finding solutions for water-related
problems in the 1980s, resulting in an ecologization of water policies.
Direct democracy. The Swiss political system traditionally awards
considerable weight to non-public actors through the right of referendum and
popular initiative. In 1983 the Federal Law on the Protection of the
Environment even introduced a right of objection in case of specific water
works. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s there was increasing pressure
from groups in society to make progress with water quality protection with
the help of further subsidies for the construction of wastewater treatment
plants. They acted through their representatives and also by means of a
popular initiative.
Environmental policy record. Switzerland has a strong commitment to
resource protection. The 1991 adoption of a Law on the Protection of Water
was preceded and gradually prepared by various political decisions in the
field of environmental protection (e.g. the Law on the Protection of the
Environment of 1983, which introduced the polluter pays principle as well as
planning and co-ordination instruments, and several attempts to establish a
more comprehensive view of water management in the context of the 1975
Constitutional amendment).
Administrative structure and co-governance. The main obstacle to
integration efforts seems to lie in the traditional Swiss federalist system,
which assigns responsibilities for policy implementation in many areas to the
cantons. Hence, integration efforts on water basin level require a bottom-up
effort from the different cantons within the water basin area. Disposal rights
to public waters are in the hands of the different cantons. Water policies are
traditionally organized within the framework of the Swiss federalist political
system. Although we observe a strong tendency towards centralization of
166 Chapter 5
water policies in favor of the Confederation, the cantons are still mainly
responsible for the implementation of these policies by means of their own
cantonal legislation. Cantons are essentially responsible for water protection,
nature and landscape conservation. Regional planning involves three main
administrative levels (municipal land allocation plans, cantons’ framework
plans, and federal sectoral designs and plans).
EU directives and economic triggers. EU standards are gradually being
adopted due to strong economic and trade relations with the EU. Even if
Switzerland has not yet become a member of the EU, as a result of strong
economic and trade relations with the EU the country is somehow silently
and gradually adapting to EU standards and directives. The Swiss national
water regime evolution emerged in the context of a movement in the EU
towards the integration and ecologization of water management.
Funding needs for water quality protection. Confederation grants to
cantons and municipalities have helped to fund considerable investment in
wastewater collection and treatment. Water quality has thereby greatly
improved. In the 1990s the Confederation fell behind in payments of grants,
and municipal funding was inadequate to cover the necessary renovation of
existing wastewater collection and treatment facilities. This and other
reasons led the Federal Council to include reference to the PPP (“polluterpays-
principle”) in the revision of the Water Protection Act enforced in
1997.
5.9 Conclusions
We have seen that all of the six European water regimes described evolved
from simple regimes during the 19th and first half of the 20th century to
complex regimes after World War II. From the 1950s on the demands for
resource use increase strongly and various new use types and use functions
are added to the regime extent. This is due to a rapidly growing population
and related economic growth, industrialization and urban expansion. In the
1960s we see that an growing attention for natural aspects of water resources
was followed by the incorporation of environmental aspects into water
management in the 1970s, and ecological aspects in the 1980s. In the 1980s,
besides surface water issues, groundwater issues were also getting into the
spotlight. Around 1985 we see first attempts towards integrated water
management in most countries. However, this does not imply that an
integration attempt directly changes the regime of a country from a complex
into an integrated one. In fact, we conclude that only France and the
Netherlands have developed towards integrated regimes around 1990. The
other countries described still have complex regimes in which integration
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 167
attempts are not sufficiently coherent and are struggling with regime
fragmentation.
5.9.1 Assessment of regime integration
In case of France the Water Act of 1992 was a crucial transition, while water
basin management had an early start in that country. As early as 1964 the
country adopted water legislation which created water agencies at basin
scale, recognizing regional variation and the need for specific solutions.
Almost thirty years later, in 1992, France adopted another important water
act, based on improved integrative thinking, promoting planning, creating
local institutions, better addressing environmental issues, for instance by
introducing a better application of cost recovery and the polluter pays
principle. The French regime is strong in taking account of regional
differences by means of innovations in administrative organization and
planning. However, a weak point is still that the regime is very much policy
driven and that it is reserved in affecting the property rights structure. This
appears clearly in case of regulating the agricultural target group.
In the case of the Netherlands the transition of 1985, which became
effectuated around 1989, is of crucial importance for achieving an integrated
regime. Historically, the need to protect the land from high water from rivers
and sea, and the tradition of artificially draining low-lying areas, has given
the country a complex hydraulic infrastructure. In the 1960s and the 1970s
the traditional water engineering approach started to come under fire, which
resulted in the adoption of rival water values and the greening of water
engineering. From 1985 on ecological aspects of water systems became
incorporated in water management, shifting the regime from a complex to an
integrated status. Since the early 1990s the country has been involved in a
paradigm change to its flood protection approach, trying to store water in
retention areas, while maintaining but not expanding the country’s
infrastructure of dyke fortifications. Especially in flood plains new rivalries
have evolved between water use and other land uses. This requires not only
integrated water management, but also integration between water and land
use management. This is a new integrative challenge for the country,
although it initially decreases the coherence of the water regime until that
regime has developed mechanisms for a better control over land use rights to
protect floodplains.
In the case of Switzerland it is remarkable that this country always has
been very pro-active in resource protection and water management and tried
to harmonize with European standards for water management, but that it did
not build up an integrated regime. Although its regime could be highly
qualified in terms of its contribution to ecological sustainability, the regime
168 Chapter 5
is fragmented into three persisting policy communities. Switzerland has a
(con)federalist system where cantons often function as laboratories for
national solutions. The heterogeneous geographical situation leads to very
different solutions to water problems. The strong position of the cantons
gives room for highly varying resource regimes at regional level, in which
the property rights structure appears to be stronger than in most other
European countries (except for Spain). At the level of the confederation,
Switzerland is somehow silently and gradually adapting to European
standards and directives, due to strong economic and trade relations with the
EU. However, the country is not easily adopting the river basin approach as
advocated by the EU, since its water regime is fragmented and organized
according to rivalries. Three important institutional arrangements for water
management are identified, which are separated along three traditional
issues: flood protection (recognized by 19th century legislation); utilization
of water, mainly for hydropower (recognized by early 20th century
legislation); water protection (recognized by water quality legislation in the
1950s, and strengthened by additional legislation in 1975 and 1991, which
added a quantitative dimension). These three separate policy communities
appear to be very persistent and only tend to open up under very heavy
pressure. In the 1990s there was great awareness in Switzerland of how
crucial water is to the quality of life and how crucial it is to develop an
integrated approach. Numerous projects reflect this integrating function.
However, water policy has hitherto benefited little from integrated
management that takes account of all functions and resource users (e.g.
nature, agriculture, energy, land use planning). Long-term water use
concessions for hydropower generation very much obstruct ecosystem
protection.
In the case of Belgium we see that the country performs good integration
attempts in the 1990s, but delays a great deal in its implementation of its
water policies, especially the one for surface water protection. Compared to
the other European countries we described, Belgium has a very poor
performance in wastewater treatment. The complicated, drawn-out process
of institutional reform in this country is a significant explanation for the
delay. Belgium is a federal state with three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and
Brussels) which have been rather autonomous in their water management
since 1993, when the Belgian state became a full federal state. The Belgian
case is interesting in that it shows two regions with different types of
regimes. In Flanders water management procedures are more centralized and
more subject to central planning, while in Wallonia the local level is much
more autonomous and water management is characterized by bottom-up
decision making. Neither regional system is sufficiently integrated. The
Flemish system lacks participation of local actors, while the Walloon system
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 169
is poor in planning. Since the mid-1990s, in both regions much work has
been done to create a coherent water management framework of legislation,
institutions, policies and plans. New water pricing and wastewater charge
and tax systems have been in place since the early 1990s to help finance the
investments being made in new sewers and wastewater treatment plants.
Industrial pollution discharges have been reduced since then.
In the case of Spain we see that the late start of a democratization process
in 1978 and the relatively late entrance to the European Community in 1985
are responsible for a delay in water management performance and a late start
to environmental policy. Although the country has been very active since the
mid-1980s to harmonize with European standards, its water regime is very
much focused on dealing with water scarcity for which reason quantity and
quality management are still not well integrated. Water scarcity is
dominating the agenda for water management. The strategies to deal with
water scarcity seem quite diverse and broadly confront those in favor of a
supply approach and those in favor of a demand approach. While policies at
the national level seem to favor facilitating water supply by means of the
construction of large hydraulic projects, transferring water between river
basins, there are few experiences in which this traditional approach has been
replaced by a new one in which demand control is a guiding principle.
Although the 1985 Water Act and the institutionalization of a new
environmental ministry in 1996 are clear attempts at resource protection,
private property rights and granted long-term concessions still obstruct
policies that aim at ecosystem protection. However, the 1985 Water Act and
its amendment in 1999 have been attempts to strengthen the public domain,
to impose restrictions to the exploitation system, and to achieve more
efficiency (demand management). On the other hand, the failed attempts to
adopt a National Hydrological plan in 1993 and 1994, and the opposition
surrounding the adoption of that plan in 2001, reveal an absence of regime
coherence. The National Hydrological Plan of 2001 is firmly based on huge
inter-basin transfers of water as a way of redistributing water on Spanish
territory. In this way, the plan does not face the scarcity problem by adopting
efficiency criteria based on the rationalization of its use and the
modernization of irrigation systems, but by constructing large infrastructural
projects having an impact on ecosystems at a large scale.
In the case of Italy we see that the country, despite its European
membership from the beginning, has been very late in the implementation of
European water policies in its national water management. Until 1986, it left
most responsibility for water management to regional and local authorities.
The delayed integrative thinking at the national level, as well as fragmented
integration attempts at the national level, are responsible for a complex and
still very fragmented national water regime. Water management in Italy is
170 Chapter 5
incoherent due to the fact that it struggles with three competing integration
principles which all have been introduced over a period of 15 years. These
principles have a different definition of the problem, they assume different
constellations of actors involved, and they have different implementation
problems. The first integration principle was adopted in 1989. It promotes
integration at the scale of river basins, mostly concerned with the
quantitative dimension, and managed by a network of water basin
authorities. The second principle, adopted in 1994, advocates integration at
the scale of the optimum area for water supply and purification, mostly
concerned with the establishment of an integrated water service, and
therefore with water as a commodity, and managed by a network in which
the regional governments and local authorities play a major role. The third
principle, adopted in 1999, introduces integration at the scale of the water
body, mostly concerned with the qualitative dimension, and managed by a
network in which the regional governments and the environmental
administration seem to be the key actors. The implementation structure for
these three principles is not only too complicated but also too simple.
Especially local authorities have too many roles to play simultaneously,
which results in an unstable regime, because they have to choose which role
to play. Despite this regime fragmentation, Italy has clearly chosen in 1994
to claim the public ownership of all water resources and to set a hierarchy
between various uses of water, giving priority to human consumption. By
this, environmental and sustainability considerations were explicitly
addressed.
5.9.2 Triggers for regime change
We have seen a very mixed picture of factors that have triggered regime
changes and attempts towards integration. In all countries problem pressure
has had an influence on regime changes. In general, sudden events or
calamities, like floods or droughts, have been stronger triggers than the
gradual degradation of a resource, like surface or groundwater pollution. It
also matters which user or use function is affected by problem pressure. It
seems that problem pressure as a trigger is stronger if it affects the general
population (like public health) or some economic use or user (like
agriculture). If problem pressure is a matter of loss of natural values or
deterioration of ecosystems and economically strong rival uses or use
functions are at stake (like hydropower generation or agricultural irrigation
or drainage), it seems that problem pressure has less effect on regime
change. So, problem pressure is related to a specific use or use function of a
water resource, and it depends on the balance between countervailing powers
within a rivalry to what extent problem pressure affects a regime.
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 171
International agreements and European water policy also appear to have
some effect on regime change in all countries. However, the extent to which
it has influence depends on other country specific circumstances. For
instance, if we consider the early European directives on surface water
quality, we see an enormous variation among countries in terms of
implementation performance. Countries like Belgium and Italy, although
they are founding fathers of the European Community, are much delayed
with respect to wastewater treatment. In this context, it is remarkable that the
EU Member States which are performing better on wastewater treatment
(France, Netherlands) have much earlier adopted the polluter pays principle
and the principle of full cost recovery. This allowed them to generate
financial means for the construction and operation of wastewater treatment
plants, and thus to fund implementation. The Netherlands has applied the
principle of full cost recovery from 1970 on. France raised charges
considerably in 1992, which importantly increased the wastewater treatment
performance. Switzerland, on the other hand, has lately adopted and applied
both principles (in 1997), but from the beginning it has invested a lot in
wastewater treatment with contributions from general budgets. Countries
like Belgium, Italy and Spain (which entered the EC much later, in 1985),
have not done this. The EU Urban Waste Water Directive of 1991 had much
more impact on the EU Member States in the sense that it has induced a
speed up of investments in wastewater treatment in all countries. The Nitrate
Directive on Groundwater (1991) is also an example of an EU directive with
considerable impact on the Member States, especially the ones with
intensive agriculture and fertilizer applications on agricultural soils
(Netherlands and Belgium). It has induced these countries to adopt and
speed up the implementation of agricultural pollution regulations.
All country reports mention the importance of political triggers,
especially democratization and participation developments, and the role
played by environmental and nature conservation NGOs. In the Netherlands
water management started to become politicized in the 1960s, resulting in a
paradigm change of the traditional engineering approach adopted by the state
water authority and the regional water boards. In Belgium environmental
groups became influential in the 1990s, especially after the Declaration of
Rio in 1992 and the participation of green parties in the national cabinet in
1999. In the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, planning has been an
instrument to allow participation of new users and to deal with rivalries. In
the Netherlands and France participation of users is institutionalized in water
boards and river basin committees, to which they may elect representatives.
The country report on Spain reports the entrance of environmental NGOs in
the policy arena in the 1990s, in combination with the creation of a new
environmental ministry in 1996. When a plurality of interests enters the
172 Chapter 5
policy arena, it openly clashes with the traditional approaches of water
policy. This is especially a clash between the traditional approach of supply
management and interbasin transfers versus the approach stressing the
importance of demand management. In the country report on Italy, an
increasing importance of environmentalists is reported, although their role in
Italy is still quite minor. In Switzerland, the political system traditionally
affords considerable weight to non-public actors through the right of
referendum and popular initiative (direct democracy). During the 1960s,
1970s and 1980s there has been increasing pressure from groups in society
to make progress with water quality protection with the help of further
subsidies for the construction of wastewater treatment plants.
The country reports also mention the importance of institutional triggers,
especially the role of an environmental ministry, and the dedication of the
national government to environmental issues and protective interests. The
Netherlands, Belgium, France and Switzerland all established an
environmental ministry around 1970, while Italy established one in 1986 and
Spain in 1996. In the case of Belgium, however, environmental policy was
delegated to the regions in 1980. Institutional reform has delayed the
effective operation of environmental departments in the Belgian regions. In
case of Spain, it also had a kind of environmental department before 1996,
albeit a rather fragmented one. For the Netherlands, France and Switzerland
it seems that the active role of a national environmental ministry has been
important for the dedication of the national government to environmental
issues and protective interests. In case of Belgium, Italy and Spain the
country reports mention that the entrance of an environmental ministry into
the water policy arena has triggered regime change in terms of the
recognition of environmental and ecological aspects of water systems.
Related to the role of an environmental ministry is the extent to which a
country has developed integrative capacity at the national level for water
management. In the cases of the Netherlands and France we have seen that
they have centralized water management to a large extent and created an
influential role for the national level. In the case of Belgium we have seen a
lack of co-ordination at the national level, and gridlock in water management
due to institutional reform. Since the process of regionalization was
completed in 1993, the regions started to develop integrative capacity on
their own. In the case of Spain we see incoherence in the national water
regime due to intervention of the national authorities in the water regimes of
the autonomous regions. While the regionalization process, started in 1978,
allowed regions to develop their own integrative capacity to deal with water
management, the National Hydrological Plan of 2001 allows interbasin
transfers between regions, thereby resisting sustainability arguments of some
affected autonomous regions. In Italy we noticed that due to a void at the
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 173
national level, which existed until 1986, water management as well as the
implementation of European water policy was left to regional and local
authorities. Only after 1986, with the birth of the Ministry for Environment
and the subsequent creation of national and regional environmental agencies,
there has been an attempt to create a national dimension in water quality
policy. But the EU on the one hand and the regions on the other had already
occupied most of the policy space. The national attempts towards integration
(1989, 1994, 1999) are incoherent, since they reflect the tensions between
the empowerment of the regions and of the local municipalities which are
intrinsic to the Italian state reform. Also in Switzerland, the main obstacle to
integration efforts seems to lie in the traditional Swiss federalist system
which assigns responsibilities for policy implementation in many areas to the
cantons. To conclude, it seems that the Netherlands and France have
developed a more coherent institutional structure for co-governance between
central and regional authorities in dealing with water management, in the
sense that a strong integrative capacity is organized at the central level while
setting the frame for water management at the regional level. It seems to be
crucial that national authorities do make strategic use of decentral
organizations at water basin level (like the Water Boards in the Netherlands
and the River basin Committees and Water Agencies in France), which deal
with all aspects of water management and not only with quantity or quality
issues (like the Drainage Basin Authorities in Spain, which are only dealing
with water distribution, or the separate decentral institutions which Italy
created for quantity management in 1989 and quality management in 1999).
5.9.3 Restraints on regime change
We also find triggers in the various countries which have a negative impact
on regime change. In fact these are restraints on regime change. In the
Belgian and Italian reports, institutional reform has been identified as such a
restraint. In Belgium the process of federalization has importantly restrained
regime developments during the period from 1970 until 1993. In Italy a
process of decentralization started with the creation of regions in 1972. Since
then the regions as well as local authorities have been gradually empowered.
However, until now, there have been continuously tensions between the
empowerment of the regions and of the local authorities, which seems to be
intrinsic to the Italian State Reform.
Another restraint on regime change, which has been mentioned in the
country reports on Spain and Switzerland, are private property rights and
long-term water use concessions. In case of Spain, there have been several
attempts (especially by means of the 1985 Water Act) to eliminate private
property rights on water resources and to advance the expiration date of such
174 Chapter 5
rights and of water use concessions. Since these attempts had a limited
effect, the 1999 amendment of the 1985 Water Act introduced a water
market in the sense that concession holders may sell their surplus to other
concession holders in order to achieve more efficiency. In Switzerland, too,
the property rights structure is very strong and a source of resistance to
regime change. Water use concessions for hydropower generation have been
granted for very long periods of up to 99 years. Many of them can only be
amended voluntarily. By contrast, we see in countries with a stronger
developed public domain (Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Italy since
1994) that private property rights and concessions are much less a restraint.
Finally, there is a restraint mentioned in all country reports. This is the
restraint of a traditional engineering approach in water management,
resulting in artificial solutions for water resource problems and, by that,
generating other resource problems. For instance, engineered systems for
irrigation and drainage lead to improvement for specific purposes, but they
also cause water depletion and disrupted ecosystems of watercourses. In
Spain we see that the very uneven seasonal and geographical distribution of
water supply and demand has led to the construction of an extensive water
storage and redistribution infrastructure. In the Netherlands, we see that the
need to protect the land from high water and the tradition of artificially
draining low-lying areas have given the country a complex hydraulic
infrastructure. The flow and level of almost every water system in the
country is artificially controlled. In many countries we see that the
traditional approach to providing flood protection has been strongly biased
in favor of providing engineered measures (embankments, canalization, and
so on) to keep floodwaters away from human settlements.
5.9.4 Highly complex institutional regimes struggling with
fragmentation
We have considered institutional sustainability in terms of the extent and
coherence of resource regimes. A combination of high extent and high
coherence indicates an integrated resource regime. We concluded that all the
national resource regimes we considered have been evolving towards an
integrated regime from the 1980s on. France and the Netherlands have
established the most integrated regimes. The regimes of the other countries
should be typified as complex regimes (high extent but low or medium
coherence). However, all these countries (including France and the
Netherlands) struggle with complexity and all suffer to various degrees from
fragmentation. So we might better conclude that the French and Dutch
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 175
regimes are less fragmented than the others7. With respect to coherence, we
distinguish between the external coherence of public policies and property
rights, and the internal coherence of the property rights subsystem and the
public policy subsystem – each considered separately. The French and Dutch
regimes in particular are integrated in terms of a high internal coherence of
the public policy subsystem. They are still struggling to improve the external
coherence between their public policies and existing property rights.
Although both countries have developed a strong public domain (in 1992
water became a ‘res nullius’ in the Netherlands and France proclaimed water
an object of national heritage, which could be interpreted as proclaiming that
it is ‘state property’), they still have problems with effectuating use rights
that interfere with the policy objectives of water management (for instance,
land use rights in floodplains in the Netherlands, and agricultural water use
rights in France). Countries like Italy and Spain have formally proclaimed
that waters are public and belong to the public domain (Italy in 1994; Spain
in 1985), but Italy suffers from a low internal coherence of its public policy
subsystem, while Spain has not been able to eliminate pre-existing private
property rights over water. Furthermore, the long term character of Spanish
water use concessions and the way inter-basin transfers are allowed are
detrimental to the public good claim on water resources. The Spanish regime
therefore suffers from external incoherence between property rights and
public policies, as well as incoherence within the property rights subsystem.
In the case of Switzerland, the country also has developed a strong public
domain, but the national regime suffers from internal incoherence of the
public policy subsystem (based on three separated policy communities) and
from external incoherence between federal policies and the rigid property
rights structure which is strongly in favor of protecting disposition rights by
the cantons and existing concessions for hydropower generation. In Belgium
the picture is mixed due to the autonomy that the regions possess to develop
their own water regime. The regime in Wallonia seems to be more public
policy driven, while the regime in Flanders is more property rights driven.
Belgium especially suffers from a relatively slow development of extent,
which appears especially from the late recognition that surface water
protection policies had to be effectively implemented. This is especially due
to the process of institutional reform (federalization) which enforced a
severe delay on the evolution of the Belgian water regimes.
7 Young (1982) advocates “not to promote coherence as a normative criterion for the
evaluation of resource regimes. But the common occurrence of incoherence in this realm
suggests that it is important not to rely too heavily on neat analytic constructs in
interpreting real-world situations and that we must learn to think about the implications of
contradictions in examining resource regimes.” (Young 1982: 53)
176 Chapter 5
In all six countries we noticed in general a strongly increasing
complexity of bundles of property rights and a strongly evolving public
domain in terms of a communalization of water ownership and use rights.
Young (1982) has already explained that “though private property is often
regarded as sacred, the rights of private owners have been significantly
curtailed in many areas through the actions of public authorities, and the
power of eminent domain is regularly used to take private property for
public purposes in the absence of voluntary consent” (Young 1982: 24). He
indicated that “there has been some tendency for these restrictions to become
more extensive in modernized and densely populated societies” (Young,
1982: 21). We should also notice that in Western European countries, even
in the early 19th century, water resources and the benefits they could generate
were never entirely subject to private property. There have always been
restrictions on private ownership and private use rights by the legal
definition of some public domain. However, during the 20th century, and
especially after World War II, an increasing nationalization or
communalization of water resources could be perceived, in spite of the
ownership arrangement. States are increasingly controlling the access to
water resources and are allowing more and more users to claim some form of
access. Since the 1970s, new forms of access are especially being given to
recreational, environmental and ecological use functions of water bodies. On
the other hand, in terms of restricting private use rights, it still appears to be
difficult for Western European states to get a grip on water use rights that
cause diffuse water pollution or water depletion, and on land use rights in
floodplains that indirectly contribute to problems of flooding as well as
droughts. So the public domain of these countries is still weak in terms of
restricting private property in these aspects, and thus national regimes are
weak on external coherence in this respect.
Considering the public policy subsystem of resource regimes and its
internal coherence, we distinguished five dimensions of governance (1.
multi-level; 2. multi-actor; 3. multi-perspective; 4. multi-instrument; 5.
multi-resource). With respect to the multi-level dimension we may conclude
that most countries are struggling to develop an effective structure for cogovernance
between the various administrative levels involved in water
management. The French and Dutch structures are the most elaborate;
Belgium has set its final structure just recently (1993); Spain is struggling
with interventions in the autonomous regions from the central level (interbasin
transfers); Italy is weak on providing integration from the central level;
Switzerland is struggling with incoherence between federal attempts to
integrate and a strong cantonal autonomy, on which the implementation of
federal initiatives depends completely. With respect to the multi-actor
dimension, we see in all countries an increased participation of new users,
Comparing the evolution of national water regimes in Europe 177
environmental NGOs, and the general public in water issues. However, the
degree to which this participation is institutionalized varies a great deal
among the countries: participation is more institutionalized in the
Netherlands, France and Switzerland than it is in Belgium, Spain and Italy.
With respect to the multi-perspective dimension we conclude that all
countries are rather similar in the evolution of extent. Although there are
great ambitions for water management in all countries, the effectiveness of
this ambition very much depends on the two dimensions related to the
availability of policy instruments and resources for implementation. With
respect to the multi-instrument dimension and considering the adoption of
integrated water legislation as an important indicator, we see that the
Netherlands and France have adopted such streamlined legislation,
considering the resource as an integral one (in terms of quantity, quality,
surface and groundwater, as well as the ecological aspects of the water
system) in 1989 (Netherlands) and 1992 (France). Italy and Switzerland
show attempts at integrated legislation in 1989 (Italy) and 1992
(Switzerland). Although these attempts have an integral appearance, they are
based on an incomplete integral approach. Belgium and Spain have not yet
developed integrated legislation. With respect to the multi-resource
dimension we conclude that countries show a huge variation. The
availability of resources for implementation partly depends on the creation
of an effective structure for co-governance between the various
administrative levels. It also depends significantly on the availability of
money for implementation, important indicators of which are the public
expenditure per capita on water management and the application of full cost
recovery of water services. We noticed that the Netherlands, France and
Switzerland have a much greater public expenditure and have more strictly
applied the full cost recovery principle than Belgium, Spain and Italy.
To summarize the evolution of national water regimes: property rights on
water resources have developed into more complex bundles of rights,
especially from the 1950s on. According to Young (1982: 29): “Sometimes
these problems can be handled through the simple expedient of adopting
priority rules among individual rights and rules, indicating which right or
rule is to prevail in the event of a conflict. But the existence of this problem
also constitutes one of the principal arguments for the establishment of
explicit organizations in conjunction with many resource regimes.” The need
for co-ordination increased. A public domain evolved in which public
authorities are restricting private use rights to guarantee access by rival users
and to protect use functions of water resources (especially environmental
and ecological functions) which are not very well represented by specific
target groups. Despite the fact that a strong public domain is in place, this
178 Chapter 5
domain still has problems with getting a grip on specific private use rights
when certain activities cause diffuse pollution, when economic activities
require water uses, and the problem of land use in floodplains. Furthermore,
the public domain is struggling with incoherencies in the public policy
subsystem of the regime. Young (1982: 61) has already warned that “the
introduction of explicit organizations opens up an additional range of issues
pertaining to the operation of resource regimes.” Aspects that especially
deserve attention are an effective, multi-level organization of water
management (in terms of co-governance between central and decentral
authorities), institutionalization of participation opportunities for rival users,
developing integrated legislation, and creating sufficient resources for
implementation in terms of public expenditure and based on full cost
recovery of water services.
REFERENCE
Kissling-Näf, Ingrid, and Stefan Kuks (2004) The evolution of national water regimes in
Europe. Dordrecht: Springer
Young, O.R. (1982) Resource Regimes. Natural Resources and Social Institutions. Berkeley-
Los Angeles-London: University of California Press.
179
Chapter 6
The transition of local regimes in the Netherlands
6.1 Introduction
The Netherlands is a relatively small, crowded country, located in the delta
of three European river basins: the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt. The
country depends very much on transboundary inflows. Not only in terms of
water quality and its vulnerability to upstream pollution sources, but also
considering the country’s dependence on over 75% of its total water
resources coming from rivers abroad. Over 30% of the total surface area of
the Netherlands lies below sea level, protected from the sea in the west and
north by barriers of dunes and dykes. As much as 50% of the country’s area
is vulnerable to flooding from the sea or rivers. The Netherlands has a
population of about 16 million inhabitants, an average of 470 inhabitants per
km2, giving it one of the highest population densities in the world. The
highest concentrations are in the low-lying urban areas in the west of the
country, which is the urbanized area including cities like Amsterdam,
Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. All Dutch urban areas together cover
about 14% of the country’s total surface. More than 50% of the country’s
area is agricultural land, and about 17% is water. Through Dutch history,
there always has been a tension between urban, economic and agricultural
development on the one hand, and the space naturally claimed by water in a
delta area on the other. The need to protect the land from high water from
rivers and sea, and the tradition of artificially draining low-lying areas, have
given the country a complex hydraulic infrastructure. Through the ages the
flow and level of almost every water body in the country have been subject
to human control.
Although the Netherlands is internationally appreciated for its great
expertise in water engineering solutions, the country also struggled with
critics from various groups in society on the predominant civil engineering
orientation in Dutch water management. In fact these criticisms, which
started to find expression in the 1960s and 1970s, politicized water
management and initiated a debate in society on water values. The critics
180 Chapter 6
placed a greater value on the meaning of ‘open’ water for recreation, nature
conservation, water storage, and the experience of unspoiled space in an
already crowded and highly planned country. The intensification of
agriculture since the 1950s and the related canalization of natural water
courses and deterioration of landscape were also increasingly criticized.
These criticisms resulted in a gradual greening of water engineering. In the
1980s, nature conservation and ecosystem protection became focal points of
water management. The focus changed not only at the national level, where
the state water authority [Rijkswaterstaat] takes responsibility for the main
water bodies throughout the country, but also at the regional level, where for
many centuries water boards [waterschappen] have been responsible for
regional water management. The predominant focus of water boards on
drainage for agricultural and urban development turned into an integral
water system approach, combining quality and quantity aspects of water
management, acknowledging the interrelatedness of surface and
groundwater, and taking into account the value of water for the surrounding
ecosystem (Grijns & Wisserhof 1992; Snijdelaar 1993; Disco 1998).
During the 1990s the Dutch scope of water management widened even
further. River floods in 1992 and 1995 and high water in 1998, causing large
scale evacuations of inhabitants and enormous damage to property, triggered
the awareness that the Dutch hydraulic infrastructure is facing increasing
problems in keeping high water under control. Although climate change
causes a rising sea level and higher rainfall peaks, which strengthens the
dynamics of river basins, it is especially human interventions in river basins
that have caused an enormous loss of space which is needed to store
excessive quantities of water. Land use decisions of the past have taken
insufficient into account that a delta area cannot completely rely on artificial
control of water levels, and therefore needs space along rivers to allow river
levels rise and fall in a more natural way. Water management has always
served land use decision making, but now it should be the other way around:
land use planning should consider water as a guiding principle for decision
making. Nowadays, the challenge faced by the Netherlands is to harbor
water in a crowded delta area (Commissie WB21).
In section 6.2 of this chapter we consider the most important transitions
towards integration in national water management during the past decades.
In the following sections we question what has been the practice of
integrated water management in two water basins as cases. Section 6.3 is
about the IJsselmeer area in the heart of the Netherlands, an area where an
interesting variety of water management dilemmas is revealed. Water
management in this area is directed by the state water authority, although
decentral water authorities are becoming increasingly influential. Section 6.4
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 181
is about the Regge river basin in the east of the Netherlands, a case which is
considered to be one of the earliest examples of integrated water
management at the regional level. Water management in this river basin is
dominated by a regional water authority (water board), called ‘Waterschap
Regge en Dinkel’. In section 6.5 we discuss the conditions under which
water basin regimes could become more integrated. What could be the
influence of national and European conditions in achieving regime
transitions at water basin scale? We also discuss the difficulties that
integration attempts are facing and how easily integration might turn into
fragmentation. The chapter ends with a concluding section.
6.2 Transitions towards integration in the national water
regime
We are interested in transformation processes of water basin regimes,
especially how they transform from complex into integrated regimes. In the
case of the Netherlands such a transformation process started in the 1960s,
with important transitions in the national water regime around 1968/69, 1985
and 1995. We shall consider these three transitions more closely to
determine what kind of integration has been achieved. We use the indicators
for integration as they are defined in this book, which means we look at the
increase of extent and coherence. Although the identification of transitional
moments is based on the appearance of important integration attempts at the
national level in that year, we are aware that such attempts are part of a
longer transformation process which generally started several years before
and also continues for a few years after the identified transitional moment.
For each transition, therefore, we describe the multi-year transformation
process in which it is embedded.
6.2.1 The 1968 and 1969 transition
Until the 1950s the Dutch national water regime had little complexity. Water
management was mainly a matter of flood prevention and water level
control. During the 1950s and 1960s the complexity increased, and at the
end of the 1960s first attempts at integrated water management could be
perceived. These attempts included the adoption of a first National Water
Policy Plan in 1968 and the adoption of a Surface Water Pollution Act in
1969. The water quantity oriented policy plan not only focused on flood
protection and drainage (water security), but also on water scarcity and the
rival demands of water supply, agriculture and navigation. The Surface
Water Pollution Act involved the quantity oriented water managers in active
182 Chapter 6
and passive water quality management. This means that they not only had to
construct and to operate waste water treatment plants (active quality
management), but also to work on the prevention of surface water pollution
by means of permits and charges for waste water discharges (passive quality
management). Water demand control and water quality protection thus
became an additional focus of water managers (Grijns & Wisserhof 1992).
The 1968 transition with respect to water demand control forms part of a
transformation process which had already started in the 1950s. After World
War II and a period of economic recovery in the 1950s, concerns were raised
about how to meet the demands for natural resources (water, space, nature),
needed by a growing economy and a growing population, which was also
demanding a higher living standard. In that context, a Groundwater Act for
Water Supply Companies was passed in 1954 to better guarantee a constant
and undisturbed water supply. In 1962 a Physical Planning Act was adopted,
allowing expropriation of land (for instance to the benefit of water drainage
as a public service), and introducing disadvantage compensation for the
effects of public planning on private property. In 1963 a Fisheries Act was
introduced to prevent over-catching and to generate a more efficient fisheries
industry. The Clearances Act [Ontgrondingwet] of 1965 and the Nature
Conservation Act of 1967 were the start of the protection of nature and
landscape resources against rival water and land uses. As a result, the 1950s
and 1960s are characterized by controlled use expansion, a debate on public
versus private interests, and redistribution of property rights (Van Hall,
1992). This was reflected in the first national water plan of 1968, since it
mainly focused on how to meet the future demands of an increasing
population and how to prevent rivalries related to water resources. The plan
clearly recognized problems of groundwater scarcity and the need for
demand-side management (Snijdelaar 1993).
The 1969 transition with respect to water quality protection is also part of
a transformation process which had already started in the 1950s. It has been
a transformation from sanitation to quality protection. Sanitation was a focus
of water management since the early 20th century, when sewage and supply
systems started to be constructed as public services, mainly at municipal
scale. After World War II the infrastructure for sewage and water supply
gradually expanded into rural areas. Meanwhile the awareness was growing
that sanitation measures would not be enough, and that something should be
done about the increasing pollution of water resources, related to the
expansion of economic activities after World War II. In the 1950s and early
1960s, many water boards and municipalities became active in the
preliminary construction of waste water treatment plants, to prevent direct
discharges of untreated sewage into surface waters. However, water boards
and municipalities were insufficiently equipped to handle this in a systematic
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 183
way. Initiatives were mostly restricted to areas with a high concentration of
inhabitants and industrial activities. This changed around 1970, when many
European countries, on the basis of international agreements, adopted
legislation to protect surface water quality, which the Netherlands did in
1969. The content of such legislation varied greatly among European
countries at that time. The Dutch Surface Water Pollution Act includes a
system of permits to regulate industrial waste water discharges and a charge
system with strong incentives based on the polluter-pays principle as well as
the principle of full cost recovery. The costs of construction, operation and
maintenance of wastewater treatment plants were to be fully recovered from
the polluters, and equivalent to the amount of pollution they emitted. The
charge system applies to both industrial and domestic polluters (Leemhuis-
Stout 1992).
Although the institutionalization of water quality management has been
an important step towards integrated water management, it did not involve a
direct integration between water quality and quantity management. Initially
water quality management was established as a sectoral water policy, with
its own separate water planning. In 1975, 1980 and 1985 the Dutch
environmental department introduced sectoral plans for water quality
protection, while in 1968 and 1984 sectoral policy documents for water
quantity issues were presented by the water department (Snijdelaar 1993).
While the Ministry for the Environment coordinated water quality issues,
other water issues were controlled by the Ministry of Transport, Public
Works and Water Management. In other words, the period from 1969 until at
least 1985 could also be characterized as a period of increasing complexity
and fragmentation.
6.2.2 The 1985 transition
A second important transition occurred around 1985 when the Dutch
national water ministry issued a policy discussion paper on ‘integrated water
management’ as a new approach for water managers. This advocated
considering water as a system in which surface water and groundwater are
interconnected. The new approach would be not only to integrate quantity
and quality aspects of the water system, but to also take account of the
system’s ecology. In fact, the second transition has been a crucial step in
implementing a water basin approach which allows ecological
considerations to enter water management decision making (Grijns &
Wisserhof 1992). The policy vision of 1985 was formalized as the Third
Integral Water Policy Plan of 1988, prefaced by the Second Sectoral Water
Policy Plan of 1984. The second policy plan recognized water depletion due
to over-drainage as a major problem for water management. It also
184 Chapter 6
advocated integration between surface water and groundwater quantity
management, but did not include quality aspects (Snijdelaar 1993).
Generally speaking, the 1985 transition was triggered by a general growing
environmental and ecological awareness in society, as well as by a
deregulation and integration tendency in politics in the early 1980s, resulting
in a political demand for more co-ordination by means of policy planning.
The same developments are clearly visible in Dutch environmental politics
of the 1980s, culminating in the National Environmental Policy Plan of
1989, which was the first Dutch policy plan that intended to coordinate all
sectoral environmental policies at the national level. Another important
change in the 1980s was the Constitutional revision of 1983, which
proclaimed that the public domain should be dedicated to the protection and
sustainable improvement of the living environment, including the natural
water system. The newly added Article 21 of the Constitution provided a
fundamental title for expropriation of all property rights which could harm
the protection of the living environment. Besides these more general
triggers, there ware several more specific contexts in the water policy field in
which the 1985 transition is embedded and which we explain further below.
After the extension of Dutch water management into the field of quality
protection of surface water in the 1960s and 1970s, the 1980s became an
important decade for the institutionalization of groundwater management in
the Netherlands. In 1981 a Groundwater Act was adopted to further regulate
extractions of groundwater, not just extractions by water supply companies,
like the previous Groundwater Act of 1954. While the Act of 1954 aimed to
better serve public supplies, the Act of 1981 intended more to redistribute
extraction rights among all users with extractions above 100,000 m3, by
creating a concession system. An important change introduced by the
Groundwater Act of 1981 is that it proclaimed that the interest of public
supply could no longer dominate the deliberation of interests. The
Groundwater Act of 1981 should be considered an act that deals with water
distribution, and not as an act that deals with water level management to
prevent water depletion. For that goal, another act has been adopted in 1989,
called the Water Management Act. This act introduced instruments for the
level control of surface and ground waters, which could restrict all use rights
affecting water tables, not only to prevent water depletion, but also to protect
ecosystems. In fact, the Water Management Act has been the vehicle for the
regional water boards, on the basis of which they could also use their
ordinances for the regulation of water uses to protect the natural and
ecological values of water systems (IJff 1993; Teeuwen et al. 1993). It has
been decided that ecological considerations are in the interest of the general
public, and therefore the general public should have seats and be represented
on the water boards. Since the charging system administered by the water
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 185
boards is based on a ‘profit-payment-participation’ principle, the extended
approach also implies that citizens should bear a certain share of the total
costs of water management.
With respect to groundwater, not only its quantity aspects started to be
regulated in the 1980s, but also its quality. In 1986, a Soil Protection Act
was adopted to prevent, limit, and remediate changes in soil properties,
especially applied to prevent agricultural contamination of ground and
surface water. This resulted in the limitation of farming practice rights to
protect groundwater, by means of standards for the application of animal and
artificial fertilizers on soils. During the 1990s, the restriction of farming
practice rights has gradually become more stringent, importantly induced by
the EU Nitrate Directive for Groundwater.
Due to the rising influence of ecological and environmental
considerations in Dutch water management during the 1980s, the need for
interpolicy cooperation between water policy, environmental policy, nature
conservation and agricultural policy increased greatly during that period.
While sectoral policy plans for water, environment, nature and land use have
become more integrated on their own during the 1980s, the integration
between these policy sectors appeared to be very difficult. For instance, this
has been very visible in the case of groundwater protection plans which are
formally dealt with as part of environmental policy planning rather than
water management planning, from which they are excluded for reasons of
demarcation competency.
6.2.3 The 1995 transition
In 1995 the Dutch authorities fundamentally changed their traditional
approach to river management and flood protection based on construction of
dyke fortifications along the river banks. Triggered by serious river floods in
1993 and 1995, ascribed to climate change, a new policy document (entitled
‘Space for Water’) was presented in 1995, which stressed the need to
integrate water management with land use planning. The document
advocated the better anticipation at climate change by creating more space
along river banks for water retention as a means for natural flood protection,
in contrast to artificial protection by means of dyke fortifications. The
Netherlands should be regarded as a delta area in a European setting. This
new approach fits well with the water basin approach of 1985, since
retention areas are a chance for natural and ecological restoration of water
systems. Moreover, retention areas could help to replenish groundwater
stocks in order to prevent water depletion in dry periods. So in fact, the 1995
transition has not only been triggered by river floods in the early 1990s, but
also by the international alarm over climate change, the problem pressure of
186 Chapter 6
water depletion, as well as the preference to restore the natural flow of rivers
and valuable ecosystems along the river banks. Like the 1985 transition, the
policy document of 1995 was formalized by a Fourth Integral Water Policy
Plan in 1998. Compared to the previous policy plan of 1988, this plan
focused especially on climate change and on the restoration of the natural
dynamics of water systems. It advocated regarding water and its natural
movements as the key determining factor in spatial planning. It also
emphasized the value of water in terms of open, unspoiled landscape
(Hofstra 1999). In 2000, a state commission on Water Management in the
21st Century recommended creating extra titles for expropriation of flood
plains and for limitation of land use rights in flood plains. The commission
also recommended dividing the liability for flood damage among the
national water authority, regional water authorities and private property
owners. Water boards could avoid such liability by developing sufficient
areas for water retention, based on a system of safety standards which
determines what the storage capacity in a region should be (Commissie
WB21).
Although the 1990s have witnessed many attempts at integral river
management and development of sustainable river basins, the policy sectors
of water management and spatial planning are still rather separate. This
renders decision making difficult, especially at the level of the water boards
and municipalities, where the former have an interest in considering water as
a guiding principle in spatial planning and leaving areas unbuilt if a risk of
inundation exists, while the latter have a final say in spatial planning and
have an interest in economic and urban expansion within their geographical
boundaries. The coherence between water management and land use
planning might increase as soon as the intended titles for expropriation of
flood plains and for limitation of land use rights in flood plains go into
effect.
6.3 The IJsselmeer: nurturing nature in an artificial lake
The IJsselmeer, with its size of 2,000 square kilometers and 600 kilometers
of shore-line, is one of the largest freshwater lakes on the European
continent (see Figure 6.1). For the greater part of modern history the lake
was actually a sea that was directly connected to the North Sea and regularly
plagued the Dutch shores. This sea was tamed in the first decades of the 20th
century with the help of a 30-kilometer long closure dam (‘afsluitdijk’ – see
Figure 6.1), which created the current artificial lake. The lake was named
after the IJssel, which is the Northern branch of the Rhine and the river that
feeds the lake.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 187
Figure 6.1 The IJsselmeer area. The different shades of gray in the lake indicate
depth. At the deepest parts, this is 7 meters below NAP (the Amsterdam datum
level).
The plan to ‘tame’ the sea was so ambitious that it actually took a few
decades to devise it, then another few decades to gain political acceptance,
and then again decades to actually implement it. Besides a closure dam, the
plan also included the creation of new land by turning parts of the lake into
‘polders’, to be used for agriculture and to increase safety by shortening the
shoreline. Resistance to the plans had been great. Improved technology, food
shortages in World War I, and an enormous flood in 1916 pushed aside
concerns. From 1918 until well into the 1980s, subsequent Dutch
governments remained committed to the project. However, from the early
1970s onwards, the plans that had been approved in 1918 started being
seriously questioned. They were de facto abandoned by the government after
fifteen years of public debate. Subsection 6.3.1 describes how this came
about. Rather than being perceived as ‘not yet reclaimed land’, the lake came
188 Chapter 6
to be increasingly appreciated as a natural area with great value. In separate
subsections we discuss two rivalries that have emerged since then: the
rivalry between gas drilling and drinking water exploitation (6.3.2), and the
rivalry between nature and recreation (6.3.3). Important as background to all
these rivalries, however, is the discussion on the poldering plans, which
became very intense in the 1980s, and the wrestling match between various
authorities that has taken place since then.
6.3.1 The end of the polder plans. Coming to grips with the new
situation
The plan to conquer the sea and to create the IJsselmeer was embedded in an
act of Parliament of 1918. This act furnished both financial means and
created an organization that became known as ZZW (Dienst
Zuiderzeewerken) and it controlled the area for decades to come. In its
operations of poldering the lake, the ZZW worked closely with an
organization called RIJP (‘Rijksdienst IJsselmeerpolders’), which was
responsible for landscaping the newly created polders and making them fit
for agriculture and inhabitation. The agenda of the organizations that worked
on the project remained largely the same throughout the period 1918-1970.
The project had initially been opposed by various government departments,
including the Ministry of Finance, but this resistance waned after 1918.
Outside the government, the plans had been resisted by the fishermen that
used the sea as fishing grounds. Their resistance was consequential as their
economic significance was only moderate, and their claim to fishing rights
was rejected. The latter is interesting from the perspective of ownership of
the lake. Even though fishermen were obliged to hold a license to fish the
sea since 1905, Parliament refused to hear their arguments that (a) they had
vested rights to fish, and (b) that these rights prohibited the project. In the
view of Parliament, the sea was collective property under the control of the
state. The fact that the fishermen would suffer from the project was
considered a ‘normal entrepreneurial risk’. The act of 1918 did contain a
promise to the fishermen that they would be helped to overcome the damage
to their operations, but little financial compensation. Fishermen were offered
re-education and also fishing rights in the newly created lake, which
appeared useless at that time. The profound meaning of the 1918 act and the
deliberations in Parliament was that public ownership of the lake was
established.
It was only after the creation of the closure dam and the first polders that the
first interest in the natural and recreational value of the IJsselmeer came
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 189
about. Working with ZZW and RIJP in a committee, environmental and
recreational interests started influencing the actual landscaping of the
polders. Instead of a long, straight coastline, the newer polders became more
curved in shape, which was more interesting to see from sailing boats. Small
islands for recreation were created. The gradient of the coast became less
steep so that a richer bird life would become possible.
The ‘second’ wave of environmentalists, which arrived in the 1960s, was in
many ways much more radical than the first wave. They took relatively little
interest in the debate on the new polders, but this changed when the last
polder (Markerwaard) that was yet to be constructed started being mentioned
as a potential site for a second national airport. This was in itself related to a
change in leadership at the ministry that oversaw ZZW, the Ministry of
Transport and Public Works. The new Minister was an adept at social cost
benefit analysis and had demanded a review of the polder plans. This
decision had pressed ZZW in the direction of mentioning various possible
beneficial uses of the last polder, among them an airport. Although ZZW
succeeded in constructing the image of an economically worthwhile
undertaking in its cost benefit analysis report, the agency lost precious time.
In 1974, the government of the day announced an ambitious push towards
national land use plans in 1974. The belief in planning was at its height, as
was the discontent with the unstructured way land use decisions were being
taken at the time. The Cabinet decided to introduce land use plans at a
national scale, to be developed in highly participatory fashion. Added to this
decision was a list of issues for which national plans had to be made. Among
them was the plan to construct the Markerwaard polder and build an airport
on it. The decision of the Cabinet had grave consequences for ZZW, in the
sense that the water managers did not control ‘their’ project anymore, that
the poldering project had to be discussed in land use terms, and that
opponents now had a ready pathway to official decision procedures.
Even though the airport and the polder discussions were decoupled fairly
soon, the polder discussion under the land use planning regime continued,
with fierce criticism from opponents about the way ZZW advanced its
course. The Cabinet of 1980 initiated the final phase of the discussion with a
decision to actually construct the polder. However, the resolve to actually
implement this discussion lessened quickly as time progressed and finally
dissolved in 1991. The main driver for this decline of resolution was a fear
of the enormous costs related to the project. A group of private parties made
a bid to construct the polder in the mid-1980s, but this group withdrew when
government insisted on a payment for the land ‘under the lake’. Even though
the 1991 cabinet decision formally ended the desire to polder the lake, the
190 Chapter 6
old reflex of planning development ‘in the lake’ (in practice this means that
smaller parts of the lake need to be poldered) is still very much alive. For
example, the city of Amsterdam recently built an urban area (40,000 houses)
in a reclaimed part of the lake.
In the 1980s, with ZZW’s grip on control loosening and the population in the
polders rapidly increasing, a discussion started on future government system
in the IJsselmeer area. The central government decided to divide the lake and
polders over three provinces (one new: Flevoland) and multiple
municipalities (six new). With the advent of ‘ordinary’ governmental bodies
in the IJsselmeer, the importance of ZZW and RIJP, which later merged into
a new organization called RDIJ, was considerably reduced. Disagreement
erupted between RDIJ (or more broadly speaking, central government) and
the local authorities over various issues such as the possible construction of a
nuclear reactor along the IJsselmeer coast, gas drilling, the location of new
recreation areas, and the appointment of nature areas. The provinces broke
off consultations with RDIJ and started developing their own ‘interprovincial
plan’ for the area, which conflicts in various respects with national priorities.
The land use planning system is very decentralized, however, and therefore
local authorities cannot really be forced to take over national priorities.
It is somewhat ironic that the water managers in the IJsselmeer (RDIJ but
also certain water boards) nowadays have a much broader agenda than they
had in the past. RDIJ is still very much concerned with flood safety and
views many developments (i.e. climate change) in that perspective, but the
agency has also become the water quality manager and has internalized a
certain concern for the ecosystems in the lake, and until today RDIJ has
retained its perspective on the entire water basin. All of this would have
implied a broadening of the regime in the IJsselmeer, if RDIJ had not been
dependent on the ‘new’ actors that entered the policy arena. The exact
implications of the presence of these new actors are not necessarily negative
from a sustainability perspective, however, as these would depend in part on
the intentions of the new actors. We can assess this question especially in the
sphere of rivalry between nature and recreation, and so we zoom in on this
rivalry.
6.3.2 Gas drilling and drinking water exploitation
The soil under the IJsselmeer is quite likely to contain certain gas reserves at
a few kilometers depth. We will not go into the legal details here (see
Taverne 1993), but do wish to point out that under Dutch law, the state owns
the gas as it is owner of the IJsselmeer. Gas drilling is a staged activity in the
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 191
sense that reserves have to be proven first, which is done by seismic tests
and exploratory drilling. Government permission is required for such
exploratory drilling. The government has chosen to exclusively allot ‘search
areas’ to interested parties (see Figure 6.2), but even the parties that ‘own’
these search areas (mainly the companies NAM and Elf in the IJsselmeer)
may not drill at a specific location without consent from central government.
Nor does the actual discovery of gas reserves imply a right to actually
exploit the reserves, but generally speaking it is the case that the company
that proves the existence of certain reserves will be allowed to exploit them
by government contract. On average, the state collects 85% of the proceeds,
which can add up to considerable sums.
Figure 6.2 Drilling licenses granted in the IJsselmeer area. The interrupted lines
indicate the outside borders of license areas; shaded areas are exempt from drilling
activities. ‘Boorvergunning’ = drilling license.
192 Chapter 6
Drilling for gas in the Northern part of the IJsselmeer became an especially
contentious issue in the 1980s. A set of test drilling sites had passed the
central bureaucracy after two years of proceedings and their selection had
not resulted in any public response at all. However, shortly before the
Minister of Economic Affairs was about to sign the license, the provincial
water company of Noord Holland (PWN) started making noises about the
potential negative effects of gas drilling on its intake activities. The company
extracts drinking water from the IJsselmeer and was worried that in case of
accidents, certain quantities of oil could end up in the lake, thereby spoiling
the water quality (Gerits 1990). The likelihood of this event was extremely
small, but the perception of the company (which had already permanently
closed all other water inlets because of water quality concerns and which had
just invested millions in water quality improvement measures) was that the
risk was too grave. The company was backed by the provinces and most
municipalities in the area and they started a fierce lobbying campaign to stop
the license. This campaign was effective. The Minister did not sign the
license, thereby leaving the company in question (NAM) in limbo. The
company, however, is partly owned by the state and partly owned by certain
large oil companies, Shell among them, which was rather cautious about
conflicts with environmental groups.
Since then, the situation has been in deadlock, with NAM and the Ministry
of Economic Affairs silently waiting for the real possibility of a political
mood swing, and the municipalities and provinces attempting to prohibit gas
drilling through land use plans. The courts frustrated the latter attempts,
however, as they confirmed that land use plans cannot alter existing drilling
rights. It is not unlikely that the current surpluses on the Dutch government
budget will evaporate again at some time. That is likely to be the moment
when Parliament will become more sensitive to the prospect of increased gas
earnings from the IJsselmeer.
6.3.3 The rivalry between nature and recreation
Both the recreational and the natural value of the IJsselmeer (and certain
parts of the polders) came as a surprise. The IJsselmeer holds numerous
attractions for tourists. The lake itself is the largest open space in the
Netherlands, with the greatest undisturbed visibility. Around 17,000 boats
(mainly sailing boats) have their home in the region, served by 128 harbors.
The villages around the lake, nature reserves, and fishing grounds are the
main destination for much daytime recreation. The total amount of spending
associated with tourism in the area was estimated at two billion guilders
annually. Table 6.1 below gives some other data.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 193
Table 6.1 Recreation in the IJsselmeer in the 1990s (adapted from RLG 1999).
Recreation form Number of days spent at/
near the corner lakes
(per year)
Number of days spent at/near
the rest of the IJsselmeer
(per year)
Tanning and
swimming
250,000 100,000
Sailing and wind
surfing
450,000 740,000
Motor yachts 2,600,000 130,000
Motor yachts
(outgoing)
890,000 50,000
Rowing and canoeing 375,000 150,000
Angling 900,000 250,000
Even if we restrict ourselves to the lake and the immediate coastline, the
ecological value of the lake is enormous. The basis for the ecosystem is
algae growth, mussels (driehoeksmosselen), and to a lesser extent certain
types of water plants. The importance of the Friesian coast has long been
recognized and large parts of the coast have been assigned a status as natural
reserve. There are many wading birds in the shallow parts of the lake, but
many migrating birds use the lake as well. All in all, there are 25 bird species
in such concentrations in the IJsselmeer as to make their habitat qualify as a
Special Area of Protection (SPA) under the Bird Directive. Tourists come to
the IJsselmeer for several reasons, but the presence of open space, an
attractive coast, and nature are very important. Natural interests, of course,
can also benefit from an association with recreational interest because it
generates greater support for their existence and implies a connection with a
politically and economically powerful sector. Despite the presence of such
mutually beneficial relations, the possibility of discussions about the exact
location of recreational and natural areas and the exact rules that regulate
recreation remains very real, for instance because certain types of nature are
rather sensitive to disturbance. By the mid 1970s, ZZW concluded that the
enormous growth in recreation since the Second World War had done
considerable damage to the natural beauty of the IJsselmeer. A round of
‘integral plans’, on an informal basis, started in 1977 for the ten so-called
corner lakes (the bodies of water between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ land). In a
period of ten years, four integral plans were produced, but only one plan was
formally endorsed by all participating parties. In most corner lakes, local
authorities resisted limitations to tourist development. When the polders and
the lake were formally incorporated into ordinary government structures, the
voluntary cooperation between the government levels stopped. RDIJ
continues to be concerned about developments in the area, such as the large
number of illegal recreational settlements in natural areas (IIVR 2000: 23).
194 Chapter 6
‘Administrative fragmentation’ is an important cause according to the
agency (IIVR homepage).
A range of different responses is being developed to address the situation.
In the corner lakes, RDIJ has continued to play an important role, ‘helped’
by ecological disaster. The ecosystem of the corner lakes collapsed
completely in the 1970s because of exponential algae growth related to
phosphate and nitrate emissions. Under the powerful influence of RDIJ, an
emergency plan was developed in 1986, which had resulted in very positive
effects by 1995. Partly encouraged by this precedent, RDIJ started a new
‘integral planning’ exercise for all corner lakes in 1996, with the
participation of about 20 government organizations and much public
involvement. The outcomes of this decision process had just become
available when our empirical study ended, but seemed positive in the sense
that much coordination had taken place. Ratification of the outcomes by
other actors was uncertain, however, as the plans actually implied a
reduction of bird habitat and might not be acceptable under the Bird
Directive. This was defended with a somewhat twisted line of reasoning:
‘Model calculations’ were said to have shown that ‘the possibilities’ for
water fowl lessen by 5% because of the plan, but that “this does not mean to
say that the number of waterfowl will reduce by 5% (. . . )”. Furthermore: “If
previous actions within BOVAR [the plan to address algae growth, are
ignored, the picture emerges that, on the whole, the foreseen measures do not
fit in the desire to maintain existing bird values completely. However, when
previous measures are taken into account, the picture changes. (…) the
ambitions of the Bird Directive have been more than met, even before the
Directive came into force” (IIVR 2000: 26). The reasoning is shaky at best.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries (LNV) was
especially vocal in its criticism.
The second route towards coordination is along the path of land use
planning. The three provinces surrounding the lake have worked together
quite well and have already produced two interprovincial policy plans. The
provinces devote much attention to tourism and developed a policy of
concentrated growth, which they claim to be consistent with national land
use plans. The latter is probably incorrect because the national government
considers the IJsselmeer as ‘the’ place for growth in recreational activities
that are to be phased out elsewhere, and the provinces are clearly more
conservative in their endorsement of tourism. Interesting in that respect is
the fact that especially the province of Noord-Holland has succeeded in
achieving a high level of coordination among its municipalities along the
coast, mainly by suggesting that they should develop a common vision and
by threatening to use its oversight powers. The municipalities succeeded in
achieving a common vision but it must be noted that one or two
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 195
municipalities withdrew from the process because they were unsatisfied with
their share of the pie. Since then, the province has refused approval of
several municipal land use plans, which then resulted in litigation. So far it
seems that the courts have upheld the provincial policies.
The third route towards more integration seems to be the private
initiative. Especially the work in Noord-Holland has generated spin-offs in
that respect. The Association for Water Recreation was retained by the
municipalities to advise them on possible recreational development in the
area. This Association is developing relatively unique databases on tourism,
and has since then moved in the direction of vision development for the
entire IJsselmeer. The Association has linked up with various other
organizations, among them nature groups, and together they have developed
their own plan for the lake, which will play an as yet unknown role in future
policy development. It is interesting, though, that a few environmental
organizations declined an invitation to talk with the Association for Water
Recreation. It was suggested to us that this had to do with their expectation
that they need not compromise their interests, given the presence of the Bird
Directive. From the Dutch perspective, then, ‘integral plan development’
seems to be threatened by the Directive.
6.4 The Regge: undoing water management of the past
The Regge is a rain river in the Eastern part of the Netherlands, close to the
German border (See Figure 6.3). The basin of the Regge is characterized by
a mild slope, downwards to the northwest. The river basin is 900 square
kilometres large and is bordered to the east and west by lateral moraines,
caused by past glacier activity. From these moraines, which can attain
heights of 30 meters above sea level, groundwater streams move downwards
to the river valley. The area of the Regge contains about 500,000 inhabitants,
concentrated in the built-up area (including the larger towns of Enschede,
Hengelo, and Almelo). The area outside the towns is mainly rural with much
agricultural land, but it also contains some important nature reserves (forests,
peat land). Land use in the Regge basin is divided over agriculture (61%),
natural areas (24%), and built up area (15%).
196 Chapter 6
Figure 6.3 River basin of the Regge. Taken from Van der Vlist (1995). The dotted
lines mark the border of the basin. Indicated are the towns in the area (shaded),
groundwater protection areas (black lines), and the various streams that constitute
the Regge and feeding streams (dark lines).
The manager of the Regge basin is the water board (‘waterschap’) Regge en
Dinkel and this organization plays a central role in water management,
together with the province of Overijssel and, somewhat more remotely, the
Public Works Agency (‘Rijkswaterstaat’). The activities of the board in
many ways reflect the demand for water services by the users of the land in
the Regge basin. Founded to combat flooding of agricultural land, the board
propagates flood protection. The board also wants to make sufficient water
for agricultural purposes available in summer. Both purposes are enhanced
by a complex of measures that include canalization, maintenance of
waterways, admitting water from elsewhere, and barrages in the Regge (one
for every seven kilometers of river). This system is of great importance for
the groundwater tables in the Regge area. The water board has statutory
duties of water quality management, which it seeks to achieve by a license
system and the operation of wastewater treatment works. Especially in the
summer, the effluent from these treatment facilities constitutes a significant
part of the amount of water that is in the riverbed, making water quality a
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 197
concern. This concern is enhanced by the fact that, for the purpose of flood
management, much of the cleaner water from the top of the basin has been
redirected elsewhere (see Figure 6.4).
Figure 6.4 Disconnected parts of the basin. At least 60% of the basin has been
disconnected. Arrows indicate the direction in which water is diverted.
In line with its agricultural roots, the water board advocates efficient use of
agricultural land, which was enhanced for decades by land relocation and the
canalization of 90% of the water streams. More recently, the water board has
started to regard itself increasingly as an organization concerned with the
appearance of the landscape and with ecology. Moreover, flood protection is
increasingly undertaken through the creation of storage capacity within the
basin (retention) rather than increasing transport elsewhere. These changes
in water management largely came about in the 1980s through a range of
factors, including the demise of agricultural control over the water board
council and changing national priorities. We focus on these changes in the
remainder of this chapter.
6.4.1 The first broadening of the water regime in the Regge basin
What we would currently describe as damage to the landscape was long and
widely regarded as improvement, signified by naming the activities
198 Chapter 6
‘improvement works’. Starting in the 1960s, water board intervention in the
natural landscape caused conflicts with environmental groups but also with
other layers of government. As happened in the IJsselmeer, the land use
planning system was instrumental in channeling claims for greater attention
to nature. The regional plan (‘Streekplan’) for Twente of 1965 is a case in
point. A draft of this plan had been developed by the province of Overijssel
and listed nature development as the top priority, implying restrictions on
water board activity. The water board, left out at the consultation stage,
objected to the procedure that had been followed and suggested that the
regional plan was at odds with its own policies. After much consultation, a
compromise was struck and various changes were made to the plan.
Despite that, the position of the water board had fundamentally changed
from the only public body engaged in management of the countryside, to one
of the players involved. The improvement works (and even regular
maintenance) by the water board now required planning permission. Various
groups sought to protect the landscape and fought against the canalization of
various streams. Some municipalities were sensitive to these pleas and
started limiting water board activity in natural areas. On various occasions,
municipalities and the water board stood against each other in court. Donker
(1996: 119-128) writes that the province of Overijssel used its responsibility
for oversight of the water board to warn that it did have a responsibility for
nature conservation and should complain less about developments in land
use planning. The water board rejected this role, and in doing so, could refer
to a 1967 national inter-departmental report, which advocated a narrow task
conception for water boards. The development of nature or recreation areas
was explicitly mentioned as something that a water board should not engage
in.
In 1974 the conflicts with environmental groups and other tiers of
government inspired one member of the water board council to call for the
establishment of a separate environmental commission, but such plans
gained no majority whatever (ibid.: 127). The water board council did decide
it would assign the task of consulting with the National Forestry Service
(‘Staatsbosbeheer’) and environmental groups to one of the committees of
the water board Council (the Finance Committee). This had certain effects
on water management, although they cannot be described as very
fundamental. The two most notable changes were the termination of the use
of chemicals to fight weeds in the water and more nature-friendly water bank
maintenance.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 199
6.4.2 Bornsebeken plan: a change of paradigm
Despite the changes in water management just described, the water board
continued to work on its main agenda dating back from shortly after the
Second World War. This agenda revolved around canalizing the last
remaining streams, lowering the groundwater table and increasing transport
capacity out of the Regge basin. In the 1970s, the water board started
developing a so called ‘structure plan’ for a part of Regge called the
Bornsebeek. This plan, appearing in 1978, demonstrated that improvement
of the situation in the Bornsebeek would involve much work in the
connected creeks as well. The Bornsebeek plan (single) became the
Bornsebeken plan (plural). The project would essentially involve the entire
set of creeks to the east of the Regge, at least the ones located between the
towns of Enschede, Hengelo, Almelo, and Oldenzaal (10,000 hectares). By
1983, the water board itself concluded that the plan was too expensive and
had disadvantages in terms of water quality and effects on the landscape. In
accordance with emerging (national) philosophy of the ‘broad outlook’, the
plan would be reconsidered. The original plan would have implied damage
to the landscape as a consequence of the canalization (especially the trees
along the creeks) and water quality in some creeks would worsen, because
wastewater coming from the towns would be spread over all creeks instead
of concentrated in one stream.
It took until 1986 before a working group of municipal, provincial and water
board representatives, working with a consultancy firm, had developed a
concrete plan for the Bornsebeken that seemed to meet the various concerns.
The essence was that water would be diverted from certain streams to others.
For that purpose, certain new connecting canals had to be dug and numerous
creeks would have to be deepened and widened. Creeks used to be 5-7
meters wide, but would now be become 15-20 meters wide (ibid.: 11) Creeks
with high natural value were to be spared, but this was not possible
throughout the entire area. Other effects included a lowering of the
groundwater table in agricultural land.
Subsidies and societal resistance largely determined the fate of the plan, in
that order. Subsidies were an important factor in this sense that the national
subsidy scheme for the improvement of regional waterways was suddenly
withdrawn. The water board had seen the change coming, and had sped up
development of the Bornsebeken plan, but it was not completed before
termination of the subsidy scheme. The speed with which the Bornsebeken
plan had been developed and its content led to an outcry from various
organizations, including large landowners (Stichting Twickel) and
200 Chapter 6
environmental groups (e.g. Nature and Environment Federation Overijssel
(NMO)). The province of Overijssel was critical as well. All these actors
considered the project too one-sided.
The critique was taken to heart, it seems, and the working group that had
developed the water board plan now established a so called ‘alternatives
committee’. The Committee identified seven possible alternatives for the
original plan. Especially the ideas to allow flooding to occur and to create
retention ponds were intensively discussed, with water board representatives
voicing concerns over the costs and the amount of land needed for this
solution. The committee’s final decision was that the existing plan was better
than all alternatives. The representative of the Ministry of Agriculture Nature
Management and Fisheries, however, did not agree to the outcomes. At the
Minister’s request, a group of students wrote a report on the Bornsebeken
plan. They developed an Integral Water Management Plan in Twente
(abbreviated to PIWAT) that heavily criticized the water board plan as being
‘mono-functional’. The PIWAT plan was different, in the sense that it
pleaded for giving the river free reign (‘meandering’), for retention areas,
less drainage capacity of the waterways, acceptance of a higher level of
flooding, and separation of water streams with good and poor quality (ideas
that were already circulating in the context of the Third Note on Water
Management). The response of the water board was that implementation of
PIWAT would require the water board to step outside its legal
responsibilities, which was something they did not intend to do. The PIWAT
plan was rejected.
The Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, however,
was made aware of the PIWAT study too and she noted the obvious fact that
new national policy directions were well embedded in the plan. In a
Solomon’s verdict, the Minister suggested she was willing to grant a subsidy
for the water board’s plan but that she was not convinced that it was integral
enough. To guarantee that the improvement works would be implemented in
an integral fashion, the Minister suggested that a new plan needed to be
developed by all authorities involved. This group would operate under the
supervision of the province, and consensus in the group would be a
precondition for any subsidy.
A new working group started its activities near the end of 1990. The water
board assembled an interdisciplinary working group that assisted them. The
group started with an inventory of already existing ideas, particularly at the
national level. The issue started to broaden because there was space to bring
forward all problems that existed in the basin. The new project, for instance,
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 201
was linked with the older recommendation to concentrate wastewater in
certain streams, so that at least some other streams would achieve better
quality. The water board had also received an indication that the water soil
was seriously contaminated with mercury in certain parts. A solution to this
problem (excavation of the water soil) became part of the project. Ideas from
others were now also reconsidered. The inlet of water from the
Twentekanaal was reconsidered and an opportunity was suddenly seen to
reconnect the creeks south of the canal to the creeks north of it. The idea of a
retention area was also taken on board (40 hectares of flooding area). Studies
were commissioned on groundwater levels in the area, and the idea that
groundwater tables should perhaps rise was discussed. By October 1991, the
water board executive approved of a draft of the new plan and consultation
with organizations outside the working groups started.
This time, nature organizations were much more positive, although it was
noted that the plan still contained proposals for drainage and would not be
sufficient to combat drought. From the agricultural side there was much
criticism. According to the GLTO (Regional Agricultural Organization) the
original plans had already paid sufficient attention to nature. Agriculture had
suffered long enough from the flooding, and now the water board would take
much of their land away. And that for a problem caused by urban
development! The farmers feared most the expropriation of land, but also
expropriation of use rights. Especially the fact that natural areas tended to
have implications for nearby agricultural land was pointed out. To most of
these questions the water board replied that land would only be taken on a
voluntary basis and would be compensated by other land or by finance. The
comments did not lead to many changes in the vision, and by May 1992, the
authorities involved in the working group informally approved it. Procedures
to change municipal zoning ordinances were started near the end of 1992. By
1993, the Minister personally came to the water board to endorse the plans.
Much resistance from farmers has accompanied the land use planning
procedures that have followed since. Although, in most cases, the water
board succeeded in friendly negotiations with the various landowners, some
have continued to object to the various stages of the plan.
6.4.3 Influence: a new way of working
The Bornsebeken plan has had a lasting impact on water board policies. New
personnel were attracted to be able to approach the project in a
multidisciplinary fashion. These people (biologists, ecologists, etc.) brought
new visions of water management with them and could better connect to
networks such as the environmental NGO’s. New insights regarding water
202 Chapter 6
management were thus anchored in the (top of) the organization and these
came to be reflected more generally in the water board policies. Many of the
people involved with the Bornsebeken plan would later become involved
with the development of a vision for the Regge basin as a whole (Regge
Vision 1996) and the similarities between the two plans are striking
(separation of water streams, retention areas, etc.). Note that the initial
hesitation of the water board about the PIWAT plan had been based on a
narrow conception of the water board’s task. Many of the goals of the
PIWAT study could only be realized through the cooperation with other
actors and the more conservative water board officials did not want to be
responsible for that. After preparation of the Bornsebeken plan, the officials
holding that opinion were largely gone, however. A new breed of officials
entered the scene, with a taste for exactly the kind of interaction with other
governments that had initially been rejected. At the national level, many of
the new ideas on water management essentially implied a warp into the
domain of other policy sectors such as land use planning. Regge en Dinkel
got an early taste of that through the integral version of Bornsebeken plan.
6.5 What do the cases illustrate for the Netherlands?
In the previous section we have discussed developments towards integrated
water management for two different water bodies in the Netherlands, the
IJsselmeer and the Regge river. In both cases the extent and the coherence of
the regime have considerably increased on many of the important aspects
during the period 1970-2000. In case of the IJsselmeer in fact three rivalries
have been discussed. First a rivalry about the use of a water body for land
reclamation versus the value of open water. Secondly, a rivalry between the
use of a water body for gas drilling versus the potential use of the water body
for drinking water preparation. Third, a rivalry between the use of a water
body for recreation versus natural values.1 The presentation of the Regge
case has added a fourth rivalry between the drainage function of a river basin
for agriculture versus the desire to restore and further develop the ecological
values of the water system. In this section we analyze for all four rivalries
the regime changes that have been observed (both in terms of a changed
extent and a changed coherence), the implications of the observed regime
1 In chapter 7, in which all cases of the Euwareness-project are analysed together, a fourth
rivalry about fisheries in the IJsselmeer area is also taken into consideration. Different
from the other rivalries between heterogeneous resources users, the fisheries sub-case is an
example of a rivalry between homogeneous users. To keep this chapter on the Netherlands
within the margins of an acceptable length, we have chosen not to describe and analyse the
fisheries sub-case here.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 203
changes for sustainability, as well as the change agents and conditions by
which the regime changes have been induced (see chapter 7, figure 7.1).
6.5.1 Regime changes in terms of extent
The extent of a regime refers to the extent to which relevant uses and users
of a water basin are recognized by the regime. It is an indicator of the
completeness of the domain of the regime. In both cases we have described,
a considerable increase of the extent could be observed. In case of the
IJsselmeer the extent started to increase around 1974, when the maintenance
of the lake and various uses related to open water (except for ecological
uses) came onto the government agenda. Open water related aims were uses
that were not recognized before. Later on (around 1985), ecological values
of the lake came also onto the agenda. However, in the 1990s plans were still
made and implemented for small scale land reclamations (urban expansions
outside the dykes close to Amsterdam, Lelystad and Almere). It took until
2000 before these plans were more generally considered as unfavorable in
terms of water safety and management (by the national Commission on
Water Management 21st Century, although other actors – like the province of
Flevoland – still advocate the need to reclaim more land in the IJsselmeer for
urban expansion). The extent also increased with respect to the rivalries
around gas drilling and recreation. The potential negative effects of gas
drilling on natural values (like birds) and on the quality of drinking water
reservoirs in the IJsselmeer are fully recognized now. The IJsselmeer area is
nowadays regarded as the ‘Blue Heart’ of the country, to be preserved. The
values of nature and bird life in the corner lakes are recognized, although
they are coming under pressure from increasing recreation settlements. In the
case of the Regge river, the period 1989-1992 has been a demarcation. In
that period the water board, which is the water management authority for this
river basin, adopted a reconstruction plan for a subsystem of the Regge river
(Bornsebekenplan). This was an attempt to serve both agriculture (drainage,
flood protection) and the natural values of the water system. For the water
board this has been a crucial step towards the adoption of an integral
approach of water systems throughout its entire area.
6.5.2 Regime changes in terms of internal coherence of public
governance
The coherence of a regime distinguishes between the internal coherence of
public governance, the internal coherence of property rights, and the external
coherence between public governance and property rights. First, we consider
the internal coherence of public governance. This is the degree to which the
204 Chapter 6
interdependencies in the water system and its management are reflected in
the elements of public governance. In this book we distinguish five elements
of public governance: (1) levels and scales; (2) actors and networks; (3)
perspectives and objectives; (4) strategies and instruments; (5)
responsibilities and resources for implementation.
With respect to levels and scales we have seen that the state is the main
water authority in the IJsselmeer basin, while a regional water board is the
main water authority in the case of the Regge river. In both cases we could
observe that increased interaction with other administrative levels has
increased the complexity of water management, which in case of the
IJsselmeer resulted in integration attempts accompanied by fragmentation,
and which in the case of the Regge river resulted in successful integration
attempts. With respect to the rivalry around land reclamation in the
IJsselmeer, the state (as resource owner and main planning administration)
and the provinces (as involved planning administrations) have emerged as
relevant authorities. However, it remains unclear which one of them has the
primacy in planning. Fragmentation could be observed since 1989. With
respect to the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, the state (as water
resource owner and as Ministry of Economic Affairs, implementing the
Mine Act) decides on concessions for gas drillings and their locations.
Emergence of the provinces since the 1980s, being responsible for the
availability and quality of drinking water reservoirs, has led to high
complexity and fragmentation. Together with the municipalities, the
provinces have obtained land use planning responsibilities to ameliorate any
negative effects of gas drilling. On the other hand, this fragmentation is in
favor of more integrative decision making, because land use authorities at
the provincial and municipal level are forced to deliberate between the
interests of gas drilling and drinking water reservoir protection. Such an
integrated deliberation of both interests is not provided by the national level
of government. With respect to the rivalry around recreation in the
IJsselmeer, since 1977 the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water
Management (V&W) took the initiative for integrated coordination at the
scale of the corner lakes, including the participation of the provinces and
municipalities involved. However, fragmentation at the national level could
be observed between the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water
Management, taking care of integral water management, and the Ministry of
Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries (LNV), taking care of the
implementation of the EU Bird Directive. In case of the Regge river,
interventions by the state and the province were needed to force the water
board, dominated by agricultural interests, towards a more integral approach.
In the end, however, the water board proved to be able itself to adopt an
integral plan at basin level. So integration at basin level has been successful.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 205
With respect to actors and networks, in both cases we have seen strong
indicators of increased access opportunities and participation by new users.
In most cases a policy planning system has been the access channel for new
users. With respect to the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer,
the discussion on the land-water conflict has been impelled by NGOs, such
as the ‘Vereniging tot Behoud van het IJsselmeer (VBIJ)’, and also by
recreational interest groups. With respect to the rivalry around gas drilling in
the IJsselmeer, provinces and municipalities have become important players
in the arena, often in coalition with environmental pressure groups which
oppose gas drilling. With respect to the rivalry around recreation in the
IJsselmeer, the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management
organized participation for all interested parties. In the case of the Regge
river, a working group has been assembled, supervised by the province, to
prepare the integral plan. All the authorities involved participated.
Consensus in the group was made a precondition for any subsidy. After a
draft plan was approved, consultation with organizations outside the working
group started (nature as well as farmers’ organizations).
With respect to perspectives and objectives, we generally find a powerful
tendency towards integration. In case of the rivalry around land reclamation
in the IJsselmeer, the perspectives of different actors and user groups have
converged. Only one actor (province of Flevoland) still sees the lake as ‘not
yet land’. Flevoland does not have the resources to polder, which they would
like to do. The objectives of the water management sector have turned from
a classical approach of engineering water works (until 1980) into an
approach of protecting other water values and the importance of water areas
as storage basins (as a response to climate change and rising sea level). In
case of the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, there are several
visions for the lake. The picture of this rivalry is more one of fragmentation.
‘Official’ government visions come both from the provinces and from the
national government. The plans are at odds with each other. This situation is
made possible by a desire to start land use planning in the lake. However, the
EU Bird Directive and the national (drinking) water policy documents
provide a perspective for the protection of birds and drinking water resources
in the IJsselmeer. On the other hand, these documents do not really provide a
single direction perspective to solve the rivalry. In case of the rivalry around
recreation a round of integral plans started in 1977 for the corner lakes. In
case of the Regge river, the Bornsebekenplan has become an integral vision
(after the rejection of several previous versions), in which the perspectives of
the rival users have converged. The approach developed has strongly
encouraged the development of an integral vision on the river basin as a
whole, which resulted in the Regge Vision in 1996.
206 Chapter 6
With respect to strategies and instruments, we could observe that
planning has been the most important policy instrument for adopting new
uses in the policy process and for getting user groups around the table. In
case of the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, the
introduction of a new planning procedure (PKB) for large infrastructural
works in 1974 has resulted in a better recognition of rival uses. However, at
the end of the 1990s water management authorities still lacked adequate
instruments to get more grip on land use planning. In case of the rivalry
around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, the main instruments seem to be (land
use) plan formation and concession permits on basis of the Mine Act. These
are at odds, and increasingly so. However, since 1989 an Environmental
Impact Assessment is required for gas drilling. This is seen as an important
instrument to achieve more integration. In case of the rivalry around
recreation in the IJsselmeer and in case of the Regge river, plan formation is
also the main instrument to achieve integration. In the Regge case, the
supervisory role of the state and the province and their ability to facilitate
with subsidies has been used to force the water board to develop an integral
approach.
With respect to responsibilities and resources for implementation, we
could observe that implementation still is fragmented in the IJsselmeer case,
while it is much more concerted in the Regge case. With respect to the
rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, in the 1970s land use
planning instruments had to be applied to get the value of open water
adopted by the state water management sector with its one-sided focus.
However, during the 1980s this sector changed from a rather closed into a
much more open policy community, which very much broadened its scope
and accepted the value of rival uses. Conversely, at the end of the 1990s we
see that the water management sector has problems in getting the value of
open water adopted as a guiding principle in land use planning. With respect
to the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, responsibilities are
fragmented and very little co-ordination is possible, which leads to conflict.
The gas drilling issue goes to court many times. On the other hand, the EU
Bird Directive is working as an influential tool or resource which strengthens
the drinking water interest. In case of the rivalry around recreation in the
IJsselmeer, the integral visions had to be implemented by the system of land
use planning, and by that means they had to be adopted (ratified) by local
ordinances. That didn’t work very well. Besides that, formal responsibilities
are not where the money is. The national government has the money;
provinces and municipalities have land use planning authority. In case of the
Regge river, the plan formation functioned as a concerted action for the
implementation. All authorities involved have been committed to applying
their resources. Support was built by consulting representatives of the main
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 207
user groups. However, land had to be acquired to implement the plan. The
water board declared it would take only land on a voluntary basis and
compensate with other land or finances. Despite this statement, individual
farmers still objected in procedures to change the municipal zoning
ordinances. In most cases, the water board succeeded in friendly negotiations
with the various landowners, although some others maintained their
resistance.
6.5.3 Regime changes in terms of internal coherence of property
rights
The internal coherence of property rights refers to the degree to which the
interdependencies in the water system and its management are reflected in
the distribution of property rights among the users involved. In the cases
described, the internal coherence of property rights generally increased. With
respect to the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, the state
(holding the ownership of the IJsselmeer) has greatly restricted its own
decision-making power to polder by committing itself to the outcome of a
PKB-procedure, which attributes participation rights to rival users. This
happened around 1974. In case of the rivalry around gas drilling in the
IJsselmeer, the internal coherence became more complex and fragmented.
The state ownership of the IJsselmeer and the use right by the state to allow
concessions on gas drilling are in conflict with the use rights of provinces on
drinking water reservoirs as well as with the regulatory rights of provinces
and municipalities to help other users effectuate use rights which are
threatened by gas drilling. An indicator of more integration in this case is
that the obligation of an Environmental Impact Assessment for gas drillings
is restricting the use rights for gas drilling. On the other hand, the courts
seem to be uncertain about the extent to which these restrictions could hold.
With respect to the rivalry around recreation in the IJsselmeer, municipalities
and provinces initially had an influential say (by means of regulatory rights)
in the siting of recreational settlements. Natural life in the corner lakes was
hardly protected by property rights. However, recreation is increasingly
brought under land use controls, although there is still much illegal land use.
Nature rights are increasingly recognized by the land use planning system
too. The land use planning system is improving the internal coherence, since
this is a system which attributes by ordinance property rights to the uses
involved. The EU Bird Directive is another change which could attribute
property rights to bird life in the corner lakes. However, divergence
(fragmentation) could be observed between the flexible nature protection
provided by the land use planning system and the strict nature protection by
the Bird Directive. In case of the Regge river, nature is hardly protected by
208 Chapter 6
property rights. However, nature rights are increasingly recognized since the
water boards are allowed (by the Water Management Act of 1989) to
promulgate ordinances which incorporate ecological considerations in
decision making on water basins.
6.5.4 Regime changes in terms of external coherence between public
governance and property rights
The external coherence between public governance and property rights is the
degree to which changes in public governance are reflected in changes of the
property rights. In the cases we described the external coherence has
increased on only a few of the important aspects. With respect to the rivalry
around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, the right to polder (reclaim land)
has been restricted in favor of access rights for rival users. Nowadays, the
right to polder (in the hands of land use planners) is still out of the control of
water managers wanting to protect open water. Although it is expected that
this will change in the future (the state is working on legislation), it still has
not been put into effect. Therefore, the external coherence has changed from
high in the period 1974-1995 to incomplete in the 1990s for this rivalry. In
case of the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, the status of
property rights is still not clear. Many government actors would like to stop
drilling, but this is difficult. The Environmental Impact Assessment
obligation has increased the external coherence only somewhat in some of
the more important aspects. In case of the rivalry around recreation, the
property rights of municipalities according to the land use planning system
are not sufficiently redistributed to guarantee nature protection rights,
despite the protection goals of the Bird Directive and Dutch nature policy. In
case of the Regge river and the implementation of the Bornsebekenplan, the
water board had to rely on voluntary cooperation of landowners, as far as
they are willing to provide land against compensation. In that respect, the
change has been more policy driven than property rights driven. However,
municipal zoning ordinances are used to restrict use rights on land that is
needed for the natural development of the river basin (to attribute property
rights to nature).
6.5.5 Implications for sustainability
If we want to assess the implications of the observed regime changes for the
sustainability of the regime, we could draw a distinction between: (1)
implications for natural resources and the environment; (2) implications for
economic development; (3) implications for social development. We are
only able to make a general assessment of implications of observed changes
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 209
for sustainability. The overall sustainability of the resource use is beyond our
capacity to judge as social scientists (see chapter 7, section 7.2.5).
Considering implications for natural resources and the environment, we
could observe that in the case of the IJsselmeer the uses related to open
water have become much more widely recognized. After the introduction of
the PKB procedure in 1974, there still have been cases of land reclamation in
the IJsselmeer-area. These cases are disputed nowadays, and the importance
of open water for safety (climate change, rising sea level) has become
increasingly recognized since the mid 1990s. With respect to gas drilling, we
have to notice that they still might affect the lake, especially if oil leaks
occur. Until now, the concessions for gas drilling have not been activated
and still can be reconsidered as a result of the rivalry debate. This is a bit of
an artificial problem, since it is mainly a reflection of society’s changed
priorities. The fear of possible risks related to gas drilling has led to a
rethinking and a court battle on the sustainability of gas drilling in the
IJsselmeer. With respect to the recreation rivalry, we may conclude that
nature is better protected than it was. Although the implementation of nature
protection in the municipal zoning ordinances doesn’t work well, the
authorities try to channel tourism away from the sensitive/valuable areas.
The strong use-driven policies to encourage recreation in the corner lakes
(opportunities for tourist and economic development) prevented substantial
reductions of recreation settlements. Most authorities that are involved,
except for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries
(LNV), still try to run away from the implications of the Bird Directive. In
case of the Regge river we could observe that natural and ecological values
of the river basin are nowadays much better recognized and expressed in
water management by the water board.
Considering implications for economic development, we could observe
that in case of the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, the loss
of water has been capitalized and incorporated into cost-benefit analyses of
land reclamation projects. With respect to the rivalry around gas drilling, it is
clear that the option of not drilling would cost the economy quantities of
potential income due to the government. However, the drinking water
reservoirs have been valued more highly and will strongly affect the costbenefit
analysis of gas drilling. In case of the recreation rivalry, we notice
that significant investments in waste water treatment have been done to fight
against growth of algae and to improve the life conditions in the corner
lakes. In case of the Regge river, the water board is spending part of its
taxation revenues for nature development. The expanded extent has been
accompanied by the entrance of new participants (inhabitants and
representatives of nature organizations) in the water board, which since then
have started to contribute with taxes to the water management tasks in which
210 Chapter 6
they have an interest. Important provincial and national subsidies are also
involved.
Considering implications for social development, we observe that the
decision making on land reclamation (poldering) has become the subject of
an open debate with the public. Gas drilling activities have become the
subject of an intensive public debate in society, with great political
sensitivity. This could help the protection of drinking water reservoirs. In
case of the recreation rivalry, the value of the lake for bird life went much
higher up the agenda, especially as a consequence of the EU Bird Directive.
In case of the Regge river, the water board has gone through an existential
debate on its mission. The nationally introduced ‘broad water system
approach’ of 1985 has been finally accepted by the farmers which were
rather dominating the water board.
6.5.6 Agents for regime change
Looking at the agents, which in combination have forced regime change, we
make a distinction between: (1) national regime changes; (2) EU policies; (3)
problem pressure; (4) other change agents. We are only able to consider the
combined force of the listed change agents as an impetus to set in motion
regime changes towards more integration (see chapter 7, section 7.2.3).
In case of the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, we
observed three national regime changes that have driven regime change at
basin level. First, the adoption of a Physical Planning Act in 1965 has been
influential, together with the changing political climate in the 1970s and
growing political legitimacy of groups protesting against the establishment
in general, and in particular against the classical approach of water
management (engineering) by Rijkswaterstaat. A second impulse has been
the incorporation of ecological values around 1985. A third impulse has been
the national attempts to integrate between water management and land use
planning in the period 1998-2000. In terms of problem pressure, first the
gradual loss of natural values in reclaimed water areas has been a change
agent. Second, an increasing awareness of insufficient water safety in the
1990s, in particular the river floods of 1993 and 1995 and related flood
damage liability concerns, have triggered regime change. A third change
agent has been the alarming report in 2000 by the national Commission on
Water Management 21st Century, demanding serious attention for problems
of climate change, rising sea level and water safety in the country. Other
change agents have been first a decreasing need for new land and a gradual
decline of the agricultural sector. Second, alternative options for the
Markerwaard, especially the plan for a new national airport in that area, has
led to growing protest against expansion of urban areas and infrastructure at
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 211
the cost of natural areas and open space. Third, budget reforms in the early
1980s have definitely changed the willingness of the state to invest in land
reclamation.
In case of the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, we observed
two national regime changes that have impelled regime change at basin
level. First, the national recognition of groundwater scarcity and increasing
drinking water needs (around 1988-1989: Third National Water Policy
Document and Policy Document on Supply of Drinking Water and Industrial
Water) has led to awareness of the importance of drinking water reservoirs
in the IJsselmeer. It has also triggered the provinces to look eagerly at these
reservoirs. Second, the introduction of more stringent requirements
regarding environmental impact assessment (around 1989) has been a
change agent. As far as EU policies could trigger regime change, it is
relevant to notice that the IJsselmeer has become a Special Protection Area
(SPA) under the EU Bird Directive as of 2000. However, until now the
directive hasn’t been applied in this case to help protect the drinking water
reservoirs. In terms of problem pressure, it is uncertain to what extent
drilling would actually affect drinking water quality. Probably there is only a
small risk. However, if the gas market opens up, there will be a more
powerful incentive to sell and explore for gas, and the awareness of this has
increased the fear of problem pressure in the near future.
In case of the rivalry around recreation in the IJsselmeer, the integral
water system approach, introduced by the Ministry of Transport, Public
Works and Water Management in 1985, has had a major impact as a
national regime change on the adoption of nature protection values and
ecological considerations in the land use planning system. EU policies have
not yet become a change agent, but could become a greater force in the
future. The strengthening of natural values by the Habitat and Bird
Directives is important. The status of the IJsselmeer as a Special Protection
Area potentially limits tourism. In terms of problem pressure, environmental
degradation of the corner lakes (with enormous growth of algae as an
indicator) has triggered much more active work on nature protection. On the
other hand, chances for tourist and economic development prevented
substantial reductions of recreation settlements. The national Ministry of
Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries (LNV) even promotes the
transfer of recreation from the Wadden Sea in the north and from the
Province of Zeeland in the south to the IJsselmeer area in the heart of the
country.
In case of the Regge river, the integral water system approach, introduced
by the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in 1985,
has also been the most influential national regime change, which triggered
the adoption of nature protection values and ecological considerations. In
212 Chapter 6
terms of problem pressure, social resistance (by nature and environmental
organizations, as well as country-seat owners) has largely determined the
change of the traditional drainage approach into a more integral approach. In
terms of other change agents, we could observe that subsidy programs have
had a powerful impact on regime change at basin level.
6.5.7 Conditions for regime change
For making a general assessment of conditions that have been favorable or
unfavorable for regime changes towards more integration, we distinguish the
following conditions, which should be regarded together to assess their
influence: (1) tradition; (2) joint problem; (3) joint opportunities; (4) credible
alternative threat; (5) institutional interfaces (see chapter 7, section 7.2.4).
In case of the rivalry around land reclamation in the IJsselmeer, tradition
has been a favorable condition in the sense that earlier cases of land
reclamation in other polders and the Lauwerszee (in the Province of
Groningen in the north of the country) have triggered the state to think more
of incorporating natural values and the value of open water into water
management. At that time, too, the awareness of environmental and natural
values was growing. Protest groups were hotly disputing land reclamation by
the state water authority (Rijkswaterstaat), while advocating a more open
decision making process on water works and claiming more participation
rights. Initially, the perspective of a joint problem was absent. There wasn’t
much common knowledge in the form of reports, or information symmetry
between the actors. However, among politicians, overlooking these disputes,
a sense of responsibility for the future value of open water was growing
rather quickly. So a joint problem turned out to be a favorable condition in
the end. Another favorable condition has been the existence of joint
opportunities. There were lots of protest groups demonstrating against land
reclamation for various reasons. However, they shared a common interest in
stopping the classical land reclamation process by Rijkswaterstaat. A
credible alternative threat on the side of the state and national politicians has
been that they could meet the strong wish of protest groups to skip the
Markerwaard land reclamation, by using budget reform considerations as a
formal argument for it. The alternative option (land reclamation) would have
had much more severe budgetary consequences than the choice for
integration. An important institutional interface has been the PKB
(Planologische Kernbeslissing) planning procedure for major infrastructural
works, which was introduced in 1974 on basis of the Physical Planning Act,
and which provided a legal leeway for a more integrated approach.
In case of the rivalry around gas drilling in the IJsselmeer, a tradition of
integrated thinking has been absent. The absence even of a joint problem has
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 213
been an unfavorable condition. Very different visions of the problem
resulted in a heterogeneous understanding of the problem. Distrust exists
between national bodies and the provinces, as far as this rivalry is concerned.
Joint opportunities are lacking, since there is no information symmetry and
no notion of possible joint gains from integration. The provinces and
municipalities involved don’t want to respect the almost established rights to
drill. A credible alternative threat is not available. The central government
cannot, or rather will not, compel the provinces because of the political
costs. There is a legal path for integration through the land use planning
system, but political opportunity forbids this use. However, in terms of
institutional interfaces, national water policy documents are in favor of
protecting the drinking water reservoirs in the IJsselmeer. This has very
much motivated the provinces to oppose the gas drilling. The Environmental
Impact Assessment obligation and the Bird Directive could be seen as a legal
leeway for more integrated approaches.
In case of the rivalry around recreation in the IJsselmeer, a strong
tradition of integrated thinking at the national level has been a favorable
condition. However, this tradition wasn’t that strong at the local level, so it
was not shared by all actors. In terms of a joint problem, there is certain
awareness among the rival users that nature is the basis for recreation, and
must be preserved. Some municipalities oppose tourism and are happy to let
others develop it. This should also be seen as a joint opportunity. Since the
presence of attractive nature is an attractive condition for tourism, and since
tourism is a way of experiencing nature, there has been a sense of respect for
each other’s interests. In terms of a credible alternative threat, no imbalance
of power could be observed. The national government (also a resource
owner) is strongly advocating nature protection and integral solutions, but
they are very dependent on the local zoning ordinances. The municipalities
do not really have a strong interest in integration. The provinces could
compel the municipalities, but they also have an interest in tourism. The
Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries (LNV),
responsible for the implementation of the EU Bird Directive, could become
an important player, but isn’t now, as far as this rivalry is concerned. In
terms of institutional interfaces, the approach by the Ministry of Transport,
Public Works and Water Management of forming steering committees to
stimulate integral visions and to work on agreements among the actors
involved, has been a favorable condition.
In case of the Regge river, a strong tradition of consensus and mutual
respect, characteristic of the democratic functioning of water boards, has
been a favorable condition for a change of attitude on the farmers’ side. The
absence of a joint problem was initially an unfavorable condition. Very
different visions of the problem existed, resulting in a divergent
214 Chapter 6
understanding of the problem. There was also distrust between farmers and
non-farmers. However, it has been a joint opportunity that the alternative,
advocated by the opponents of natural development, didn’t harm the interest
of the farmers in getting river flood problems solved. It was only that they
didn’t want their money to go to nature development and to sell agricultural
land for it. In terms of a credible alternative threat, the dependence on
subsidy programs has been in the joint interest of all parties involved to
develop a common plan, as well as being an instrument by which the
national and provincial authorities could force change. In terms of
institutional interfaces, the nationally introduced ‘integral water system
approach’ as well as the increased societal resistance against traditional
drainage solutions (canalization) have forced an integral solution. The
national and provincial authorities could use their supervisory role (and their
subsidy resources) to force through an integral plan.
6.6 Conclusion
One of the objectives in this chapter is to evaluate institutional regimes at
water basin scale from the perspective of the EU Water Framework
Directive. This directive aims to make water management at basin scale
more integrated, and through that more sustainable, by expanding the scope
of water management, by getting citizens involved in water management, by
streamlining legislation for water management, and by getting the prices
right for water management services.
In the Dutch cases of this chapter we have seen that the scope of water
management at basin scale has changed from a rather mono-functional and
economically driven use orientation (land reclamation, gas drilling,
recreation, drainage for agriculture) into a multi-functional perspective
which not only focuses on resource use but also on resource protection
(sustainable use). The recognition of new values, like open water, drinking
water for the future, and natural resilience, has increased the extent of water
management. In fact, we have shown that the increase of extent has been
driven by a combination of national regime changes, EU policies, problem
pressure and a few other change agents. As far as national regime changes
are concerned, the adoption of rival values by physical planning around 1974
as well as the national regime transitions of 1985 and 1995 have been
important for the recognition of natural values and the resilience value
(natural flood prevention) of water basins. As far as EU policies are
concerned, the Habitat and Bird Directives are becoming increasingly
important for the protection of natural values, but are not fully implemented
and used in that way. As far as problem pressure is concerned, societal
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 215
resistance to mono-functional water management, the gradual loss of natural
values, and the increasing awareness of insufficient water security (due to
river floods in the 1990s) have been of great influence. As far as other
change agents are concerned, the gradual decline of the agricultural sector
and the economic appraisal of natural values (for instance by means of
subsidy programs) have been important triggers, inter alia.
The increased extent has been accompanied by an increased participation
of new users. In addition to the traditional mono-functional users of water
basins, which were already strongly represented in water management,
citizens have become more involved in water management, especially as
representatives of the new values and the common interest of sustainable
resource use. Planning has been the most important instrument for providing
them access, as we have seen in the case of land reclamation in the
IJsselmeer around 1974, and in the other cases in the 1980s. Access rights in
planning procedures have been formalized at the national level by the
adoption of various legal provisions which aim at a broader deliberation of
interests in water management. Access rights for citizens in the regional
water boards have also been formalized at the national level. The increased
participation of new users initially resulted in more complexity and
fragmentation of water resource regimes due to rivalries between the
different users that want to claim a specific use of the resource. In fact, the
water basin regimes changed from a simple (mono-functional) regime into a
complex (multifunctional) regime. A positive implication of the increased
complexity has been that the ‘new uses’ went higher up the political agenda
and that the ‘old uses’ have become the subject of an open debate with the
public. However, in all cases it has been difficult to achieve an extra step
from fragmentation to integration, and thus from a complex regime to an
integrated one.
The way to integration is not only a matter of improving the internal
coherence of public governance, but also a matter of improving the internal
coherence of property rights, as well as a matter of improving the external
coherence between public governance and property rights. With respect to
the internal coherence of public governance, we have seen that the water
basin scale has become more central in both cases. In case of the IJsselmeer,
the provinces are playing a stronger role in addition to the traditional control
by the state. In case of the Regge, the regional water board has gradually
developed a total plan for the water basin as a whole. Looking at actors and
networks, we have observed that participation of new users has increased.
Looking at perspectives and objectives, we noticed that the extent has
increased. Looking at strategies and instruments, we concluded that
planning has been an important instrument for integration. In terms of
implementation, we observed much more concerted action in the Regge case
216 Chapter 6
than in the case of the IJsselmeer. With respect to the internal coherence of
property rights, we have seen that in the cases of land reclamation and
recreation in the IJsselmeer the deliberation of rival uses has increasingly
been brought under land use controls. In the case of gas drilling, use rights
are restricted by the obligation of an environmental impact assessment. In
the case of the Regge, regional water boards are allowed to incorporate
ecological considerations in their ordinances for water level control.
Although these changes of property rights have increased the internal
coherence, they are only changes in the sense that a careful deliberation of
interests is required. They do not guarantee that the new uses may rely on a
property right on their own. The only exceptions are the EU Habitat and Bird
Directive, which really do attribute property rights to natural values, but
which still are not put into effect in that way in the Netherlands. The
consequences for the external coherence between public governance and
property rights are that the Dutch consensual approach of deliberating
interests by means of planning instruments does not always guarantee a
proper protection of new uses, and therefore does not guarantee a high
external coherence. For instance, in the case of land reclamation in the
IJsselmeer it is still difficult to provide sufficient protection to the value of
open water and water security. Even the requirement introduced (at the end
of the 1990s) that local land use plans always need to be assessed by water
boards in terms of water risks, is only a guarantee for interpolicy cooperation
between municipalities and water boards, but not a redistribution of property
rights. So the integration tendency in the Netherlands has mainly been a
public governance driven tendency, and much less a property rights driven
tendency.
How can one evaluate the Dutch situation with respect to the wish of the
European Union to streamline legislation for water management at basin
level? It is clear that the Dutch legislation has been streamlined to facilitate a
better deliberation of rival uses. The Dutch streamlining has been rather
weak in the sense of redistributing property rights among rival users. Until
now, the Dutch have been very reserved in treating the EU Habitat and Bird
Directives as a tool for redistribution of property rights. Another EU
criterion is to get the prices right for water management services. Evaluating
the Dutch situation from that perspective, we observed at least clear attempts
to capitalize the value of new uses and to incorporate them into cost-benefit
analyses. This has especially been the case for the value of open water and
the value of drinking water reservoirs. In the Regge case we have seen that
taxes are paid by citizens to generate revenues for nature development, as
well as that subsidy programs have become available for developing a more
natural water basin.
The IJsselmeer and the Regge in the Netherlands 217
Considering the conditions that have been most important for more
integrated water management at basin level, we may conclude that, speaking
generally for the Dutch situation, the tradition of integrated thinking, which
started in the 1960s, and the much older tradition of consensus and mutual
respect have been influential in the evolution of water basin regimes towards
more complexity and integration. Although problem perspectives in the
cases started to diverge widely, and therefore the perspective of a joint
problem mostly has been absent as a condition, in some cases the presence
of joint opportunities or a credible alternative threat has been important as a
condition for achieving a breakthrough. In all cases, institutional interfaces
have been a most favorable condition, in the sense that national policy
documents and national initiatives have been an important trigger for change
at water basin level. This conclusion supports the image of the Netherlands
as a so-called ‘decentralized unitary state’, in which a strong tendency
towards subsidiarity and decentral autonomy exists, as long as it fits within a
nationally harmonized approach. The history of Dutch water management
has shown that national interventions in regional and local water
management always followed after events that threatened the water safety of
the country at a supra-regional scale. Although the Dutch have started to
anticipate climate change through water management at a basin scale and by
water boards as basin authorities, it is to be expected that the national
authorities will again intervene powerfully after future calamities.
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219
Chapter 7
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in
Europe
7.1 Introduction
This chapter contains a comparative analysis of the case studies in the
Euwareness project. In these case studies we looked at the accessibility of
water systems as a natural resource for various users and use functions. In
that context we considered rivalries between users and use functions as an
indicator of an insufficiently sustainable use of water systems. A water
system means a discrete and homogeneous element of surface water or
groundwater such as an aquifer, a lake, a reservoir, a stretch of stream, river
or canal, an estuary, or a stretch of coastal water. We assume that the
sustainable use of water systems requires an optimum distribution of use
options among present and future users and use functions. An example of
distribution of use options is the distribution between upstream and
downstream users. An activity that pollutes water upstream (using a stream
to discharge waste or waste water) could interfere with the downstream use
of that stream for drinking water supply. Or an upstream weir could impede
the downstream flow and flow dependent use options. Such rivalries not
only exist between different (heterogeneous) use types, they may also appear
among homogeneous uses (uses of the same type). In arid areas farmers may
feel the need to co-ordinate the water use for irrigation. Or in the field of
fisheries, quotas may be used as an instrument to prevent the depletion of
fish stocks.
A water system is often demarcated as a river or water basin, which means
the area of land from which all surface water run-off flows through a
sequence of streams, rivers and, possibly, lakes into the sea via a single river
mouth, estuary or delta. This implies that a water basin not only includes the
water beds, but also the surrounding area of land from which the water bed
receives and transports the water run-off. In this view the land use of river
220 Chapter 7
flood plains for urban development should be considered as a use that
interferes with the use of flood plains for river dynamics and flooding.
Another example of a water use rivalry in a water basin could be the rivalry
between drainage of land for agricultural development versus the function of
a minimum groundwater level for nature conservation in that area.
The main question for the researchers was whether the regime for the
management of a water system provided sufficient guarantees for its
sustainable use, by diminishing or preventing rivalries between users and use
functions. To answer this question we focused on institutional regimes for
natural resources, both from a public governance perspective (Bressers &
Kuks 2001) and a perspective of private property and use rights (Ostrom
1990; Bromley 1991). The first perspective focuses on the management of
natural resources from a public domain (although in interaction with private
actors). The second perspective focuses on the accessibility of a natural
resource in a broader sense, including the private domain, the domain of
collective property and use, as well as the domain of ‘no property’ (res
nullius). By applying both perspectives in a complementary way, we have
developed a framework for understanding the access rights that users or use
functions may possess or claim, and the proportion between and
exclusiveness of the various domains. For instance, the option of having
intervention from the public domain could be blocked by the existence of a
private domain based on long term concessions for water use (which,
especially in Spain and Switzerland, appears to be a problem of
redistributing water access rights). On the other hand, attempts initiated by
the public domain to redistribute private property and use rights could be
effective in providing a better access to or protection of alternative users and
use functions. Another question could be how the exclusiveness of the public
domain is interpreted by public authorities. Does the public domain offer
equal access to society as a whole, or are specific users and/or use functions
discriminated against in favor of others? A public domain could appear as a
private domain in the hands of society at large, or as a ‘no property’ domain,
owned by no one and thus equally accessible to all.
We interpret ‘regimes’ as institutional resource regimes, comprised of a
public governance component and a property rights component. The
combination of those components can be more or less integrated and
influences the sustainability of the use of the given natural resource. In turn,
these regimes, or rather their property rights and governance components,
are influenced by external change agents, which leads to regime change.
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 221
Figure 7.1 illustrates these dynamics1 as will be investigated in the case
study comparison.
Figure 7.1 Research model
External Change Agents Institutional Resource
and Conditions Regime
Change agents:
European Union policy and
regime changes Property and
National policy and use rights
regime changes
Problem pressure
Other agents
Conditions:
Tradition of cooperation Elements of
Joint problem public governance
Joint opportunity
Credible alternative threat
Institutional interfaces
As the figure shows there are three groups of variables. These are linked by
the central relationships in the research questions:
1. How far do more integrated water resource regimes lead to more
sustainable resource use?
2. What change agents and conditions cause shifts towards more integrated
regimes?
The integration of the ‘institutional resource regime’ is the central variable.
Question 1 should show the results of such integration. Question 2 should
provide explanations for it.
In the next section, we start by explaining the regime components, the
factors that might contribute to the integration of resource regimes, and our
expectation of how more integrated regimes might benefit a more
sustainable resource use. Section 3 goes into the methodology of the study
1 We acknowledge the existence of several other possible feedback relations, but they are
not presented in the graph since they receive less attention in our discussion.
S R
U E
S S
T O
A U
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N of C
A E
B
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I E
T
Y
222 Chapter 7
and the comparison. Section 4 shows the results of the comparative analysis.
Section 5 concludes with an outlook on the implications of these results for
the European water management policies.
7.2 The public governance and property rights
components
7.2.1 Governance
On the concept of ‘governance’ we will be very brief here as this subject is
also dealt with in chapter 2. There the following five elements of governance
are stipulated:
1. Levels and scales of governance (Where? – Multi-level)
2. Actors in the policy network (Who? – Multi-actor)
3. Problem perception and policy objectives (What and why? – Multifaceted)
4. Strategy and instruments (How? – Multi-instrumental)
5. Responsibilities and resources for implementation (With what? – Multiresource-
based)
This elaboration of governance is used in the Euwareness study, for instance
to determine the degree of coherence of governance.
7.2.2 Property and use rights
Property rights arrangements are the second important component of an
institutional resource regime (cf. Fuchs 2003). In the context of resource
research, the property rights approach is particularly worthy of mention
(Bromley 1989, 1991; Bromley & Hodge 1990; Burns & Dietz 1996; Feeny
et al. 1990; Schlager & Ostrom 1992; Libecap 1993; Devlin & Grafton
1998), specifically the common-pool resources theory (Ostrom 1990; 1992a;
1992b; 1994; 1997; Ostrom et al. 1994). According to Ostrom, property and
use rights exercise a decisive influence on the use of natural resources in that
they determine who has access to the resource and when and in what form it
can be used. They define the position of interacting individuals in the
community with respect to the utilization of scarce resources (Pejovich
1975: 40; Young 1994). As Stubblebine (1975) argues, the definition of
property rights becomes necessary as soon as two individuals share a living
environment. Robinson Crusoe didn’t need them, until Friday’s arrival on
the island. Property rights are created or changed in response to economic
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 223
forces, as opportunities to gain arise (North 1989: 1324; Feeny 1988: 273;
Ensminger & Rutten 1991).
Property rights generally include the rights to use and consume the asset,
to exclude others from the use of the asset, to change its form and substance,
to obtain income from it, and to transfer these rights either in their entirety
through sale or temporarily through, for instance, rental (Barzel 1989;
Furubotn & Pejovich 1975; Kasper & Streit 1998). They are generally not
unrestricted. This fact is important to remember in the context of debates on
the environmentally desirable property regime. Private property rights are
often treated as absolutes, which in reality they rarely are. Rather than
having to choose between private property regimes, common property
regimes, and state ownership, the imposition of some constraints on private
property is often a reasonable alternative. Governments, for example, often
impose regulations limiting the owners’ options in terms of how they can use
their resource.
Property rights should be conceived of as bundles of rights. With respect
to environmental resources, for instance, property rights exist and frequently
differ for the stock of a resource and the produced yield or the goods and
services derived from a resource. ‘Ownership of the resource’ would thus
pertain to a specific bundle of rights the owner holds with respect to the
resource. The owner may, for example, hold the right to farm the land, but
not to kill rare species on the land. What specific rights are regarded to be
‘normally’ included with the property title and to what extent these rights
can also be unbundled, differs between different periods and cultures, and
also between resources or other goods. Different ‘property regimes’ are
likely to exist with respect to the attributes of many environmental resources.
Property rights and regimes for such a resource thus tend to form a complex
structure with several layers and dimensions.
In the context of the Euwareness project, the ‘coherence’ of this layering of
property rights is of particular importance, because some combinations of
property rights can also evoke rival demands for water resources. Farmers’
rights to extract water for irrigating their land can rival each other in times of
scarcity, such as in Ostrom’s early irrigation studies, focusing on
homogenous uses. In both the case of scarcity in a homogenous and
heterogeneous use situation, property rights compete with each other. For
instance, this is for instance the case when some farmers have the right to
use a pond as a source for irrigation water, while the local fishery association
has the fishing rights for that small lake. The objective of policy intervention
in the context of an institutional resource regime, then, can lead to a coordination
and harmonization of rights to different attributes of the resource
224 Chapter 7
and pursue sustainable management through a reduction in conflict between
these rights.
7.2.3 Change toward more complex resource regimes
In general, we expect the elements of public governance (and the regime in
general, i.e. including property rights) to exert a stabilizing influence on each
other. This stabilizing influence occurs through processes of mutual
adaptation of values, cognitions and resources. Thus, while changes in the
elements of the governance pattern can be caused by changes in other
elements, ultimately these changes must have external sources affecting one
or more elements from the outside. Mutual adaptation mechanisms that,
without external ‘disturbances’, have a stabilizing influence become the
mechanisms by which substantial changes in one of the elements are
followed by responding changes in other elements, resulting in complete
regime changes.
Sources of change
In principle, external change agents can enter the scene through all of the
elements that are discerned in the regime. There is a difference, though.
Property rights might be conceived as somewhat more stable and less
oriented towards invoking change than the elements of public governance.
That means that, although property rights may act as a powerful context for
developments in public governance, changing governance patterns is not
their subject per se. On the other hand, interventions from the governance
side often have the specific and deliberate intent to change property rights.
External change agents for the governance pattern stem from changes in
political institutions, in the general policy process or policy processes in
related fields, the spectrum of technological, demographic, and cultural
developments mentioned above, as well as feedback from the actual problem
situation. Examples, are some specific and general external sources of
change linked to the five elements of public governance (cf. Bressers &
O’Toole 1995):
– Levels and scales of governance: Rise of the European Union;
– Actors in the policy network: Rise of environmental and nature
organizations;
– Problem perception and objectives: Rise of environmental degradation
information;
– Strategy and instruments: Rise of general ideological preference for
indirect and procedural instrumental strategies; and
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 225
– Responsibilities and resources for implementation: Rise of proportion of
(relatively) independent and businesslike organized implementation
organizations, including privatization of water management.
While these fundamental sources of change agents are grouped by separate
elements of the regime, we will use in the empirical research uses a general
categorization of the more direct change agents that evolve from these
fundamental ones:
a. European Union originated policy pressures;
b. National regime developments;
c. Problem pressures;
d. Various other pressures (e.g. rise of environmental NGO’s).
These groups of change agents can be related to the development of regimes.
The regime can be portrayed as moving from one stage to another. As long
as one acknowledges that various intermediate and mixed situations are
possible and probable, such stages can be a useful heuristic.
Figure 7.2 Regime developments
Coherent
Fragmented
Simple Complex
Single elements Multiple elements
The integration of regimes can be described in terms of extent and
coherence. The extent of a regime is the scope of the uses and users that are
regulated by one or more of the regime’s elements. Coherence is the degree
to which these elements fit together. Very simple regimes regulate only one
resources use or user. It’s the way – in theory previously unregulated –
resources begin to be a subject of regimes. Furthermore, relatively singular
(or simple) regimes (one level, one governing actor, one problem aspect –
Development / Time
226 Chapter 7
e.g. a certain use or user – one instrument, one implementing agency) will
not need coherence. Only after growth in complexity does coherence become
a relevant concept. But then, it is by no means a logical follow up. Complex
but fragmented regimes are empirically quite common.2 While more
complexity is part of a stream of societal developments that seem to increase
as time goes by, both coherence and fragmentation seem to be common
developments.
When we speak of complexity it means that regimes can be characterized by
multiple formats in most of their elements. The most eminent feature is the
gradual increase of the domain of the regime, that is the uses and users
regulated by one or more parts of the regime. We will refer to this crucial
variable as the regime’s extent. Regimes with an insufficient extent are by

definition weak as guardians of sustainable use, while some relevant parts of
the domain go unregulated. With it also comes an increase in relevant
property and use rights. The elements of governance tend to differentiate
too: more layers and scales, more actors, and more perceptions of the
problem and accompanying goals are involved, more instruments are part of
the policy mix and more organizations share responsibilities for
implementation.
Thus, complexity as such is not wrong. Most of the time, growing
complexity is an answer to real needs and developments. Societies generally
grew into more complexity during most of modern times. The sector of
water management is no exception to that general course of development. A
growing complexity in governance can be viewed as a logical adaptation to
that development. This leads to the first hypothesis:
7.2.4 Change toward more coherent regimes
While the growth of complexity in water management regimes seems a fairly
straightforward part of a more general development in society, integration as
2 In fact, while integration has clear theoretical advantages, it comes at a price. Every form
of integration creates the need for additional interaction and increases transaction costs, at
least initially.
Hypothesis 1
The observed change agents (in the period and context of our cases) will lead
to more differentiation in the regime (resulting in more complex regimes), but
not without additional prerequisites to more coherent regimes.
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 227
a development is not. (See Figure 7.2) While the term ‘integration’ is
common in most policy papers (e.g. ‘integrated water management’), in this
project we choose to use the term coherence instead, for the reason that, in
most policy papers the term integration is used in a sense that implicitly or
explicitly includes an increase in the domain of the regime, the extent to all
relevant users and uses. Therefore, we believe that integration as it is used in
the policy sphere is a combination of what we call extent and coherence. For
the sake of conceptual clarity and the possibility to adapt to the meaning of
the term integration in policy practice, we use these terms further when
appropriate, and reserve ‘integration’ for the combination of the two.
The resource regime consists of two components and their mutual
relationships: the regulative system of property and use rights and the public
governance system. Consequently we discern three forms of coherence:
1. internal coherence of the public governance component of the regime,
2. internal coherence of the property rights component of the regime, and
3. external coherence between the public governance and property rights
components.
By coherence of the public governance component we mean the following.
When more than one layer of government is dealing with the same water
resource (as is often the case), then coherence means inter alia that the
activities of these layers of government are recognized as mutually
dependent and influencing each others’ effects. When more than one actor or
target group is involved in the policy, coherence means that there is a
substantial degree of interaction in the policy network. When more than one
use or user is causing the sustainability problem, coherence means that the
various resulting objectives are analyzed in one framework so that deliberate
choices can be made if and when goals are conflicting. The same holds for
instrumental strategies that are used to attain the different objectives, as well
as for the different instruments in a mix to attain one of these objectives. To
conclude, coherence of the organization of implementation means that
responsibilities and resources of various persons or organizations that are to
contribute to the application of the policy are co-ordinated, or these actors
themselves are co-ordinated.
The internal coherence of the property rights system is threatened when
property or use rights are given to actors for uses that threaten uses already
granted to others. This can have several background reasons. Sometimes use
rights that were long seen as non-rival and thus compatible can become rival
ones by a drastic increase in use, or by the use of new techniques. The
internal coherence of the property rights system is thus the degree to which
228 Chapter 7
the interdependencies in the water system and its management that occur in
reality are reflected within and between the property and use rights. The
essence of this variable is that property and use rights of one actor do not
inherently or under given circumstances make it unavoidable to clash with
other rights and/or with the sustainability of the resource, without external
intervention to prevent it.
The two components of the resource regime lack external coherence in case
of a mismatch between actors targeted by the public governance system and
actors with relevant property and use rights. In the second place a mismatch
of the goods and services involved in both systems might also lead to a lack
of coherence and thus change towards more coherence.
Important change (even if they involve change towards ‘consensual
management’ or the like) often involves some kind of conflict, struggle or
manipulation, with losers also involved. Even though these changes are
heading towards integration, the change process itself will often involve
overt or hidden conflicts (as observed in several of the case studies). Such
opposition can also lead to ‘failed’ or partial regime shifts towards
coherence, when changes in one element of the regime are encapsulated,
rather than followed by matching changes in the other elements of the
regime.
So, a change towards coherence occurs only when relevant actors
acknowledge that coherence is necessary to prevent further deterioration of
the resource and take action. Coherence is not a spontaneous development.
Unlike an increase in complexity, then, developments in the direction of
more coherence need some sort of deliberate attempt by motivated actors.
This all leads to the question under what conditions such attempts will be
relatively successful.
Conditions for coherence
Change agents and conditions belong to the same set of causal factors. We
distinguish them for the reason that the ‘conditions’ are often forgotten.
Causal explanations are often sought in the form of ‘new’ and ‘provocative’
factors that are labeled as the ‘causes’. In reality, this image of causality
often forgets the array of factors to which the analyst is used as being the
‘normal’ status (causal factors that one is inclined to forget about). It might
then be delusory to think that the ‘causes’ really are the complete
explanation of what happens.
A simple example may clarify this. When a fire burns a house and one
seeks the cause, one will be looking for sources of fire (e.g. an electrical
short circuit) and exceptional forms of flammable material (e.g. a leaking
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 229
cooking gas container). That there is a great deal of flammable material and
sufficient oxygen in a normal house will be considered ’normal’ or not even
considered at all, while these factors are, of course, as essential as the
previous ones.
In our cases, the division between the ‘extraordinary’ causes (that we
labeled ‘change agents’) and the ‘normal’ conditions are not as clear cut as
in the example. Nevertheless, also in the case studies analyzed in this chapter
similar change agents sometimes set in motion a development towards
coherence. Compare similar seeds sown in different seedbeds. For us, the
reasons why similar problem pressures all over Europe and similar EU and
even national developments have dissimilar effects on water management
regimes at the case level are interesting. Here the ‘conditions’ enter the
picture. We hypothesize the following relationships:
7.2.5 The sustainability implications of more integrated institutional
resource regimes
The sustainability of a given institutional resource regime depends on its
property and use rights component, the public governance component, and
the interaction between these. The expectation that more integrated regimes
will ceteris paribus perform better for sustainability is part of European
political ideology on water management. Here we will theoretically underpin
Hypothesis 2
Attempts to change regimes into a more coherent status will have relatively
more success when:
– There is already a longer tradition of co-operation in the water
management sector.
– There is a common understanding that the counteracting (side) effects of
non-integrated water management harm sustainability and that this sooner
or later will have to be stopped anyhow (joint problem).
– There is a notion of possible joint gains from coherence, so-called ‘winwin
situations’ (joint opportunities).
– There is a credible threat of a dominant actor accumulating power and
altering the public governance pattern in his interest when no solution is
reached (credible alternative threat).
– There are well functioning institutions that provide fertile ground for
coherence attempts (institutional interfaces).
(see appendix 7.1 for indicators for these types of conditions)
230 Chapter 7
this relationship only briefly. First we make some remarks on how we dealt
with the variable ‘sustainability of the use of the natural resource’.
There are many indicators that can genuinely be considered to represent
aspects of sustainability (cf. the ‘good status’ as specified in the EU water
directive – see Chapter 3, section 3.3). It is not the purpose of our research in
this book to assess the overall sustainability of the resource use. Though, for
various reasons, it is hard to give an overall assessment of the sustainability
of the regime, it is less difficult to assess whether the concrete regime
changes lead in the direction of more or less sustainability.
The overall sustainability of resource use was beyond our capacity as
social scientists to judge. Furthermore we were especially interested in the
effects of the observed regime changes. This starting point is also part of the
solution to the first problem. The assessment was concentrated on the
implications of the observed regime changes for indicators that are relevant
to sustainability. Developments in sustainability of use that clearly had
nothing to do with observed regime changes, for instance climate change or
rapid economic development, were excluded from the judgment.
The balance between environment, natural resource protection and risk
avoidance on one hand and the economic and social implications of these
ecological changes and/or measures taken to achieve them on the other hand
is a hard nut to crack. We weren’t inclined to judge in favor of increased
sustainability without some ecological improvements, even though economic
or social indicators might have improved. Here we also paid attention to the
relevant EU ‘good status’ indicators.
That a sufficient extent is a precondition for a benign effect on the
sustainability of the use has been previously explained. Non-regulated uses
and users will tend to disrupt the regime effects on sustainable use.
The internal coherence of the property and use rights component is
important for the sustainability of resource use since such coherence enables
stakeholders to better come to an agreement to guard a sustainable use even
without government interference (Ostrom 1998; Sandler 1992).
The internal coherence of the public governance component is important
because it lessens the chance that negative side-effects of one element (level,
actor, instrument, etceteras) undo the positive effects of another element (cf.
Ligteringen 1996). Stronger coherence will also increase the visibility and
feasibility of chances to create more synergy of the various elements. More
coherence can also lead to less initial uncertainty, and increase in
information exchange and trust, important for dealing with uncertainties (cf.
Arentsen, Bressers & O’Toole 2000). The chances also get better for
productive combinations of motivation, information and balance of power
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 231
with the actors involved in policy implementation processes (cf. Bressers
2004).
The external coherence between the property & use rights component
and the governance component deals with the degree to which the proper
connections are made between the elements of governance (for instance
policy instruments) and the relevant aspects of property and use rights. For
instance: are the actors that hold the relevant property and use rights also the
designated targets of such policy instruments?
All in all this leads to the last hypothesis:
7.3 Case study design
7.3.1 Selection of cases
In the research on which this chapter is based, the Euwareness project, two
cases are studied in each of the six participating countries. The main criteria
for the selection of the cases were:
– The demarcation of a case should follow the hydrological and
geographical boundaries of a water basin at a regional scale or with a
tributary character.
– We have been looking for cases of rivalry between heterogeneous /
homogenous uses/users of the same water resource. We preferred cases
where several rivalries show up to allow intra-case analysis. It was not
necessary that these rivalries are manifest in the whole case area, they
might also be at stake in just a part of the case area.
– There was a preference for cases where not only public ownership but
also private ownership of water resources could be found.
– Cases should be selected on the presence of at least attempts to obtain
transitions towards more coherence during the last two decades.
Hypothesis 3
a) Regimes with a deficient extent will be more likely lead to degradation of
water resources or inability to protect the ecological functions of the water
resource, than regimes with a larger extent.
b) Regimes with a large ‘extent’, but with low coherence will more likely lead
to degradation of water resources or inability to protect the ecological
functions of the water resource, than regimes with a similar extent but a
higher degree of coherence.
232 Chapter 7
The sample of case studies is based on a combination of similarities and
differences. In some respects, it seeks similarities (e.g. medium size river
basins) that define boundaries of the research subject. In some respects, it
deliberately encompasses different situations (e.g. ‘wet’ cases and ‘dry’
cases). But the most significant decision has to do with how the cases relate
to the three main variable-groups, since these relations influence the
inferences that can be drawn about the hypotheses that relate to these
variables.
There are various modes of sample selection, depending on the sort of
inferences one wants to make. On the surface, the last mentioned criterion,
namely that there should be the ex ante impression that a serious attempt to
attain more integration in the regime took place in the proposed case, looks
similar to the other (similarity) criteria. Nevertheless, this criterion is a
combination of an extreme case sampling strategy and a random variation
driven strategy (cf. Patton 1980). It is extreme case sampling in the sense
that it leaves out all possible cases where there is no ex ante evidence that
attempts towards more integration have been made. The implication of this
is that if we don’t find improved factual (‘real’) integration in our cases, the
chances are slim that we shall find it on any large scale outside of our
sample.
It is also a random variation strategy though, since any attempt to attain
more integration surely doesn’t imply its success in close observation. On
the contrary, we expect to see anything, from major improvements to only
symbolic alterations and everything in between, due to the various
conditions of the case. To re-use a metaphor from above: we confine
ourselves to cases where seeds have been sown, in the expectation that these
will be shown to bear fruits to very divergent degrees. This gives us the
opportunity to make an inventory of change agents observed and test
expectations about beneficial conditions. On a separate case level, the
disadvantage is that in case that in practice little or no regime change
towards more integration could be shown, it is not possible to look for
sustainability effects of these non-existent regime changes. Nevertheless, on
a comparative level we’ll find some variation in the independent variable,
with the hypothesis to be tested that improved integration will show
connections with some improved aspects of sustainable resource use.
7.3.2 Case study protocol
The case studies had two stages. The first one is a descriptive one, in which
the emphasis lies on the story or stories to be told. The second one is an
analytical one in which the values of the variables are assessed that play a
role in the theory that is used in the intra- and/or inter-case comparisons to
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 233
arrive at an answer to the research questions of the project (Dente, Fareri &
Ligteringen 1998). In many cases, the case study will contain more than one
story of regime change. This may imply developments that can be seen as
partial coherence in geographical sub-units of the case study territory or
between certain aspects of the resource use but not between others. Our
proposal was not to submerge these sub-stories and force them into one
over-all case description, but to pay separate attention to them against the
background of descriptions of the more general case situation and
development. Some of the cases contain general more or less independent
developments or ‘stories’. In these examples, sub-cases may be discerned.
There is only one case-story under the following conditions:
– If there is only one (major) or at least only one selected rivalry;
– If there is only one line of development or only one aspect with which the
regime has changed;
– If the regime changes observed are highly interdependent; and/or
– If the rivalries in the case are highly interdependent.
If none of these statements hold true, we discerned separate sub-cases when
analyzing the variables and hypotheses. A sub-case is then a set of
observations for which the above criteria do hold.3 In many instances, this
also meant that not only regimes on the water resource, but regimes on land
use, nature protection and other natural resources (e.g. fish) were also at
stake.
The analytical part of the case studies consists of the assessment of relevant
variables (translating ‘real life’ observations into theoretical language) and
the inferences and conclusions that can be based on these variables and their
relationships.
As an aid to the comparative analysis, questionnaire forms were used for
the case study researchers to fill in. These ‘case study fact and assessment
sheets’ represent the variables and indicators of the theoretical model. Their
purpose was to summarize the case information in a uniform format so that it
case is comparable along the lines of the theoretical variables and
hypotheses. The exercises of filling in the forms also proved very helpful in
getting a grip on the case analysis itself.
Apart from the few short statements per variable (‘key facts’), the
researchers were asked to use a five-point scale to score the variables in
3 Compare a detective story in which more than one murder takes place. If these are
interconnected it makes no sense, when analysing the plot, to divide them into sub-cases,
but if they are just connected by the fact that they take place in more or less the same
period, they will probably have quite different plots that require separate attention when
analysed.
234 Chapter 7
order to make the cases comparable. Of course such a score is not a fact, but
a judgment, much like marks are with school test papers. Therefore, we also
wanted to know the most relevant facts that they had in mind while scoring
(‘key facts’). While it might give a case study researcher an uncomfortable
feeling to transform observations into scores, in fact, it gave them an
influence on the way the case study comparison is made. For when
comparing cases one always makes, explicitly or implicitly, these kinds of
judgments on the rating of variables. We chose to do so explicitly.
The great advantage of this procedure is that the people who do the
assessments have extensive and intensive knowledge about the cases at hand,
often even more than they described in the reports. In this way, we tried to
combine the best of both worlds: the depth of information realized in
extensive case studies and the clarity and overview of a data-matrix enabling
all kinds of comparative analysis (cf. Patton 1980). Compared with the
direct, qualitative comparison of the case studies as reported, the approach
diminishes the risk of bias that the comparative analyst is mislead by
surprising, but anecdotal evidence of only one or two cases not
representative of the relationships in the whole sample.
Since sub-cases are treated as equal cases in the analysis of the assessments
of the relevant variables, cases that are split into sub-cases are in a sense
over-represented in the data for the comparative analysis. Therefore, we also
constructed a ‘weighted database’ in which all cases were assigned four units
of research. That means that when a case is not split into 2 or 4 sub-cases but
analyzed as a single case, that case was included fourfold in the ‘weighted
database’. All the analyses were also done with this ‘weighted database’.
Rarely, though, did the results differ.
In addition, one might question whether the case study researchers were not
unconsciously inclined to ‘fix’ the case by assessing the variables not
independently of each other but having the scores on dependent variables
influenced by their assessment of independent variables or vice versa. The
demanded association with mentioned ‘key facts’ already gave some
protection against this. Luckily, we were able to test this possible form of
bias. In the theory, both the forces of the change agents and the conditions
for change explain regime change. The latter are the less ‘visible’ elements
of the causal set. In the case study reports, far more attention was paid to the
various change agents than to the conditions. This is often a large part of the
story in the reports. If the suspected form of bias were real, then one could
expect the variables of ‘degree of regime change’ and ‘force of change
agents’ to be scored by the researchers in such a way that they would
correlate strongly. But the opposite is true: the force of change agents proved
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 235
afterwards to be far less correlated with regime changes than the conditions
are. This attests that the researchers assessed the variables independently on
their own merits.
7.4 The results of the comparative analysis
This section presents the results of the comparative analysis. This is based on
the assessments of cases (including sub-cases) by the researchers of the main
variables of the theory. These assessments were based on ordinal scales with
five values. The 24 (sub)cases and 13 variables per case are of course too
many to be handled in a purely qualitative way. Therefore the analysis below
mostly uses descriptive and analytical statistics that are apt for ordinal level
variables. Some of the main conclusions are illustrated by real life examples
from the case studies. 4
In this section we start first in 7.4.1 by presenting the developments for
the central variable, the regime changes. Thereafter we relate them first as
independent variable with the sustainability of the resource use. In 7.4.3 the
regime changes are themselves the dependent variable and we consider
which incentives and circumstances have influenced them.
7.4.1 Regime changes
What interests us here is the degree to which the listed aspects of the regime,
separately and as a set, moved in the direction of more integration (extent
and coherence) in the cases studied.
The extent is the degree of completeness of the domain of the regime in
terms of relevant uses and users. In most of the cases and sub-cases in the
study the extent of the water resource regime changed positively, in many
cases even to include more or less all relevant uses and users. Almost always
the introduction or the increase in valuation of the protection of the
environment and nature are part or even the core of the extent changes.
Sometimes new human uses like tourism are the extra issues that are taken
into account. Where ecological values were already incorporated, new issues
might arise, like diffuse agricultural pollution.
The internal coherence of public governance is the degree to which the
interdependencies in the water system and its management that occur in
reality, are reflected within and between the contents of the elements of
public governance. The internal coherence of public governance generally
4 These illustrations are derived from the case studies that are described in Bressers and
Kuks (2004).
236 Chapter 7
increased too, but less than the extent. Almost nowhere could a ‘full
coherence’ statement be made and in several instances only small
improvements occurred. The changes in the internal coherence of public
governance in most cases included aspects of all five elements of public
governance: levels and scales, actors and networks, perspectives and
objectives, strategies and instruments, and responsibilities and resources for
implementation.
Illustration 1: Remaining difficulties with non-river basin jurisdictions
In France the SAGE process has generated a collective dynamic. Among other
things the extent of the regime that was slowly built before, was quickly
enlarged. The SAGE process could build on the gradually increased openness
to cooperation that emerged over the last 25 years. The SAGE procedure has
led to awareness of most (and new) stakeholders that they are not the only one
‘main’ user. But that doesn’t always imply that there is participation from all
actors or this participation is dedicated to reinforcement of collective action,
but rather considered by some powerful users as a way to get information that
helps them to keep their power. They proceed actually in behind-the-scene
negotiations. Therefore, the participation is often only to defend one’s own
interests. Some powerful actors, like industrialists, abstain from further
participation once their interests are safeguarded, mainly because their
management of water and wastewater relies upon technical supports (i.e. when
their demand is satisfied they often don’t see an interest in participating any
more since they cannot really get more assets).
The main problem remains that there can be lack of co-ordination or even
competition between state administrations at the regional and departmental
levels. There can be incoherence in rules and public actions when
administrations share the same river. In the case of the Sèvre Nantaise, where
the river is the boundary between two Departments, you can take all the water
you want on one side, while it is forbidden on the other side. (Isabelle Verdage,
Jean-Marc Dziedzicki & Corinne Larrue, Sèvere Nantaise case study)
The internal coherence of the property rights is the degree to which the
interdependencies in the water system and its management that occur in
reality, are reflected within and between the property and use rights. The
essence of this variable is that property and use rights of the one do not
inherently or under the given circumstances cause rival uses to unavoidably
affect the sustainability of the resource, without external intervention. With
the internal coherence of the property rights the picture is somewhat more
differentiated. In two cases no improvement or even new inconsistencies
occurred. But there were also four cases with a rather complete (change to)
coherence in this respect. Generally when absolute limits of the resource are
at stake (water, fish) the property and use rights are used more for selfregulatory
regimes, than when the protection of the quality of the resource
(water, landscape, shores) is at stake. For the water resource in a stricter
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 237
sense this means that predominant protection by property and use rights
occurs more in the ‘dry’ cases than in the ‘wet’ cases. In ‘wet’ cases property
and use rights are often restricted and must give way to public governance in
order to improve the sustainability of the resource use. At least, this seems to
be common practice.
Here, for instance, developments were reported like the transfer of shares
in relevant private and public companies, privatization, gradual acceptance
of the water body as a common good, the lack of introduction of concession
system with new uses, introduction of tradable fishing rights, multi-level
issues like state ownership as a basis to allow new uses (e.g. to issue gas
drilling concessions), while provinces and municipalities hold the public
authority to protect other uses, the redistribution of property and use rights,
disposition rights, the buying of land by a user or a public authority to solve
conflicting property and use rights, expropriation for similar reasons (rarely
and sometimes on the basis of ‘expropriation agreements’, as in Spain),
regulatory unification of the property of land and water, the organization of
users, the acknowledgement of traditional and ‘de facto’ use rights of some
users, agreements (between fishers and kayakists or irrigators and fishermen)
to share water use and the withdrawal of informal use rights.
The external coherence between public governance and property rights is
the degree to which the interdependencies in the water system and its
management are reflected in the interdependencies between public
governance and the property and use rights. External coherence between
public governance and property rights changed considerably in half of the
cases for the better and only modestly or less in the other half.
Here the following developments were reported, among others: expired
use rights were gradually transferred to other (public or semi-public)
institutions, the aim of minimal water flow was incorporated as a sort of use
right for environmental protection, an EU inspired programme gave
compensation to farmers for not exerting their use right to part of their farm
land, some technical measures required new responsibilities and resources
for implementation that demanded changes in property rights, adaptation of
use rights to public policy aims, voluntary restrictions of the property right
holder accepting public policy aims (one of the Belgian cases), the
localization of drinking water industry was problematic but not considered
as a question per se, subsidies allowed the regional administration to
influence nature management by owners, modification of property rights by
creation of zones that were liable to flooding, concessions were given by law
to user communities, a policy plan to improve the information for selfgoverning
user communities by the development of a census to prevent free
riders and by studies, creation of (semi-)public bodies or platforms where
238 Chapter 7
practically every user is represented, policies opening up to take also other
users than those with a use right to the water itself into account (tourists,
fishermen, nature), incorporation of relevant use right holders (farmers,
tourists) as targets in public water policy.
The overall assessment of the regime change is clearly that in most cases
there were considerable improvements on many of the important aspects.
Nevertheless seven occasions of more or less failed attempt to regime
change and 3 occasions where the results were better than average and where
at the end of the case period one could really speak of integrated water
management also occurred.5
Illustration 2: An example of broad improvements
In the Matarranya river process, there are clear signals of regime change, both
regarding extension and coherence of the water regime. The extension of the
water uses increases as it includes irrigation, population supply, cattle rising,
nature protection and tourism. Rivalries between users can be interpreted in
territorial terms (intra-basin driven rivalries). There is also an increase of
public governance coherence, as it regards levels and scales, multilevel
interaction and networks. The most relevant event proving the increase of
governance coherence is the Water Agreement reached by the main actors
operating at the river basin level. This agreement is the outcome of a process in
which a wide range of actors operating at different scales of governance
interact: the regional government promoters environmental initiatives; local
actors appeal to EU regulation as a legal resource by local actors; the Central
Union of Irrigation Communities is created as a body representing all irrigation
communities at the basin; PLADEMA – an ad hoc local association –
aggregates and mobilizes actors against the construction of hydraulic works;
the Ebro river basin administration negotiates with the local irrigation
communities; and the Ministry of Environment finances the construction of
lateral pools. These actors, especially those located at the river basin, share a
perception of risk caused by an extreme situation of drought among the basin
actors and progressively adopt a new water culture.
Regarding the internal coherence of property rights, some improvements can
be identified: the Ebro river basin Plan establishes water needs and uses as well
as a minimal ecological flow; some maladjustments between legal aspects and
real practices of the CHE and the Central Users Community increase its level
of influence regarding decisions on the watering out of the Pena dam and the
distribution of water; traditional use rights of some users are respected; and a
5 While 7 of the 12 areas studied were analyzed as single cases and the other 5 split into 17
sub-cases, one might suspect that the sub-cases are on average more coherent than the
single cases, while each sub-case only deals with a part of what is relevant. We tested
whether such an artificial ‘coherence’ bonus was indeed observable in the assessments.
This was hardly the case. The assessments of the internal coherence of public governance,
the internal coherence of property rights and the external coherence were almost the same
with the single (un-split) cases as with the sub-cases in the sample of 24.
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 239
kind of de facto use rights are given to illegal users of water by the Irrigation
Communities of the basin. After the signature of the Water Agreement, the
external coherence between public governance and property rights improves to
a certain extent. All the main water users have proved to be able to negotiate
and reach an agreement based on a common perception of the river as a key
element for the future development of the basin. (Meritxell Costejà, Nuria Font
& Joan Subirats, – Matarrana River case study)
7.4.2 Implications of regime changes for sustainable use
The approach to the assessment of this variable (-group) is the following: the
researchers started with the rivalries that are at stake in the case story or
stories. In the first instance, the assessment of the changes in the
sustainability of the resource use is limited to the natural/environmental
indicators that are directly at stake in these rivalries. Without any ecological
improvements the researchers were not inclined – in wealthy Western Europe
– to judge an improved sustainability even when economic parameters would
have improved. In the second instance, the social and economical
development consequences of the changes in these indicators and/or the
measures taken for this purpose are also taken into account. In the last
instance, a marginal check was performed to see whether the observed
changes had important side effects on other natural resource/environmental
indicators and whether these in turn had indirect social and economic
consequences.
Illustration 3: Rivalries and ecology
In the Idro Lake and Chiese River case the problem generates from conflicting
interest of the various users of the lake and the water basin. The conflicts occur
between water uses for agriculture, hydropower production, tourism, ecological
balance, and protection from risks related to flooding, soil erosion, and land
sliding. As a response the use of water was managed not only accounting for
water needs, but also for water availability. Environmental and land
conservation was supported by the maintenance of a constant minimal vital
flow, even in summer and controlling the speed of lake depletion. The
maximum water-storage level was reduced to avoid the risk of flooding.
(Bruno Dente & Alessandra Goria, Idro Lake and Chiese River case study)
Often the picture for the economic consequences is somewhat mixed. As
negative economic consequences we found the financial costs and/or
restrictions for the sectors involved (agriculture, fishery, resource extraction
or industry) and in some cases higher water prices are mentioned. On the
positive side the following economic phenomena were often mentioned:
gains for tourism, avoidance of future costs, job creation and job
safeguarding, and an improved natural resource basis for further economic
240 Chapter 7
development. Occasionally lower water costs and increases in productivity
were also reported.
Illustration 4: Nature reserves
In the Dender basin, the structure of the economy is modifying. The relative
importance of industry and agriculture diminishes as tourism is increasing. In
this context changes in the ownership of land are occurring. In fact,
associations for the protection of nature buy land to the farmers. Their purpose
is to develop natural areas, creating ‘green corridors’ throughout the region.
This activity was initiated and is still supported by the Region. The Flemish
Region subsidies the acquisitions. Nature associations negotiate with individual
farmers. The farmers are often aged and then get additional financial resources
(to the pension). The two groups of actors benefit from the subsidies of the
Region that still manages the conduct of the policy. (David Aubin & Frédéric
Varone, Dender River Basin case study)
Illustration 5: Tourism development in the Vesdre basin
The low quality of the Vesdre creates rivalries. Pollution prejudices the
development of tourism, the only economic reconversion expected for this
former industrialized area. At the same time purification of urban wastewater
has come compulsory. The tourist sector and the water purification sector are
mutually supportive. In both cases the European Union plays the role of
institutional interface. In the first place it allocates structural funds. The valley
of the Vesdre is classified as an area in economic reconversion. Both tourism
development project and purification plants benefit from the subsidies. In the
second place, the EU compels the Member States to purify domestic
wastewater. As a consequence, the competence authority, i.e. the Walloon
Region, developed an ambitious catch up policy and raised the necessary
funds. The Vesdre river basin is one of the main recipients. This context should
allow of tourist activities in the valley to take off. (David Aubin & Frédéric
Varone, Vesdre River Basin case study)
While the economic consequences were mixed, the social consequences
were often very positive and remarkably varied. The only negative social
consequences mentioned were limitation of land ownership rights and a
negative impact on the landscape, both mentioned once. By contrast, the
positive social consequences include: modernization of agriculture,
development of new associations of people, more open public debates and
more information for the people in general, improved feeling of safety,
prevention of population decline and maintenance of young population,
fairer distribution between upper and lower communities, resolution of
conflict in the local area, improved living conditions, and the reinforcement
of the qualities of the river as a key element of social identity.
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 241
Illustration 6: Concertation
In Wallonia, the tributary basin of the Hoëgne-Wayai hosted a conflict between
the fishers and the local mineral water producer. Fishers were complaining
about accidental discharges of caustic soda that caused fish disease. During the
case, the actors exchanged violent arguments via the press. In order to come
out of the conflict, the fishers’ federation proposed to the mineral water
producer to make a river contract. The river contract is a non-binding,
voluntary local concertation mechanism. All the local actors meet and discuss
their problems. A monitoring network is put in place. The rivalry is broadened
to the whole range of uses. All the quality aspects are taken into account.
However, every action is done on a voluntary basis by the actor concerned
actor and at its own expenses. Even if results in terms of water quality are
mitigated, the initial conflict moved into cooperation and then every local
water actor adopted a resource logic. (David Aubin & Frédéric Varone, Vesdre
River Basin case study)
Our expectations (hypothesis 3) regarding the relation between the regime
(change) and the sustainability of institutional resource regimes were:
a) Regimes with a deficient extent will be more likely to lead to degradation
of water resources or inability to protect the ecological functions of the
water resource, than regimes with a larger extent.
b) Regimes with a large extent, but with low coherence will be more likely
to lead to degradation of water resources or inability to protect the
ecological functions of the water resource, than regimes with a similar
extent but a higher degree of coherence.
Indeed, the relation between the extent and the sustainability estimates is
rather weak and hardly significant, if one leaves out the coherence of the
regime aspects (Spearman’s Rho is .342 with one-tailed sign. p = 0.051, all
calculations n = 24). The relation between the general assessment of regime
change and the assessment of sustainability is however much stronger (rho =
.533, p = .004). In a scatterplot this is made visual (see Figure 7.3).
Remember that several (sub) cases share their values in this plot. This is
shown by the size of the dots.
242 Chapter 7
Figure 7.3 Relation between the general assessment of regime change and the
assessment of sustainability
Of the separate regime aspects, by far the most important factor was the
coherence of public governance. It correlated even more strongly with the
assessment of sustainable resource use than the general regime change.
The correlations of the development of separate regime aspects with the
development towards a more sustainable resource use are as follows (all
correlations in rho):
General regime change .533 (p = .004)
a. Extent .342 (p = .051)
b. Coherence governance .686 (p = .000)
c. Coherence property rights .527 (p = .004)
d. External coherence b. & c. .380 (p = .034)
Illustration 7: Sustainability and regime changes
Regime changes in the case of the Mula river have some positive impacts on
sustainability including the environmental, economic and social dimensions.
Regarding the environmental dimension, energy and water savings are
considerable, there is a decrease in water loses, some measures to avoid the
overexploitation of wells and aquifers are adopted, and a minimal ecological
flow is established. Regarding the economic dimension, the price of water to
farmers is lower than it used to be and the productivity of the huerta improves.
Finally, regarding the social dimension, there are some training programs for
farmers and an improvement of life quality. In general terms, the positive
impacts on sustainability seem to be more related to the increase of internal and
external coherence rather than to the increase of extent. (Meritxell Costejà,
Nuria Font, Anna Rigol & Joan Subirats – Mula River case study)
REGCHANG
,5 1,0 1,5 2,0 2,5 3,0 3,5 4,0 4,5
SUSTAINA
5
4
3
2
1
0
-1
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 243
All in all, the conclusion is that there is only weak support for our first
expectation here (hypothesis 3a): that an increased extent contributes as such
to a more sustainable resource use. The support for the second expectation
(hypothesis 3b) – that increased coherence contributes to a more sustainable
resource use – is much stronger. Though this can be regarded as supportive
evidence for the proponents of ‘integral water management’, it should be
considered that this isn’t a sort of ‘mechanic’ causal relationship. It still
holds true that ‘the devil is in the details’.
Illustration 8: Voluntary restriction
The lower part of the Vesdre river basin was regularly under water due to water
releases from the dams of Eupen and the Gileppe. During periods of heavy
rainfalls, the dam reservoirs reached their maximum capacity and it became
dangerous to stock more water. People and communes downstream were
complaining. Consultations went on to circumscribe the problem in the basin
despite the lack of regulation. In fact the manager of the dam agreed with the
main user of the reservoir, i.e. the drinking water producer, to constitute a
higher safety margin in case of significant rainfall. The two actors have
endorsed the risk of water shortages in drought periods. The dams no longer
threaten the downstream part of the basin. Informal agreements were later
extended to other consequences of water releases, i.e. minimum flows and
extraordinary releases for canoeing. Moreover, this kind of agreement
generated an extended mobilization of all the local actors involved in water
quantity management as the problem of floods remains, but on different
patterns. (David Aubin & Frédéric Varone, Vesdre River Basin case study)
7.4.3 Explaining regime changes by change agents and conditions
Change agents
This is the combined force of the listed change agents as an impetus to set in
motion regime changes in the direction of more integration. The joint force
of the identified change agents in the cases was assessed as moderate (4x),
strong (12x) or even very strong (5x). Only in 3 (sub)cases was it assessed as
weak or absent. The types of change agents mentioned were EU originated
pressures, national regime developments, problem pressures and various
other case circumstances. In 13 of the 24 cases EU policies were mentioned
as relevant.6 In all but two cases national policy and regime changes were
6 As such a great variety of EU policies were mentioned as relevant: the standard for
minimal flow of rivers, (national laws that were triggered by) directives on the water basis
system, the 1991 waste water treatment directive (5x), phosphate and nitrate standards,
fishery policies, the 1972 wild birds and 1992 habitat directives with their special
protected areas (3x), the 1975 drinking water directive (3x) (and the role of the European
Court of Justice to force implementation), the regional development policy with its
244 Chapter 7
influential.7 In 19 cases was there influence from problem pressure.8 In 10
cases various other circumstances were mentioned.9
Illustration 9: Example of a set of change agents on case level
Change agents in the case of the Mula River include the leadership of regional
government, which has technical and financial resources and support from
other institutions (EU, national administration) in the elaboration of the
Modernization Plan. Of crucial importance is the ability of the Irrigation
Community to break the Heredamiento monopoly of water distribution.
Problem pressure also becomes an important change agent — drought
conditions precipitate a deep crisis of the traditional structure of the Mula
huerta. In addition, policy initiative and new scientific knowledge about the
state of the resource are important variables leading to a regime change.
(Meritxell Costejà, Nuria Font, Anna Rigol & Joan Subirats – Mula River case
study)
Maybe national policy support is a necessary, though not a sufficient
condition. Often the national government provided crucial resources like
formal rules and money. The two cases where such influence was not
reported had a very low overall force of change agents. But generally it is
not the type of change agents or the presence of a variety of them that
matters. Each change agent can ‘do the job’ of exerting a major ‘force of
change agents’ if it is pressing enough.
Our expectations (hypothesis 1) regarding the relation between the general
force of the change agents and regime change was: “The observed change
structural funds (2x). More generally various EU regulations were used as arguments in
the debates, even when not self-enforcing.
7 Apart from various ‘normal’ water (and some nature) policies, some more regime oriented
pressures were also mentioned: promoting regime development at the level of the water
basins (3x), laws demanding (land-use) planning (4x), acts that allow the government as
owner of the water to regulate fishing on the basis of considerations of nature protection,
environmental impact assessment, white papers pushing for ‘integral water management’
(3x), federalisation (Belgium), legislation allowing expropriations and indemnities in
favour of flood protection, and the designation of parts of the basin as nature protection
area. Note that several of these are not or might not be independent from the relevant EU
policies!
8 With the problems at hand there is a clear division between ‘wet’ cases (the majority) and
‘dry’ cases. In the dry cases increased use by agriculture and tourism are main problem
causes. In the wet cases pollution and the risk of flooding are the most mentioned
problems. For almost all cases the increased value attached to nature and environment
considerations makes these enter the picture as ‘new’ problem pressures.
9 Some examples are: the expiration of concessions for irrigation, changing market
regulations pushing for new economic developments, state withdrawal from participation
in economic developments, expanding land use for building, the break-down of traditional
management regimes, experts providing new information, local and environmental
associations and devoted individuals.
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 245
agents (in the period and context of our cases) will lead to more
differentiation in the regime (resulting in more complex regimes), but not
without additional prerequisites to more coherent regimes.” As expected of
the various forms of regime change, only the extent seems directly related to
the force of the change agents. For the other relations more is necessary. And
these attempts to attain more coherence are expected to depend on several
conditions.
The correlation of ‘the combined force of all change agents’ with the
general regime change in the direction of more integrated regimes, and with
the separate regime aspects are as follows:
General regime change .200 (p = .175)
a. Extent .446 (p = .015)
b. Coherence governance .128 (p = .275)
c. Coherence property rights .072 (p = .369)
d. External coherence b. & c. .153 (p = .238)
Illustration 10: Finding political will
In Verviers, drinking water consumption has led to lead-poisoning for more
than a century. Poisoning was due to lead pipes attacked by naturally acid
water. Diverging interests and the weakness of knowledge around the nature of
the contamination explained the status quo. The dam that provides water to the
town had initially been build for industrial uses. The network was later
extended to private housings and water declared to be drinking water without
prior treatment. Acid water was very convenient for the industries because of
its cleaning properties. This position was well reflected in the municipal
council. The commune was the owner of the water distribution service. In
1980, the EU drinking water directive set up constraining standards for lead
concentration in drinking water. The commune of Verviers had to adapt but
missed both the political will and the financial means. Finally, the building of a
treatment plant was taken in charge by the Region and a deviation of the main
pipe did not counteract the industrial interest. Work began only when industry
had guarantee on the unchanged properties of its water. The public health
problem was taken into account without inducing any redistribution at the
detriment of other water uses, industry in the present case. (David Aubin &
Frédérich Varone, Vesdre River Basin case study)
Illustration 11: Bottom-up regime changes
Sometimes it was not national regime change influencing the extent of the
regime at the case level, but the other way around. Here are two examples of
bottom-up processes and subsequent ‘legitimization’ of local developments
through national legislation in Switzerland.
The process of regional regime inventions arising from local problem pressure
which are subsequently supported and thus legitimated by changes in the
policy design at federal level can be observed in both Swiss case studies. In the
Seetal valley, the canton of Lucerne had already issued a notice in 1988
reducing the restrictions on the number of production animals on farms from
246 Chapter 7
four to three livestock units per hectare. Even if this restriction was never really
implemented at regional level, it served as a model for the introduction of the
same restriction into the Federal Law on Water Protection of 1991. In the
Maggia valley in the canton of Ticino, quantitative protection of the water
resources dates back to 1976, anticipating the changes in the federal regime by
a wide margin. At the level of the water basin, protective measures in terms of
minimal residual flows were applied in 1982, a full 10 years before the
enactment in the Federal Law on Water protection of 1991. (Corine Mauch &
Adèle Thorens – Swiss case studies)
Conditions
This is the degree to which the listed conditions provide, separately and as a
set, favorable or unfavorable conditions for regime changes in the direction
of more integration (extent and coherence).
Hypothesis 2 was that attempts to change regimes into a more integrated
status would have relatively more success when:
– There is already a longer tradition of thinking in terms of cooperation in
the water management sector or such a thinking is built during the case
early enough to influence later stages of the case history.
– There is a common understanding that the counteracting (side) effects of
non-integrated water management harm sustainability and that this
sooner or later will have to be stopped (joint problem).
– There is a notion of possible joint gains from coherence, so-called ‘winwin
situations’ (joint opportunities).
– There is a credible threat of a (potentially) dominant actor accumulating
power and altering the public governance pattern in his own way and to
his own interest when no solution is reached (credible alternative threat).
– There are well functioning institutions that provide fertile ground for
coherence attempts (institutional interfaces).
Generally the researchers assessed that in their (sub)cases there was no very
stimulating tradition of earlier co-operation between the actors involved in
the rivalry/ies. Joint problem awareness has been present to some extent in
several cases, though often only on a part of the relevant aspects or only with
some of the relevant actors. There has been considerable differentiation
between the cases in terms of the degree to which the actors involved saw
chances to actually gain by solving the rivalry with a more integrated
regime. In one case there was even a sense of joint loss. With the condition
of a credible threat of interventions by a dominant actor to solve the disputes
to his own benefit there has been a considerable differentiation among the
cases. Generally speaking the condition of institutional interfaces was
somewhat better that most of the other conditions. Nevertheless, in many
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 247
cases these were only a part of the relevant aspects or not functioning very
well.
All in all, the assessments of the conditions for regime change in many
cases are rather favorable. In nine cases the conditions are viewed less
favorably. Especially the awareness of joint chances and good institutional
interfaces – and to a lesser extent an existing tradition of co-operation were
all seen as important positive conditions for regime change. These
assessments of the favorability of the conditions was especially related to the
assessment of the institutional conditions (.679), joint chances (.508) and
previous experiences with cooperation (.405).
Lower assessments of the general conditions indeed correlate with smaller
regime changes, as expected in hypothesis 3. The correlation is .687 (p =
.000). Figure 7.4 shows this relationship in a visual way.
Figure 7.4 The relation between favorable conditions and regime changes towards more
integrated water management regimes
Illustration 12: Polders and wateringues versus water floods
All along the river Dender in Flanders, riparian landowners are involved in a
particular kind of public administration, the polders and the wateringues. The
polders and wateringues manage drainage on their territory. They finance their
activity with direct taxation. Draining activities are in conflict with the need to
create buffer zones. The competent authority for water quantity management
on the Dender faces frequent floods of growing importance. As the problem
pressure is growing, solutions introduced are residual. The weakness is due to
an absence of common concern between the involved users. The water
manager has no possibility to build new relief basins. It only builds dikes to
divert the flood. It is not confronted with claims from the polders and
wateringues that come under flow as a matter of tradition. Moreover, there is
no real mechanism of concertation between the users and no coordination
CONDITIO
,5 1,0 1,5 2,0 2,5 3,0 3,5 4,0 4,5
RE
GCHA
4,5
4,0
3,5
3,0
2,5
2,0
1,5
1,0
,5
248 Chapter 7
between the various competent authorities. Mutual information remains weak.
Everyone is only preoccupied by the evacuation of water out of its territory.
The problem should increase without a sustainable response is put in place.
The only answer consists in building a huge pumping station at the mouth of
the Dender. (David Aubin & Frédéric Varone, Dender River Basin case study)
The assessment of the conditions not only correlated with the general regime
change, but also with all other aspects of regime change.
General regime change .687 (p = .000)
a. Extent .721 (p = .000)
b. Coherence governance .798 (p = .000)
c. Coherence property rights .583 (p = .001)
d. External coherence b. & c. .527 (p = .004)
Hypothesis 2 mentions the conditions separately. This implies that the
various circumstances can have different effects. We have investigated this
by a correlation analysis of all conditions mentioned with all regime aspects.
Here we mention all significant relations. Also a few almost significant
relationships are mentioned, with their uncertainty.
The tradition of cooperation in the water management sector showed
significant correlations only with the internal coherence of public
governance (.416) and almost with the extent (.315, p = .067).
The condition of a common understanding that the counteracting (side)
effects of non-integrated water management harm sustainability and that this
sooner or later will have to be stopped anyhow (joint problem) did not
correlate significantly with any of the regime indicators. Closest was the
correlation with the internal coherence of public governance (.313, p = .068).
The notion of possible joint gains from coherence, so-called ‘win-win
situations’ (joint opportunities) again correlated with some regime indicators
(coherence governance .509, external coherence .599) and with general
regime change (.554). The fact that the correlation of the awareness of ‘winwin’
situations is even stronger with the external coherence between public
governance and property rights than with the general regime change is
striking. It might point to an often ‘public-private’ nature of such
opportunities.
The credible threat of a dominant actor accumulating power and altering
the public governance pattern in his interest when no solution is reached
(credible alternative threat) did not correlate significantly with any of the
regime indicators. It almost significantly correlated with the extent, though
(.305, p = .074).
Last but not least, the existence of well functioning institutions that
provide fertile ground for coherence attempts (institutional interfaces)
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 249
correlates with the extent (.751, p = .000), internal coherence of public
governance (.3431) and with the general regime change (.380).
All in all, of the separate conditions (and the force of change agents) the
joint opportunities and the institutional interfaces conditions (see appendix
7.1 for a specification of these factors in this study) stand out in the
explanation of the various forms of regime changes.
Illustration 13: Joint opportunities and institutional interfaces around the
IJsselmeer
Sometimes rival uses can nevertheless be turned into win-win situations. The
shores of the Dutch IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel) have rival uses of inter alia nature
(bird habitat) and tourism (boating marinas). Of course tourism on the other
hand benefits from beautiful nature. Seeking the balance between the two uses
can therefore be beneficial for both. With a homogeneous use like IJsselmeer
fisheries there is rivalry between the users, but on the other hand all users have
a certain interest in a just distribution of rights, and therefore may favor a
regime that guarantees this while preventing a ‘tragedy of the commons’. This
creates a basis for joint action that can be further exploited by having the right
institutional interfaces in place.
These institutional interfaces can be triggered by European and national
measures. In the IJsselmeer case the national government founded a
negotiation platform, a steering committee on the so-called corner lakes, a
producers’ organization on fishery, environmental impact procedures (gas
drilling) and land use planning procedures with open participation. Such
institutions catalyzed the involvement of users and other citizens (cf. the EU
WFD) and functioned sometimes as ‘policy brokers’ and sometimes as forms
of ‘institutional leadership’. (Dave Huitema, IJsselmeer case study)
7.5 Outlook: our conclusions in the perspective of the
European water management policy
European water policy has developed along two lines – water quality and
emission standards – that reflect different national views. The new European
Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an attempt to reconcile the two
approaches and to integrate water quantity aspects. The purpose of the WFD
is to achieve good ecological quality for all waters inside the European
Union, at the scale of water basins, where an authority implements integrated
management programmes. The WFD should guarantee, as of 2015, a ‘good
status’ for all ground- and surface waters, in quality and quantity, according
to an eco-centered logic. In order to achieve this goal it promotes an
integrated water management, i.e. a management that considers all the water
aspects and legislation in a single picture and on a delineated territory, the
water basin. The integration of control and action should occur for quality
and quantity aspects, surface and groundwater, exploitation and preservation,
250 Chapter 7
objectives of quality and emission limit values and water policy vis-à-vis
other policies. The WFD sets up guidelines and leaves significant room for
manoeuvre to the Member States. The guidelines allow an evaluation and a
comparison of the efforts developed by the Member States and their results.
The main concepts of this chapter relate closely to the central themes of the
new European water policy. The ‘good status’ of the WFD is related to the
ultimate dependent variable in our analysis, the degree of ‘sustainable use’,
especially to the ecological aspect of sustainable use. However, even in the
1996 communication leading to the WFD due attention is also paid to the
‘evaluation of costs’. This aspect is reflected in the ‘economic consequences’
aspect of sustainable use. We observed that besides costs, economic
consequences could be observed both positive and negative. A third aspect
that was included in our research was that of the social consequences. Here a
remarkable number of positive developments were reported from the case
studies. Generally, a higher degree of sustainable use correlated with a more
integrated regime at the water basin level, just as was expected by both the
theory described in this chapter and the ‘practical policy theory’ underlying
the WFD. Though this can be regarded as supporting evidence, it should be
considered that this isn’t a sort of ‘mechanical’ causal relationship. Under
certain circumstances it can even be envisioned that more integration leads
to deterioration of sustainable use. It still holds true that ‘the devil is in the
details’. Nevertheless, empirically in our 24 cases the relationship between
integrated management and the status of the water resources shown to
correspond with the ideas guiding the WFD.
The main venue by which the new European water policy seeks to improve
the good status of European waters is by ‘integrated water management at
water basin scale’. In this chapter the cases that are studied were not at the
full water basin scale, but at the lower level of tributary river basins. The
reason for this is that we believe that integration of management is a multilevel
endeavor. At the higher level of international rivers like the Rhine or
even large national rivers like the Loire, circumstances vary to such a degree
that there is not one, but several sets of uses and users and consequently also
multiple resource regimes needed at a sub-basin level. This is not to state
that the full water basin should not be in need of coordinated management,
but only that for impacting many uses and users, sub-regimes at a tributary
river basin level are also needed. This idea is in accordance with the
principle of subsidiarity that is explicitly endorsed in European water policy.
The case studies concentrated on this level (with areas of some 500 to 2500
km2) and found many interesting experiences with (attempts to achieve)
more integrated water management. These illustrate the assumption of the
Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 251
European water policy that it is necessary to accept some variation of the
institutional arrangements that are used to promote integrated management.
Though the organization of management on a sub-basin level is left
predominantly at the discretion of the member states, we think that at least
devices for Europe-wide communication and exchange on experiences with
integral water management on that level could be helpful for the actual
practical implementation of the WFD. This could be part of ‘joint
implementation’ arrangements.
Integrated water management in this dissertation is conceptualized with
the help of the concepts of extent and coherence. The ‘extent’ of the regime
reflects the elements of integration in the WFD that stress that all relevant
directives and all waters in the area should be managed in a combined
approach. We stress the completeness of the regime to regulate all relevant
uses and users. The elements that stress multi-level (even international if
necessary) and multi-actor (stakeholders and citizens) involvement and the
coherent action guided by management plans are reflected in the concept of
‘public coherence’. As a special feature of our research, not only the
coherence of public governance, but also the coherence of the property &
use rights regime and the coherence of the relation between public
governance and property and use rights are included in the assessments. The
study illustrates that these are important aspects of the water management
regimes, especially – but not exclusively – when quantity issues are at stake.
Theoretically it can be expected that inclusion of former socialist economies
in Eastern Europe would increase the variation in the regimes of property
and use rights considerably and would make this issue even more important.
In Switzerland public policies that reduce use rights by more than 7% need
to include compensations acknowledging these rights. All aspects of
integrated water management studied seem to make a difference, though not
equally in all cases. The research in this chapter has shown that special
attention to the property and use rights affected and the relation between
those and the public governance measures is a worthwhile extension of the
focus of integrated water management.
The integration between water management and other sector policies is in
the new European water policy envisioned by the mechanisms embedded in
‘full cost pricing’. In our cases we did not specifically encounter this subject.
Consequently we don’t have a conclusion on full cost pricing. What we did
encounter were a number of cases in which issues other than direct water
issues entered the process of development of new water regimes. Examples
are issues of landscape, wetlands and fishery, which were entered into the
debate by interested actors. Though ‘full cost pricing’ could be important to
send the right price signals to all actors, there will probably remain various
252 Chapter 7
rivalries that need a form of integrated water management that deliberately
tries to bridge externally to other sector policies for coordination.
The research in this chapter did spend a great deal of effort in providing
better insight into a variety of change agents and conditions that stimulate
more integrated water management. We learned that integrated management
regimes are not something that one can ‘proclaim into reality’. Deliberate
attempts by motivated actors are surely needed to realize it in practice. We
won’t repeat all our conclusions on this subject here, but concentrate on the
points where EU policies come in.
Among the change agents we have seen that in more than half of the
cases EU directives and other policies play an important role. Among these
directives are also some that are not directly ‘water directives’. Another
observation is that national policies that are mentioned as leading to regime
changes were often in their turn triggered or in any case related to EU
directives.
Even more important than the change agents mentioned proved to be the
conditions for change. The European Union can have important – indirect –
effects here too. A first observation is that European policies are often used
in the internal debate at case level as arguments to pursue a certain position.
This holds especially for NGOs and other actors with little formal power and
of course when they want to move in the same direction as the relevant EU
policy involved. Even when these policies are non-obligatory, in this way
they have a certain influence. Of course, part of this influence is generated
by the prospect that these policy lines will become more compelling after a
while. So for the WFD aim of participation in water management, EU
policies can play an important role. Of the several conditions joint chances
and institutional interfaces proved to be the most important. Both can be
seen as venues at which to aim supplementary EU measures in the context of
joint implementation, to improve the chances for regime changes in the
direction of integrated water management.
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Comparing the transition of local water regimes in Europe 255
Appendix 7.1
The indicators for the relevant conditions used are:
a Tradition of co-operation
– a dominant policy ideology that supports integration
– positive examples of integration known by the actors involved
– mutual respect and trust in ‘fair play’ of the actors involved
b Joint problem
– knowledge bases in the form of reports and statements by respected sources on resource
deterioration due to fragmentation
– information symmetry between the actors involved on these points
– a sense of responsibility for the future with the actors involved
c Joint opportunities
– knowledge bases from respected sources on opportunities stemming from more integration
– information symmetry between the actors involved on these points
– a sense of respect for each others’ interests among the actors involved
d Credible alternative threat
– sufficient imbalance of power favouring a dominant actor (government?) to enable
unilateral action
– information on alternative options to ‘solve’ the problem from the perspective of the
dominant’s actor’s perspective
– alternative option has more severe consequences for the other stakeholders than the specific
form of integration would have
e Institutional interfaces
(not all indicators below are equally important to all forms of integration)
– clarity of assigned responsibilities (to prevent territorial battles)
– free and alert mass media to induce awareness of challenges to the system
– legal or practical possibilities to protect negotiated compromises from continuous litigation
– actors, independent or within the administration, with solely process objectives (brokers)
– a small number of stakeholders or a strong representative organisation for the major groups
of stakeholders to enable authoritative a small number of interaction processes
– legal leeway for more integrative approaches
– official (not only laws, but also white papers and the like) policy guidelines to achieve more
integration in water management
256 Chapter 7
Part three
Public gaps and private bridges
in groundwater governance

257
Chapter 8
Groundwater governance at the national level in the
Netherlands
8.1 Introduction
8.1.1 A regulation gap as a window of opportunity
Water problems make up a considerable part of the environmental problems
with which our world struggles. The problems are worst for the poor people
across the globe (World Bank 1992: 11). Water quality is bad and worsening in
the low-income countries and generally acceptable and slightly improving in
the high-income countries (id: 46). In Europe, the improvement of drinking
water quality has been the single most important cause of the increase of life
expectancy (id, p. 99). Nevertheless, even in Europe water supply is threatened.
In the European Union this is generally not a quantitative, but a qualitative
problem. Especially the pollution of aquifers with nitrates and pesticides and
the pollution of surface waters with nitrogen, phosphorus and various other
substances give cause for concern (Commission EC 1992: 21-24). Meanwhile,
the amount of water that is withdrawn for various uses is still increasing and the
water has to be purified in ever more expensive ways (id, pp. 19-20).
Nevertheless there remain uncertainties that hamper adequate action. These
consist not only of uncertainties about the relationship between ‘human
dimensions’ and the deterioration of sustainable environmental quality of
aquifers, but also of uncertainties about the possibilities to produce the desired
changes in these human ‘inputs’. In this chapter we want to stress this aspect of
the problem.
The possibilities for adequate action do not only depend on possibilities for
direct government intervention. More and more such possibilities are even
considered with some sense of criticism. Solutions are more sought in changing
regimes and other institutions. We want to stress here that besides their direct
impact interventions like financial incentives and general standards can also
258 Chapter 8
form an important institutional context in which changes in policy networks,
regimes and more concrete policy interventions can evolve. The European
drinking water standards have been the driving force behind the recognition of
the threats to the usefulness of groundwater aquifers (and surface waters) as
sources for the drinking water production in large parts of the European Union.
Directly and indirectly, these standards have stimulated policy-developments in
various member states, of which the feasibility and implementability without
these European standards would not have been obvious.
Such pressures are extremely important to open new ‘windows of opportunity’
(Kingdon 1984: 21). Together with the pressure on public finance, the
increased consciousness of the ecological challenge changed the ‘policy
networks’ of organizations in the water policy field in the 1980s and 1990s in
countries like Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.
They were all very different in many respects at both the beginning and the end
of that period. Nevertheless they all became more open, more businesslike and
less dominated by an engineering orientation (Bressers & O’Toole 1995).
These changes on their turn have made also new innovative management
strategies more feasible.
A general institutional and policy context is the more important because fear
for deterioration of mutual terms of competition forms a permanent threat to the
legitimacy of strong environmental policies with the public and (in this case
agri-) business. The danger exists that without such a context EU member
states do not attune their environmental policies on the basis of an equal bottom
line of environmental quality, but on the basis of equal costs for their
economies. With an unequal degree of environmental deterioration and an
unequal contribution to the threats to sustainability, unequal efforts for the
environment seem justified however, and are to be viewed more and more as a
normal part of the conditions of the place of business of a certain region.
Drinking water standards, as generated by the EC Drinking Water Directive,
force water supply authorities to do something. Whether they like it or nor, they
become part of the water policy network. However, such standards are only
affecting the behavior of water suppliers directly, and not the behavior of those
who are polluting water resources. Water suppliers need to fill in the
‘regulation gap’ that exists between them and the farmers that are polluting. In
several European countries this leads to situations in which water supply
authorities feel forced to negotiate with farmers on a reduction of agricultural
pollution. To be sure that farmers do cooperate, in many cases financial
compensations are paid. Water suppliers are then ‘buying the good behavior of
farmers’ in water protection zones. Such contracts appear to be decisive
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 259
instruments in helping to move towards a more environmentally friendly
agriculture. The implementation of agro-environmental policies becomes
easier, or in certain cases even only possible through such contracts. A
sustainable agriculture can be obtained far more cost-effectively than by using
exclusively compulsory regulations (Dosi 2001). Despite the success of this
approach, questions might be raised concerning the ‘polluter pays principle’.
To prevent this violation of the principle, political interventions on the national
and subnational levels are necessary. In this respect it is important to keep in
mind the distinction between reference level (the minimum standard of
environmental care) and target level (compliance beyond the reference level).
In accordance to the EU borderline between ‘polluter pays principle’ and
‘polluter being paid’, compensation to farmers only applies in cases of overcompliance
where society asks farmers to provide an environmental service
beyond the reference level (Dosi 2001). Such cases are cases were water
companies want farmers to fulfill higher requirements in water catchment areas
by obligating them to certain preventive measures. An important desired effect
of compensation for over-compliance is to achieve equal treatment of farmers
and to avoid market and concurrence distortions.
Figure 8.1 Regulation gap between water supply authorities and farmers
Against this background we will analyze more in detail the situation in the
Netherlands. We report on a study that has been produced in the context of the
international research project ‘Water supply authorities in Europe preventing
agricultural pollution’, in which also studies on Germany and the United
water supply
authorities
farmers
drinking
water
policy
agricultural
policy
drinking
water
production
water soil
agricultural
activities
“regulation
gap”
incorporating
environmental
policy
260 Chapter 8
Kingdom were involved.1 The Netherlands is an interesting case because it
combines high aspirations on environmental policy and a flexible attitude
towards policy innovations at a general level with an actual environmental
situation regarding the agricultural pollution of the soil that is among the worst
in Europe. The conclusion will be that experiences with an active role of water
supply companies, consulting and negotiating directly with farmers, revealed it
as a ‘promising strategy’.
8.1.2 The case study on water supply authorities in the Netherlands
For this case study of water supply authorities in the Netherlands and the
way they try to prevent agricultural water pollution, we selected the working
districts of five water supply companies in five different provinces. First we
selected five of the twelve provinces in which intensive agricultural
operations take place in areas where extremely vulnerable groundwater
systems are used for drinking water supply. These are the provinces of
Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg, which
together include, generally speaking, the east and the south of the
Netherlands. Secondly, in each of these provinces we looked at the activities
of the water supply company that is most involved in problems with the
agricultural pollution of drinking water sources. In all provinces that were
studied, this was the largest or one of the largest companies. We have
interviewed one or more representatives of these water supply companies to
acquire data for this case study. We also asked them to identify the most
closely involved representatives of the agricultural community and of the
provincial authorities in each of the provinces. In all provinces the
agricultural community has been represented by a regional division of the
national agricultural board. We also interviewed these representatives and
the provincial officials involved (see chapter 9, appendix 9.1: list of
interviews). While writing this case study, the interview data have been used
in two ways. On the one hand we tried to describe what was going on in each
of the provinces as far as possible, according to the common sense views of
the respondents. On the other hand we tried to aggregate the interview data
from the five provinces to give a description of three perspectives on the
policy problem, one perspective for each of the three parties involved (water
suppliers, agricultural communities and provincial authorities).
We have focused the case study on a ten year period from 1985 until 1995,
knowing that 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993 were important years for the
1 The project ‘Water supply authorities in Europe preventing agricultural pollution’ has been
funded under the 4th Framework Programme of the European Union (contract number
EV5V-CT94-0368) and co-ordinated by the University of Twente (CSTM).
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 261
protection of groundwater. In 1987 the national government started to
regulate agricultural practices with standards to restrict the use and spreading
of animal fertilizers on agricultural fields. In 1989 many provinces in the
Netherlands came up with an ordinance for more stringent regulation of
fertilizer use in groundwater protection areas. In 1991 the Dutch government
succeeded in finalizing a negotiated agreement with the agricultural
community on a reduction of the use of pesticides. And in 1993 the
implementation of the European groundwater directive resulted in the
designation of the Netherlands as a whole as a vulnerable area in which the
upper groundwater throughout the country should be protected by meeting a
standard of at most 50 mg nitrates per liter. Most interviews for the case
study took place at the end of 1994 and in the first half of 1995.
Figure 2 Map of the Netherlands with the five selected provinces
The results of the Dutch case study are reported in two chapters of this
dissertation: chapter 8 and chapter 9. Our leading question is: to what extent
are water supply authorities in the Netherlands trying to prevent
agricultural water pollution and to what extent do they succeed in that?
Before answering this question in chapter 9, we will use chapter 8 to
describe three contexts within which water supply companies choose their
strategy. The first context described in this chapter is the problem context.
This context should give an idea about the seriousness and size of problems
Drenthe
Overijssel
Gelderland
Noord-Brabant
Limburg
262 Chapter 8
with agricultural water pollution in the Netherlands, and the need for action
as observed or advocated by several stakeholders (authorities, water
suppliers, environmentalist groups, farmer groups). An important input for
the definition of problems are the European standards which set maximum
allowable amounts of nitrates and pesticides in drinking water and
groundwater. We expect that the problem context, as perceived by water
suppliers, will affect their mission and orientation, and through that the
strategy they choose.
A second context described in this chapter is the regulatory context. We try
to identify regulations that give direction to the actions of water supply
companies, not only through their mission and orientation, but also by
setting their competence and discretionary power as an organizational
resource and part of their ability to control. Although water supply
companies are made completely responsible for the drinking water quality,
they carry no responsibility for the quality of groundwater. So, if they want
to control agricultural pollution of groundwater, they will meet other
authorities working on groundwater protection in this field of control. In this
chapter we describe how the Dutch national government is trying to regulate
farmers and the amounts of fertilizers and pesticides they use. The national
legislation on fertilizers and pesticides sets a regulatory framework within
which water supply companies can develop their own strategy.
A third context that we expect to influence the strategy of water supply
companies is the network context. We seek to describe how water suppliers
in general are dealing with agricultural issues and how the agricultural
community is dealing with environmental issues. We expect that the way in
which both communities have interactions with each other (structural
dimension), the way in which they share cognizance (cognitive dimension),
and the way in which they sympathize with each other (affective dimension)
will affect whether and how water suppliers are going to encourage farmers
to take preventive action. We will use the concept ‘interrelatedness’ for
describing the structural dimension of networks, and the ‘commitment’
concept for describing the cognitive and affective dimensions of networks.
In Chapter 9 we focus on the actions of water supply companies in the five
selected provinces that we studied. First we give a general overview of the
way in which provincial authorities and water supply companies were
involved in policies for groundwater protection areas during the ten-year
period of our study. We learned during the case study that two different
periods could be distinguished in all five provinces. In a first period, from
1988 to 1991, provinces delineated groundwater protection areas, ordained
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 263
regulations for agricultural operations in these areas, while most larger water
supply companies negotiated with representatives of the regional agricultural
communities on agreements for financial compensations, trying to make the
regulations for the protected areas work. In a second period, from 1991 to
1995, expectations about the effectiveness of the ordinances with
compensation agreements declined, while expectations about the
effectiveness of another kind of policy strategy (‘encouragement policy’)
grew. Although it is possible to discern a general picture in all provinces, we
also found differences among the five selected provinces that at least are
related to different ways in which the problem context is experienced.
Therefore we also describe the problem context and the policy approach
followed for each of the provinces separately.
Secondly, we discuss the extent to which water supply companies are
motivated to encourage the farmers to take preventive action. The motives of
the water suppliers, or the factors driving them (their mission and
orientation) are an element of their control capacity. They can be understood
in relation to the three contexts we describe in this chapter 8. The
seriousness and size of water problems (problem context), the presence of
specific regulatory provisions or gaps (rule context), and the way water
suppliers and farmers get along with each other (network context) all have
some influence on the mission and orientation of water supply companies.
Thirdly, we take a look at the organizational resources that are available
to water supply companies and the way each of these resources might help
them to gain control over water pollution. We are interested not only in the
resources that are available to water suppliers, but also in resources to which
farmers are susceptible and which might change the farmer’s behavior, if
they were to be transferred to them. The resources we distinguish are
organizational capacity, financial capacity or money, information,
confidence, authority, and time (based on: Klok 1995).
In drawing our conclusions on our case study, we suppose that the
motives and resources of water supply companies determine their strategies
on how to control the agricultural pollution of drinking water sources. This
strategy might be one of remediation, of prevention, or both. As far as a
strategy is prevention oriented, part of the strategy is the instruments they
use to influence farmer’s behavior. The application of instruments will be
considered as the transfer of specific resources from water suppliers to
farmers. The susceptibility of farmers to resources, and the extent to which
this results in their adoption of in preventive measures, will be our measure
of the presence of control capacity on the water supplier’s side towards
prevention.
264 Chapter 8
Figure 8.3 Research model for the case study on the Netherlands
problem
context
regulatory water supplier’s water supplier’s
context motives & strategies
available resources
network
context
farmer’s water supplier’s
motives & control capacity
susceptibility towards prevention
to resources
We have chosen to include the case study on Dutch groundwater governance
in this dissertation to deal with the fifth research question, as formulated in
chapter 1: What institutional lessons can be learned from governance
arrangements in which non-governmental actors do play an influential role?
Although water supply authorities in the Netherlands are formally speaking
the national and provincial governments being responsible for public
drinking water supply and groundwater management, in practice they have
to rely on a public performance delivered by water supply companies as nongovernmental
actors. While drinking water policy objectives require a
certain performance of the water supply companies, these companies are not
authorized to regulate farming practices to achieve drinking water sources
control. This has resulted in negotiated agreements between water suppliers
and farmers to privately bridge the public gap between drinking water policy
and farming practice. In fact, this is an example of ‘external coherence’ (see
part two of this dissertation) between the public policy subsystem and the
property rights subsystem of the groundwater resource regime in the
Netherlands. Drinking water policy has not been designed to redistribute
farming rights in such a way that drinking water policy objectives can be
met.
The research model in Figure 8.3 has been a preliminary framework in the
process of constructing an analytical governance framework for this
dissertation, as presented in the first part of this dissertation. However, it
covers already most of the governance elements that we distinguished in
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 265
chapter 2. The ‘levels and scales’ aspect is largely covered by the ‘regulatory
context’, which focuses on the various administrative levels involved
(European, national, provincial) and their mutual relationships. The ‘actors
and networks’ aspect is largely covered by the ‘network context’, which
focuses on the dynamics of the agricultural network and the water supply
network. The ‘perspectives and objectives’ context is largely covered by the
‘problem context’, which focuses on the various problem analyses that are
circulating in the policy formulating process and the evaluation process of
policy results. The ‘strategies and instruments’ aspect is largely covered in
chapter 9, where we deal with the motives and strategies of water suppliers.
The ‘resources for implementation’ aspect is also dealt with in chapter 9.
The strategies and resources partly depend on the three contexts that we
distinguish, which indicates the mutual adjustment between the five aspects
of governance. In chapter 2 we distinguished three mechanisms that are
responsible for this mutual adjustment: values (objectives), cognitions
(information), and resources (power). Mutual adjustment arises partly from
the tendency towards mutual consistency of values, partly from the tendency
to fit cognitions into a common framework for interpretation, and partly
from mutual dependency on resources. Although in chapter 9 we deal with
information as one of the resources for implementation, the case study on
Dutch groundwater governance learns that the information aspect is more
than just a resource. The information aspect is also relevant in terms of
mutual role expectations of actors in networks, as well as in terms of
problem interpretations and the problems and objectives in which they result.
8.1.3 Introduction to the Dutch water supply sector
Organizational structure
In the Netherlands the drinking water supply is primarily considered to be
the government’s responsibility, although it is organized as a public utility.
While countries like France and the United Kingdom have opted for
privatization of the water supply, the Netherlands still leaves open a
supervisory role for public authorities. The general opinion of both the
government and the water supply companies themselves is that they
disapprove of privatization in the water supply sector. The Dutch
government officially declared itself not to be a proponent of full
privatization of water supply companies (VROM 1993). This statement is
motivated by the conflict the government sees between the interests of
consumers and those of shareholders. The consumers’ interests lie in having
a guaranteed delivery of water at a reasonable price level; public health
interests lie in having drinking water of good quality that meets the drinking
water standards. Both of these require a drinking water price based on actual
266 Chapter 8
costs. The Dutch solution, which takes the form of commercial operating
companies with public authorities as majority shareholders, is considered by
both the government and the water supply sector to be an adequate
organizational structure to meet these requirements.
At the time of writing the Dutch case study (1997) the Netherlands had
28 water supply companies, only one of which is a private company.2 The
others are public companies in which public authorities participate. About
15% of them are municipal companies, the remaining 85% being regional
companies. In general the municipal companies in urban areas are the oldest,
because the urban water supply started to become organized in the second
half of the nineteenth century by linking houses to a central water main.
Most of these companies are already 100 to 125 years old. Much younger are
the water supply companies that also intend to serve households in the rural
areas. Most of these companies, which in general have a much more
extended service area than the municipal ones, were founded in the 1930s.
These are also the larger companies in terms of organizational and financial
capacity. Some of them serve almost about 90% of the households in a
province, like the Waterleiding Maatschappij Overijssel (WMO) and the
Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg (WML). Recent decades have seen
much reorganization, resulting in larger companies in the water supply
sector, leading to a reduction in total number of water supply companies in
the Netherlands, with a concomitant increase in the area serviced by the
remaining companies. Because of these reorganizations the water supply
sector has grown into organizational units of a size that is considered to be
large enough to produce and provide water of good quality (Vewin 1991a;
Vewin 1993; Langendijk 1994).
A water supply company is in fact an administrative unit that organizes
the abstraction of surface or groundwater, the production of drinking water
from the extracted water, and its distribution or delivery. Abstraction can be
from groundwater sources or from surface water. Groundwater is abstracted
in well fields, where each well field has a pumping station in which the
water extracted from the wells is collected before pumping it to a production
unit where the groundwater will be treated, or purified if polluted, to meet
drinking water standards, or other standards if the water is to be provided to
another destination, such as an industrial application. Water supply
2 In 1960 the Netherlands had about 200 water supply companies; in 1980 there were about
100 companies; in 1990 this was reduced to 60; in 2000 there were just 20 left for about 16
million inhabitants (which are on average 800,000 inhabitants or 250,000 households per
water supply company connected). See also chapter 10. Afterwards, further reductions
have resulted in 11 companies in 2004, which are: Brabant Water, Duinwaterbedrijf Zuid-
Holland, Evides, Hydron, PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-Holland, Tilburgse
Waterleiding-Maatschappij, Vitens, Waterbedrijf Groningen, Waterleiding Maatschappij
Limburg, Waterleidingbedrijf Amsterdam, Waterleidingmaatschappij Drenthe.
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 267
companies in the Netherlands are not involved in water treatment in the
sense of waste or sewage water treatment. This activity is organized by
Water Boards in the Netherlands, which are responsible for the exploitation
of waste water treatment works and the treatment of water that has to meet
surface water standards. Despite this, there are water supply companies,
mainly in the western part of the country, which use surface water sources
for the production of drinking water, which they have to treat very
intensively. As far as the distribution and delivery of drinking water is
concerned, 99% of the households in the Netherlands are connected to a
water main (Vewin 1993; Van den Nieuwenhof 1995).
In the 1970s and 1980s, the question of what might be the optimum
structure of a water supply company started to gain attention. To have a
viable water supply unit, the Council for the Drinking Water Supply judged
that such a unit should have at least 100,000 connections, and also at least
two well fields that are connected with each other. In the first place they
were thinking of companies serving an area with the size of a whole
province, since the provincial governments have responsibility for the water
supply and are also the licensing agency with respect to the abstraction of
groundwater, while the Inspectorate of Public Health and Environmental
Quality is also organized into provincial divisions (Langendijk 1994). It is
the Water Supply Act that allocates to provinces the competence to supervise
the water supply sector and to impose reorganization plans, if they think that
is necessary for an efficient water supply and for public health reasons. Most
provinces took advantage of this power in the1980s, since problems with the
water quality and quantity were increasing at that time.
In 1993, the Dutch government – in its the Policy Document on the
Supply of Drinking Water and Industrial Water – emphasized that the
national policy should lie in the direction of a strong industry, containing
sufficient, large-scale companies whose service areas need not be restricted
to the borders of the provincial territories. Although crossing these borders is
not considered to be a problem, most water supply companies restricted their
radius of action to service areas on a regional scale – mostly smaller than a
provincial territory – because of the infrastructure costs that would be
involved with transport over a longer distance (VROM 1993).
Limits to the potential use of groundwater sources
Water supply companies in the Netherlands use about 70% groundwater
sources and 30% surface water sources. Half of the surface water sources
originate in the Rhine, the other half coming from the Meuse. The amount of
surface water mentioned also includes surface water that is purified through
infiltration in the soil, and dune water. Of the water produced by water
supply companies, 95% is delivered as drinking water and 5% as water for
268 Chapter 8
other purposes, such as industrial applications. Besides that, industries also
pump up their own groundwater, which is not included in the percentages
above. Neither is the amount of groundwater or surface water abstracted by
farmers for irrigation. Only the amount of water produced and delivered by
the water supply companies has been considered (Vewin 1993; VROM
1994).
In the Netherlands, the domestic use of water has increased by 50% over
a period of 20 years (1970-1990), while the population has increased by
12%. The average domestic use per capita per day was 97 liters in 1970, and
125 liters in 1989. A further increase, up to about 135 liters in 2010, is
expected. In 2000, the drinking water use will have increased by about 14%
compared to 1990, a figure which might double before 2060, if the volume
of domestic use remains unchanged (in the absence of water conservation
measures).
Between 1970 and 1980, the total volume of industrial water use has
decreased in absolute terms since the introduction of the Surface Water
Pollution Act in 1970, despite a large increase in industrial production
during that period. This started to change from the beginning of the 1980s.
Water conservation measures were then no longer able to compensate for the
continuous growth in production. On this basis it is expected that the
industrial use of water will increase in the future. At the moment, much high
quality drinking water is still being used for purposes that don’t require this
quality. Using water of lesser quality, produced from surface water, could
diminish the pressure on groundwater use, with the additional advantage to
industry that it can save 40% on its water bills (Vewin 1989).
At the beginning of the 1990s, the government started to intensify its
water conservation policy and decided to increase the amount of surface
water as a source for the water supply (VROM 1990b). An important motive
for this was the increasing environmental problem of dehydration in Dutch
nature conservation areas, due to sinking groundwater levels. In 1991, the
Dutch water supply companies – that cooperate in the national association of
water supply companies Vewin – produced an environmental document, in
which the goal was set of saving 10% domestic water use in 2000 compared
to 1991 (Vewin 1991b). Although the available quantity of surface water
would not be a problem, the quality of this water is lower than that of
groundwater sources, and much more susceptible to pollution from abroad.
Because of incidents in the Rhine and the Meuse it frequently happens that
water supply companies have to suspend their intake of river water for a
while.
What about the vulnerability of groundwater sources that are used for the
production of drinking water? There are about 220 well fields that can be
classified in terms of their vulnerability. Most vulnerable are about 70 well
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 269
fields with no natural protective layers of clay (sandy areas) which together
account for 25% of the water supply in the Netherlands. In another 50 well
fields the groundwater is partly protected by relatively poor covering layers
of clay. In the other 100 well fields the groundwater is abstracted from
relatively deep levels and is very well protected by quite good subterranean
covering clay layers. Most groundwater well fields are situated in the
northeast, the east, the middle and the south of the country. In the west, there
is too much salt in the groundwater at quite shallow levels, which makes it
difficult to produce drinking water from it (RIVM 1991).
In July 1995, the Dutch environmental minister wrote in a letter to the
Parliament, that she was concerned about the quality of the drinking water
sources, both groundwater and surface water. Research had revealed that at
least 15% of the well fields and half of the surface water abstraction sites
were more or less polluted. Groundwater sources were becoming
increasingly polluted with pesticides and nitrates. The minister expressed her
concern about the increasing efforts that were needed to deliver a drinking
water product of good quality. Water suppliers were being forced to
increasingly greater expense in this regard. In the same letter the minister
also concluded that there appeared to be no problem with the quality of the
drinking water in the Netherlands. The most recent data (1993) show that
only incidental violations of the quality standards have been recorded. In no
case was there any danger to the public health and measures had been taken
to ensure that these incidents would not recur (VROM 1993-1997; VROM
1995b; VROM 1996). In September 1995 the Dutch government issued a
new Policy Document on Drinking Water Supply and Industrial Water
Supply, in which it announced that more efforts would be put into the
protection of groundwater and surface water sources over the coming years
(VROM 1995a).
In the Netherlands the water supply companies are regarded as one of the
target groups of Dutch environmental policy. On the one hand they
contribute to some environmental problems, such as dehydration, the
emission of heavy metals from obsolete water pipes, and the disposal of
polluted treatment sludge. On the other hand they are considered to be
‘environmental producers’, like the waste disposal companies and sewage
water treatment companies. They are environmental producers because they
are upgrading the quality of natural water. They also play a role in tracing
groundwater pollution, and they are expected to communicate reported
pollution to government agencies and inspectorates to enable them to frame
adequate regulations and enforcement measures. For water supply
companies, which are traditionally used to concentrating on geohydrological
mapping and water treatment, it is a new field to build up knowledge on
270 Chapter 8
agricultural practices within the areas where their well fields are located
(Van der Schot 1995).
Regulation of the water supply
Water supply companies primarily have to deliver drinking water that meets
the quality standards as provided by the Water Supply Act. These standards
are national requirements, which means that no regional differentiation of
standards is permitted. Water supply companies have no responsibility to
protect groundwater from being polluted. It is left to the twelve Dutch
provinces to create conditions for good quality groundwater and surface
water. The national government provides national planning for water
management and requires the provinces to implement this plan in terms of
their own provincial water management plans. These are plans in which
surface water management and groundwater management are integrated.
Provinces have delegated the operational management of surface water to
water boards, who regulate all discharges to surface water in collaboration
with the municipalities, who manage the sewage systems.
The provinces cannot delegate the operational groundwater management,
since there is no regional agency like a water board to take over the
implementation work and until now there has been no serious consideration
of delegating groundwater management to water boards. As far as the
groundwater quantity is managed, provinces are enabled by the Groundwater
Act to issue permits for groundwater abstraction. They also have to impose a
levy on each 1,000 liters of groundwater abstracted. The permit and the levy
system are especially used to prevent exhaustion of groundwater resources
and the associated dehydration problems.
The quality management of groundwater is regulated under the Soil
Protection Act, which gives to provinces the responsibility to designate
groundwater protection areas and to regulate activities in those areas that
might harm the groundwater quality. Groundwater protection areas are
designated to protect groundwater that has to be used for the production of
drinking water. In most areas regulations are in force for the agricultural use
of fertilizers and pesticides. The Soil Protection Act also provides that water
suppliers have to financially compensate farmers in these areas in so far as
they are more stringently regulated than farmers outside the protection areas.
Provinces also have a role in supervising the efficiency of the water
supply sector, a competence that has been settled on them by the Water
Supply Act. Groundwater is considered to be a collective property, which
should justify public interventions in the way water suppliers operate. The
supervisory role of the provinces also means the service area of the water
supply companies mostly do not cross provincial borders, no matter how
large or small they are.
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 271
In other words, the provinces have a primary responsibility to protect
groundwater that is needed for the production of drinking water, and they
have a supervisory authority with respect to the efficient operation of water
supply companies. However, provinces do not have the authority to impose
drinking water quality standards. Only national and European requirements
have such authority, and these are addressed directly to the water suppliers
by the national government (Glasbergen, Groenenberg & Roorda 1989).
In this study of the Netherlands, we see ‘water supply authorities’ as
water supply companies that aim to supply the public with drinking water
that has to meet the water quality standards provided by the national
government and the European Union. Although water supply companies are
regulated by drinking water standards, they do not themselves have any
regulatory competence to implement these standards by regulating farmers in
order to prevent agricultural pollution of drinking water sources.
Nevertheless, we are interested in the control capacity of water supply
companies in bridging this ‘regulatory gap’. Related to this: are water supply
companies interested in encouraging preventive action and controlling
agricultural operations in their water catchment areas, or do they rely more
on engineering the water quality by purification techniques? The factors
driving the water supply companies in the direction of encouraging
prevention and their capacity to control farmers will be discussed.
8.2 Regulating nitrates as a source of groundwater
pollution
8.2.1 How serious is the problem of nitrates, looking at the
European standard for drinking water?
Nitrates are a very serious problem in the Netherlands, although the facilities
for the purification of groundwater from nitrates are better than those for
pesticides. The maximum level of acceptance for nitrates in drinking water is
50 mg/l. This is required by the EC Drinking Water Directive, that has been
implemented in Dutch legislation in 1984 (‘Drinkwaterbesluit’). The revised
EU Drinking Water Directive of 1994 has been implemented in Dutch
legislation in 1995. Of the 220 groundwater well fields in the Netherlands,
about 70 are very vulnerable to agricultural pollution (nitrogen and
pesticides). In the period 1970-1986, an evident increase in the nitrate level
in the untreated groundwater appeared in more than 25% of the vulnerable
well fields in the Netherlands. In the mid-1980s at two well fields
(Montferland in Gelderland and Reuver in Limburg) radical interventions
were necessary to decrease violations of the drinking water standards in the
272 Chapter 8
untreated groundwater. In some cases the siting of the well field had to be
changed, either by moving to sites with less intensive agriculture or by
abstracting water from a greater depth (RIVM 1991).
In the mid-1980s it was calculated that – in the absence of any manure
policy – 25% of the well fields would show nitrate concentrations of more
than 50 mg/l in the short term. In 1989, an evident increase of nitrate
concentrations was observed at well fields, especially in the east of
Overijssel, the east of Gelderland, the east of Noord-Brabant, and the south
of Limburg. It was expected that within ten years a large number of
groundwater sources would require nitrate purification. In 1989, the
‘Advisory Committee on Perspectives for the Agricultural Sector in the
Netherlands’ reported that, as soon as the year 2000, 50 million m3 of
groundwater would need nitrate purification. The groundwater abstracted for
drinking water purposes amounted in 1990 to about 800 million m3. In 1989,
it was expected that in 2050 the standard for nitrates in drinking water would
be exceeded at about 35 pumping stations (V&W 1989).
In general, the groundwater quality is still sufficient to prepare drinking
water without any excessively complicated technology, especially when it is
possible to use water from deep aquifers, covered by protective layers.
However, in the shallow groundwater, even around the water well fields, a
lot of pollution has been found already. In 1989, the nitrate concentration in
the upper groundwater (10 to 25 meters below the surface) appeared to
exceed the drinking water standard (50 mg/l of nitrates or 11.3 mg/l of
nitrogen) in about 70% of the agricultural land in sandy areas. The soil
structure determines the mobility of underground pollution. The age of the
abstracted water might vary from hundreds of years in areas where the
groundwater is very well protected underground, to less than 25 years in
areas where hardly no protection for the groundwater is available, like the
sandy areas. The long period of time during which water travels
underground explains why the increasing agricultural use of nitrogen, which
started about 40 years ago, first came out in the 1980s. A lot of nitrogen
from the past is still on its way, and that process is irreversible. It is expected
that, despite policy measures, the same nitrate concentrations will show up in
the groundwater, at least until 2010. Therefore it is also expected that
purification techniques will be unavoidable for the next decade (RIVM
1991; Vinkers 1991; Van den Nieuwenhof 1995).
8.2.2 What regulatory framework for nitrates is available at the
national level in the Netherlands?
On the national level in the Netherlands, there are two related legal
frameworks that create a basis for a national manure policy: the Soil
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 273
Protection Act and the Fertilizers Act. Both items of legislation came into
force in 1987. However, while both acts were signed by the ministers for
agriculture and the environment, the Soil Protection Act was formulated
mainly by the Ministry of Environment. This act focuses on the
environmental effects of excessive manuring, and seeks to regulate the
process in which manure is applied. These standards do not directly affect
the livestock holding process itself, and thus the production of manure.
Instead, by setting standards to the application of manure, the concept of
manure surpluses is defined, with the attendant problems.
The Fertilizers Act was formulated mainly by the Ministry of
Agriculture. This act focuses on the problems with surpluses and on the
production of manure itself (the livestock holding process). The policy
instruments created by this act can be typified as financial and
communicative incentives. The preference for these types of instruments
may be explained by the existence of a strong ‘interrelatedness’ and a strong
‘commitment’ within the traditional agricultural network, as it existed at
least until the end of the 1980s (cf. Bressers & Kuks 1992). As a result of
this, the objective of economic growth for the target group dominated the
traditional Dutch agricultural policy. Setbacks in growth were compensated
by incentives and instructions to encourage technological innovations. The
actors involved had a great confidence in technological solutions and in the
ability of the target group to govern itself (Kuks 1988; Dietz & Termeer
1991; Baldock & Bennett 1991).
8.2.2.1 Manure policy (first and second phase): the Soil Protection Act
and the Fertilizers Act
The Soil Protection Act. The introduction of manure standards in the
Netherlands can be divided into three or four phases. The standards in the
first phase (1987-1990) were chosen so as to avoid the production of surplus
manure in the country as a whole (to avoid export of manure). This phase
only achieved a nation-wide spreading of manure and a consequent
reduction of environmental damage in concentration areas. While setting
these standards, the government took account of ‘the tension between what
is desirable from environmental and hygienic viewpoints, the possibilities of
finding practical solutions to the surplus manure problem and the financial
and economic consequences for the agricultural sector’ (VROM 1986).
The Soil Protection Act conferred on the provinces the competence to
mark out groundwater protection areas, for which a provincial groundwater
regulation must have been passed by 1989. This competence enabled
provinces to establish a supplementary, specific level of protection for
vulnerable areas in which groundwater is used for the production of drinking
water. For the provincial regulation of pesticides, the previous competence,
274 Chapter 8
based on the Pesticides Act, was maintained (Meijden 1988; Brauw &
Naaijkens 1989).
Table 8.1 National standards for the use of phosphate in animal fertilizers
Phase Pasture Cornfield Arable Land
1987-1990 2501 350 125
1990-1995 200 250 (in 1991) 125
200 (in 1992/93)
150 (in 1994)
1995-2000 175 125 125
from 20002 110 75 75
Source: VROM (1986).
1 Figures are phosphate in kg/ha/y.
2 Final standards based on ‘balanced manuring’.
In 1989, most provinces introduced standards for ground water protection
areas that are close to the national standards for the third phase. So, for the
period from 1989 until at least 1995, a difference was created between the
regulation for farmers inside and outside the protected areas (Geleuken
1991).
The Soil Protection Act states that farmers within the protected area
should be financially compensated for the losses (costs of disposing of the
surplus manure) they suffer as compared to farmers outside the protected
area. Requests by farmers for compensation will be dealt with by the
provinces, which can collect funds for this by means of a charge paid by
those who abstract groundwater (mainly the water supply companies). The
levy is related to the amount of water abstracted. Water supply companies
can charge the consumers of drinking water for this levy. In fact, the
consumers of drinking water pay for the production of a collective good
(according to the profit principle).
The reason for the compensation provision was to prevent protests by
farmers in groundwater protection areas who would be faced with more
restrictions than farmers outside those areas. Legislators feared that the more
restrictive standards in groundwater protection areas could not be enforced
without compensation. Left wing political parties opened the discussion on a
motion to reject the provision because it would implicitly acknowledge a
‘right to pollute’. The provision was felt to contradict the ‘polluter-paysprinciple’.
In the event, the ‘equality principle’ supervened. The consumers
of drinking water seem to have had no voice in this political debate. They
pick up the costs of pollution caused by farmers, as they do in other
countries, such as England and Germany (Kuks & Neelen 1991).
The Fertilizers Act. By setting manuring standards, the Soil Protection Act
creates a disposal problem. The greater the restrictions on the spreading of
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 275
manure, the more difficult it is to dispose of the surplus manure in a
responsible manner. The Fertilizers Act provides, again through a series of
implementation orders, a supplementary policy which is intended to offer a
solution to the surplus problem. The most important objectives of regulation
by the Fertilizers Act are:
1. the determination and registration (manure accounting) of the surplus
manure produced by the farming community;
2. the disposal of manure surpluses (manure banks);
3. expansion of manure production is forbidden (reference quantity); and
4. division of the costs of combating the problem between the farms with
manure surpluses (surplus levy).
Keeping account of the quantities of manure is compulsory for those
producing manure (livestock farmers), for managers of manure storage
plants and manure processing installations, and for manure traders. The
manure accounts are kept as unofficial forms. This bookkeeping should
show whether a farm has a surplus of manure and, if so, how large this is. If
there is a surplus, the accounts, the consignment notes accompanying loads
of manure sent for disposal, and the actual amount of manure kept in storage,
should proof that the surplus has not been spread on the farmer’s own land.
The General Inspection Service (AID), an agency of the Ministry of
Agriculture, checks whether the accounts have been correctly administered.
The Manure Act also provides for the introduction of manure banks,
which serve to promote the efficient disposal of manure. Manure banks
mediate in the transaction, processing or destruction of manure. They are
obliged to take over a surplus on request by a member of the farming
community, and they will try to dispose of the surplus to arable farmers or
market gardeners. If they cannot get rid of the surplus, then it must be
processed or destroyed. The costs of storage, marketing, and processing are
charged to the owner of the surplus manure.
As long as there are insufficient solutions to the manure problem in the
Netherlands, it is imperative that a continued increase in the production of
manure is avoided. An expansion ban has been introduced to combat this
problem, which entails that the farmers producing over 125 kg/ha/y of
phosphate may not increase their production. To determine whether a farm
has increased its production of manure, the reference situation of each
manure-producing farm was set at December 31, 1986 (reference quantity).
Farming land is therefore subject to not only a milk quota (in accordance
with the EC ‘superlevy’), but also to a manure quota. Both quotas are
tradable in conjunction with the land.
The livestock holding farmer who produces more than 125 kg of
phosphate will be subject to a surplus levy. The proceeds from this levy will
276 Chapter 8
be used to finance measures, which contribute to solving the manure surplus
problem. This applies in particular to long-term solutions, such as the
creation of provisions for efficient disposal, transportation and processing of
manure surpluses, and financing of the manure banks. The surplus levy is
progressive: no levy is charged on a production of less than 125 kg
phosphate; however, production of more than 200 kg phosphate will result in
double the normal levy charged. Furthermore, discounts may be granted on
certain conditions, for instance, if a low-phosphate fodder is used, or if the
manure producer him/her self has found a more or less permanent way of
disposing of the manure. The discounts have been introduced as an incentive
for farmers to find their own solutions for the surplus manure.
8.2.2.2 Manure policy (third phase) and the European Groundwater
Directive for nitrates
In 1994, the national government was hesitant to pass legislation for the
implementation of the third phase. It argued that a tightening of the manure
standards would not make the targets for the environmental quality more
feasible. They expected a delay in the policy’s effectiveness of about 15
years (2015 instead of 2000), because of the problems with handling manure
surpluses in the Netherlands. They also argued that the manure standards, as
planned for the third phase, only regulate the amount of phosphates in
animal fertilizers. Emissions to the groundwater due to the use of artificial
fertilizers containing nitrogen, are not affected by these standards. And the
introduction on the market of cattle fodder containing less phosphate created
an imbalance in the ratio between phosphates and nitrogen in animal
fertilizers.
The government has greater expectations of a ‘mineral policy’ instead of
a ‘manure policy’, which means that they prefer standards that regulate the
loss of minerals (including phosphates, nitrogen and other minerals) at a
farm. Such a policy should affect the total use of fertilizers (animal as well
as artificial). A crucial part of this policy is that farmers have to work with
an accounting system, called a ‘mineral balance’, in which they record the
input and the output (including losses) of minerals at their farm.
Encouraging the prevention of and search for mineral losses can make
farmers more aware of the seriousness of the manure problem than a new
tightening of the standards. Such a mineral policy should include a policy
settlement in which the agricultural sector commits itself to reduction targets
for the coming years. The implementation of these reduction intentions
should be left to the sector itself, which could be effective (looking to the
effectiveness of the settlement which aims to reduce the use of pesticides).
The target group will be moved by this policy in the direction of more selfregulation
(VROM 1993-1997).
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 277
Meanwhile, in June 1991, the EU Council of Environment Ministers
passed a directive for nitrates in groundwater. The purpose of the directive is
to reduce the agricultural emission of nitrates to ground- and surface water.
The directive prescribes, that nitrate concentrations in the upper groundwater
should not exceed a level of 50 mg/l, which corresponds to the drinking
water standard. To guarantee this, the EU wants to impose a manure
standard of at most 170 kg nitrogen from artificial or animal fertilizers per
ha, to start in 1999. In the period 1995-1999 a maximum of 210 kg/ha should
be realized, unless it can be proved that a higher concentration would not
harm the quality of the environment. A member state that wishes to deviate
form the standard, has to propose its arguments to the European Committee.
Enforcement is not based on the actual loss of nitrogen as found in the
groundwater, but on the loss as recorded in the farmers’ administration.
As a consequence of this directive, the Netherlands as a whole have been
considered to be a vulnerable area since 18 December 1993. This means that
not more than 50 mg/l of nitrate is allowed in the upper groundwater
throughout the country. The EU directive should be implemented in the
Dutch manure and mineral policy for the third phase by means of a
tightening of the standards for the use of animal and artificial fertilizers. The
implementation should have been in place before 18 December 1995. The
Dutch government has given an explanation to the European Commission as
to why it expects problems with the implementation of stricter standards. It
also has explained that the Dutch government wishes to introduce a mineral
policy, although they believe that it cannot be passed as legislation before
1997. The Dutch government stated that, in its view, there were three
implementation problems: firstly, the necessary policy instruments would
not be available before 1997; secondly, the capacity for handling manure
surpluses is still too small; and thirdly, the gap between what is needed for
the environment and what is feasible from an agricultural point of view can
hardly be bridged.
In Brussels, the Dutch government stated that it preferred a system of
mineral accounting with a compulsory declaration to achieve a reduction in
nitrates losses. This system uses standards for the spreading of manure are
used, but standards for the loss of minerals. Initially these standards would
be more relaxed than the standards required by the EU. However, after a
period of time the standards proposed by the Dutch might be more
successful (effective in reaching reductions). The EU still doubts the
effectiveness of the proposed Dutch instruments. In the Netherlands both the
agricultural sector and the national and provincial governments feared that
the EU would obstruct the Dutch proposal.
The Dutch policy makers realized that balanced manuring – with the
implication that farmers would apply more minerals to the soil than
278 Chapter 8
necessary for crop growth – is not feasible. In the Netherlands, with its
unstable weather patterns, specific soil structure and intensive agricultural
production, this would lead to a serious production loss. Yields of twelve
tons of raw materials per ha per year cannot be achieved without an
excessive supply of minerals. The idea of balanced manuring was amended
to allow a certain loss of minerals (LNV 1993; VROM 1993-1997).
In the end, in October 1995, the Dutch government presented its proposal
for the third phase of the Dutch manure policy. The policy in this proposal is
aimed at farms who pose the greatest risks to the environment (farms with
high stocking densities). The government wants these farms to start with
minerals accounting. Minerals accounting is an input-output bookkeeping
system, that relates total applications of fertilizers to production. If the
losses, which must be reported yearly, exceed the standards for phosphate
and nitrogen set for that particular year, a fine is levied on the surplus.
Legislation aimed at the introduction of minerals accounting, is being
prepared. It is to enter into force on 1 January 1998. From then on, farms
with stocking rates of more than 2.5 LU (Livestock Units) must report their
mineral losses. In 2002, the threshold will be lowered to 2 LU.
When minerals accounting is introduced in 1998, the loss standard for
nitrogen will be 300 kg/ha. In 2005 it will be set at 200 kg/ha, and in
2008/2010 at 180 kg/ha. In other words, the government will not tighten the
standards before 1998. The European Union standard will not be met before
2010 (LNV 1995).
The Dutch government’s proposals provoked a storm of protests, not
only among the farmers, a large group of which were opposed to the rigor of
the proposed regulations, but also among the environmental movement and
the water supply companies. The water supply companies, unified in Vewin,
think that these proposals are quite insufficient to meet the European
directive for nitrates in groundwater and, in fact, allow groundwater
pollution for an extended period. The Vewin fears that water supply
companies in the near future will have to invest heavily in nitrate
purification systems, which might cost at least 200 million guilders per year.
If that is the case, farmers should partly compensate the costs, in Vewin’s
view, for example by paying a levy on nitrogen losses which could be
destined to reward farmers, if they sanitize the loss of nitrogen. Water supply
companies believe the drinking water consumer cannot be the one to pay for
the purification costs as a consequence of the excessively weak manure
policy. Otherwise the water price in the provinces with intensive agriculture,
like Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Gelderland and Overijssel, would rise to two
or three guilders per 1,000 liters. For an average household the extra costs
due to the manure policy, could be 150 Dutch guilders a year, according to
calculations done by the water supply sector. The water supply companies
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 279
advocate advancing the implementation of the European directive and no
longer waiting until 2005 to meet the standard for nitrogen use.
The environmental movement expects that the European Commission
will not approve the Dutch proposals for a manure policy, since they do not
meet the European nitrate directive on 60 to 70% of the sandy areas, which
is 20% of the total agricultural land in the Netherlands. More than half of the
groundwater well fields are in this area. If the Dutch government will not
comply with the European directive, Brussels can impose a penalty, and
every other interested party (environmental organizations or water supply
companies) can even go to court to appeal for compliance (VROM 1993-
1997).
Almost 600,000 farms, or 13% of the total number in the European
Union, do not meet the requirements of the European directive for nitrates in
groundwater, and have to modify the way they farm. In the Netherlands,
63% of the farms do not meet the standard. These conclusions are contained
in a report by the Dutch Agriculture Economic Institute (Landbouw
Economisch Instituut, LEI) to the European Commission (November 1995).
Only the former twelve member states were included in this study, not
Austria, Sweden and Finland. On average, the 600,000 farms that do not
meet the standard are producing 350 kg/ha of nitrogen. The average
production for all farms in the EU amounts to 70 kg/ha. The differences
among farms, as well as among member states are huge, and member states
with the highest nitrogen surpluses are Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France
(Brittany), Luxembourg and the Netherlands. With 321 kg/ha the
Netherlands head the ranking of member states, with Belgium at 170 kg/ha
following, while lowest in this ranking is Portugal with 6 kg/ha. The number
of farms in the Netherlands that do not meet the Nitrate Directive is about
60,000, or 63% of the total number, while in Belgium this number amounts
about 50%. Together with France (Brittany), Spain (Galicia) and Italy
(Lombardy), these member states also have the highest livestock density. In
contrast to the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and a large part of Germany,
high livestock densities and high nitrogen losses in the other member states
are concentrated in rather small regions (VROM 1993-1997).
280 Chapter 8
8.3 Regulating pesticides as a source of groundwater
pollution
8.3.1 How serious is the problem of pesticides, looking at the
European standard for drinking water?
Two types of norms are available for the quality of drinking water. On the
one hand substances like nitrates or arsenic are not allowed to exceed certain
concentrations in the water, while on the other hand just absolute standards
are used for substances like pesticides, referring to the daily intake,
regardless of their concentrations in drinking water or food. For a lot of
known substances, toxicologists have assessed the amounts in which they
will be toxic to the human body. In case of toxic substances, maximum
concentrations are set at the level of one hundredth or one thousandth of the
safe amounts for a daily intake without harm to one’s health. For all
pesticides that are applied to consumer products, these limits have been very
accurately assessed. A pesticide only will be approved, if the residue on the
product stays below the safety limit, which is why it is possible for us to eat
an apple from a tree, although it might have pesticide residues on its skin.
Besides the toxicology of consumer products, like fruits and vegetables,
pesticides can also be toxic to the environment. To review a pesticide on this
property, one has to know how long the pesticide might be active or resistant
underground, how harmful it might be to underground organisms, and how
much of it is allowed to leach to the groundwater.
In the 1970s, a standard for pesticide residues was introduced in the
Netherlands at a maximum of 0.1 μg/l drinking water. This standard was
chosen after some utilities had found pesticides in the groundwater used for
drinking water production, which made consumers and water suppliers very
nervous. Their immediate conclusion was, that pesticides should not be
allowed in drinking water at all, which seemed to be a logical conclusion in
those circumstances. The standard has been fixed on the basis of the
detection limit, which is the smallest amount that can be measured. Lower
values than 0.1 μg/l were not measurable, given the state of the art at that
time, which in fact made it a zero-base standard. This is called the
‘precautionary principle’.
After the concern expressed by the water supply companies, this new
standard brought action from the producers of pesticides and the Dutch trade
association Nefyto. In their opinion, the setting of this standard strongly
reduced the variety of pesticides that could be brought onto the market, since
the standard indicates that many of the pesticides on the market are leaching
in greater or lesser quantities to the groundwater. Nefyto reasoned that, even
if some pesticides were no longer to be used, they would still show up in the
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 281
groundwater since they are already underground. Nefyto then concluded,
that it would be better to develop standards for each pesticide separately,
since it is not the presence in water, but the concentration that sets the
toxicology.
In 1980, the European Commission fixed the standard at 0.1 μg/l in a
European directive for drinking water. Since then the chemical industry has
been permanently exerting pressure on the European Commission to change
the directive. The industry complains that in fact they are paying for the
production costs of drinking water, causing them to lose billions of money,
while the standards are quite arbitrarily chosen. An alternative would be to
set differentiated standards according to the toxicology of each type of
pesticide, based on the WHO Guidelines. Such toxicity based standards
would mean a considerable relief of the restrictions for many pesticides.
By contrast, environmental organizations and water supply companies
oppose to the idea of having differentiated standards for 700 different types
of pesticides, which would be too complicated to enforce, in their view.
Dutch water supply companies prefer to adhere to the precautionary
principle, as do consumers’ organizations. Some people even suggest being
more strict than cautious, since technical progress has provided more precise
measurement devices nowadays. In 1993, an audit by the Dutch Consumers’
League found residues of the pesticide atrazine in the drinking water on
three locations in the Netherlands. Although the residues were below 0.1
μg/l, the Consumers’ League reasoned that substances like atrazine should
not be present in the drinking water at all, if one adheres to a precautionary
principle (VROM 1993-1997).
In the meantime, both Dutch and European authorities have been very
pragmatic in enforcing the 0.1 μg/l standard. Violations of the standard do
not always result in legal action, as they are reviewed first for their
toxicological relevance, and the adoption of enforcement measures is
considered only thereafter. In 1993, research by the National Institute of
Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) showed that 65% of the
agricultural land in the European Union is polluted with pesticides.
In the Netherlands, groundwater is investigated for pesticides only
incidentally. There are not enough data available for a national survey. In
recent years excessive high concentrations of about 19 different pesticides
have been found in the shallow groundwater, while excess concentrations of
six pesticides have been found in drinking water (RIVM 1991).
To work with a 0.1 μg/l standard for pesticides, is also troublesome for
the water supply companies. They are responsible for purifying water to the
point where pesticide concentrations are reduced to the standard level. They
have to incur great purification costs to do that, which is reflected in the
price of drinking water. The increasing possibilities for the detection also
282 Chapter 8
have the effect, that even more substances are being discovered, and that, as
a consequence, increasing investments in purification techniques are
required. The European Commission estimates that investments in the
drinking water supply in Europe will increase by 9% per year (8% in the
Netherlands). By 2000, it is expected that investments in the drinking water
supply sector will be twice the amount spent in 1993, according to a speech
by EU Commissioner Paleokrassas at the EU Conference in September 1993
on the revision of the Drinking Water Directive. ‘We have to investigate the
relation between public health and the costs of drinking water, although
public health will be in the first place. It is more a matter of who is going to
pay for the costs,’ the Greek Commissioner explained. He also emphasized,
that there is no doubt that consumers in the future will have to pay more for
their drinking water. To show how inexpensive drinking water is, he
emphasized that the European consumer still gets 1,000 liters of water for
the price of one liter of beer.
In June 1994, the European Union passed a revised directive for
pesticides in drinking water, in which it was opted to apply in most cases the
enlarged toxicological standard for the leaching of pesticides into
groundwater. The standard of 0.1 μg/l was to apply only in areas where
water is used for the production of drinking water. As a transitional
arrangement, the member states are allowed to apply the enlarged
toxicological standard until 1999. In special cases, member states are
allowed to designate areas in which the drinking water standard has to be
applied, although groundwater in those areas is not directly used for the
drinking water production. This is an arrangement that fits quite well with
the principles of Dutch environmental policy, and the Dutch government
made use of it. It was a great surprise to the organization of pesticides
producers, Nefyto, to see that within a few hours after the European
ministers in Brussels agreed on the directive in Brussels, the Dutch
government in The Hague came out with a legislative proposal to designate
the entire Netherlands, because of the enormous amount of water, as an area
where groundwater should be of appropriate quality for the supply of
drinking water. In July 1995 the Dutch government incorporated the EU
directive for drinking water into the Drinking Water Decree of 1984.
Meanwhile, the Nefyto fears that the Dutch government has let itself in
for a lot of enforcement problems. As Nefyto put it, how can the Dutch
government be that stringent, while there is free trade within Europe? While
the Dutch drinking water standard bans specific pesticides, they might be
allowed for use in other member states. The European directive implies, that
a producer of a pesticide that is forbidden in the Netherlands, but has been
approved in Greece, should also be allowed to use such a compound in the
Netherlands. However, a spokesman of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture,
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 283
which is responsible for the approval of pesticides, stated that this would not
mean that such a fact would oblige the Dutch government to approve that
pesticide. Member states can have their own approval policies, related to
specific circumstances. The Dutch Ministry of Environment thinks that
about 20% of the already registered pesticides have to be reviewed and
might be banned. In the context of the approval policy, they will consider
which substances will be indispensable for agricultural practice, and which
might be remained for that reason (VROM 1993-1997).
About 700 different sorts of problematic pesticides exist, that need
regulation. The discussion is about their admissibility. In contrast to nitrates,
pesticides are not allowed at all in the groundwater, not even in a certain
amount. Therefore, regulation of pesticides needs to provide precautionary
measures.
There is a large variety of pesticides. Many of them are still not
detectable. So water suppliers are anxious, that they may be unaware of their
presence in the groundwater. Not even all the effects of the detectable
pesticides are known, which is why water suppliers adhere to the principle
that pesticides are not allowed to be in the groundwater (VROM 1993-1997).
8.3.2 What regulatory framework for pesticides is available at the
national level in the Netherlands?
8.3.2.1 Pesticides policy: general structure
Groundwater protection first gained attention in the Netherlands at the
beginning of the1970s. The Provincial Administration Act conferred on the
provinces the competence to take care of the protection of groundwater.
Since then provinces have to mark down ‘water extraction areas’, called
‘ground water protection areas’ since 1987. The regulatory consequences of
this provincial competence concentrated on point source pollution, like
leaking oil tanks and crashed tank trucks. No one was thinking at that time of
regulating agricultural pollution, except for pesticides. From the early 1970s
on, the 1962 Pesticides Act already banned the use of certain pesticides in
water extraction areas. This had to be enforced by the provinces.
The Pesticides Act prescribes the approval and use of pesticides. A
pesticide may only be stored, used or placed on the market after it has been
evaluated for damaging side-effects to humans, animals, plants and the
environment. A series of regulations issued under the Act laid down various
specific requirements, such as the permissible level of residues, safety
instructions pertaining to sale, storage and use, and the procedure to be
followed in approving a pesticide. The competent authority for approving
pesticides is the minister of agriculture (or another minister if the preparation
is for use in another sector). Technical advice on pesticides submitted for
284 Chapter 8
approval is provided by the Pesticides Approval Commission, a body
consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Welfare,
Public Health, Environment, and Social Affairs. Approval is for a maximum
of ten years, though in most cases a shorter period is specified – typically
between three and five years – and the uses to which a pesticide may be put
are specified. The approval can be withdrawn instantly, if it transpires that
the pesticide does indeed have damaging side-effects. This has happened on
several occasions.
For a long period of time, the approval or registration policy based on the
Pesticides Act functioned as the crop protection policy. As a result of the
increasing criticism of the negative effects of pesticide use (on the
environment and the drinking water supply), the government developed a
crop protection plan in which the negative effects of pesticide use are
discussed. The development of this ‘Long term crop protection plan’
(MeerJarenPlan Gewasbescherming) took a long time, due to the many
conflicts that occurred between the departments involved. The government
commenced drafting the plan in 1987. Finally, in 1990 a draft was issued and
was sent to all the parties involved. The final draft was submitted to
Parliament in June 1991. The Committee on Agriculture and Environment
discussed the plan in April 1992. As a result of a hearing, the committee
asked the government to come to an agreement with the agricultural interest
organizations and the industry. In July 1993, the Dutch government signed
the negotiated agreement concerning crop protection with the agricultural
sector to regulate the use of pesticides. The settlement aims at a decrease in
the structural dependence of crop protection on pesticides, and at a general
reduction in the use of pesticides. Besides these generic goals, more specific
goals were set for the year 2015. Firstly, the use of pesticides should
generally be reduced by 50% by 2000 (compared to the amount used in
1987). Secondly, the use of harmful pesticides should be sanitized.
Indicators for the predicate ‘harmful’ are the ‘underground mobility’, the
‘persistence’ (degradability), and the toxicity (how harmful they are in a
water system). In fact, pesticides that have the potential to leach to the
groundwater should be due for review and re-registration. It has been left to
the sector itself to determine how to reach these goals (LNV 1991).
The main goals of the pesticides policy can be identified as follows:
1. acquiring more knowledge of the environmental and health risks of
pesticides use;
2. improving the efficiency of crop protection, in order to achieve
reductions in use;
3. creating better alternatives for the pesticide products that are already
available; and
4. prohibiting specific pesticide products.
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 285
The pesticides policy mainly targeted at the production of and trade of
pesticides and their use or application. Looking at the use of pesticides, there
can be effects in two ways: on the residues of pesticides in agricultural
products for human consumption; and on the residues of pesticides in the
groundwater, which are harmful to the environment in general and to
drinking water production in particular.
Pesticides are used by farmers in order to benefit the growing crops.
Farmers’ participation in the policy making process is driven by the
objective of preventing any restrictions on crop protection that may affect
the yield. On the other hand, it is in the interest of environmental actors
(authorities as well as NGOs) to restrict or prevent the environmental and
health effects of pesticides use. A third party in the policy process is the
chemical industry. Their main interest is to safeguard the trade in pesticides.
This does not imply that they are opposed to the participation of
environmental actors. In general the industry is sensitive to matters of
reliability, and motivated to work on the prevention of environmental and
health effects for which it could be held responsible in the future.
To farmers the use of pesticides is part of their economic activity.
Pesticides are regarded as being essential means to reach a certain degree of
productivity. Therefore, the pesticides policy is not based on prohibiting the
use of pesticides, but on their careful handling. Inasmuch as pesticides may
be prohibited, this is done through restrictions on the approval of pesticides
which affects the production and trade in pesticides in the first place, with
the industry as a target group rather than the farmers. Policy makers consider
it to be the producer’s responsibility to instruct farmers as how to handle
pesticides in order to prevent environmental and health effects as far as
possible.
To farmers it is important also to get information about the effects on
crop revenues of different ways of pesticides use. In the negotiated
agreement on crop protection it is agreed that farmers will reduce the use of
pesticides in general on the condition that this will not harm the protection of
crops. Central instruments in this policy strategy are education and training
activities. It is assumed that farmers will only cooperate, if they can be sure
that alternative practices of pesticides handling (for example crop rotation,
using more resistant crop types, using pesticides with lower risks) will not
harm crop benefits.
The traditional pesticides handling practice shows, that farmers in general
are not very knowledgeable about the effects of pesticides, and that they
commonly apply more pesticides than necessary to be sure of the crop
protecting effect.
286 Chapter 8
Looking at the production and trade of pesticides, the registration
procedure sets standards for the approval of pesticides. It therefore has the
character of a policy instrument based on prohibitive steering. Through
registration the policy makers try to regulate the availability of alternatives
for crop protection. The aim of this instrument is not only the prohibition of
harmful pesticides, but also the encouragement of the production of new and
better alternatives. In that way, the registration procedure also works as a
communicative incentive, as well as a financial incentive towards the
pesticides producing industry (the target group). The procedure requires that
producers investigate all the effects a pesticide may have, before they are
allowed to introduce it on the market. In this way it works as a
communicative incentive: the procedure generates more knowledge on the
effects of pesticides. Related to this, producers are motivated to invest in
innovations in crop protection. In that way, the procedure works as a
financial incentive. As an effect of the pesticides policy, a new generation of
pesticides is beginning to make its way on to the market. A number of
companies are investing heavily in the development of low-risk pesticides.
The pesticides policy recognizes the reliance of farmers (and market
gardeners) on the availability of technical means (the state of the art). This
explains why a policy leaning on optimization of pesticides use can only be
partly successful. Pesticide management by farmers themselves assumes that
farmers are able to completely control the pollution of groundwater by
pesticides. However, to a great extent the industry producing the pesticides
can be made responsible for the effects of pesticides application. They are
expected to have more expertise than farmers concerning the environmental
and health effects of pesticides. Therefore, the registration procedure is still a
crucial element of the policy. It motivates the producers as a target group to
invest in research and development for the production and marketing of
better products.
Farmers’ organizations are aware of the importance of the producers as a
target group. It is in the interest of the farmers to shift the discussion about
pesticides effects to a discussion about the production of pesticides, instead
of a discussion about their use. As long as this discussion does not harm their
incomes, farmers’ organizations are very cooperative in the policy making
process. They accept agreements on self-regulation – as made in the ‘Long
term crop protection plan’ – to avoid policy instruments that will intervene
more stringently in the application process. In other words, it is in the
interest of the farmers that the policy makers’ attention will remain focused
on the industry (Smeets 1990; Reus 1991; Brand 1994).
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 287
8.3.2.2 The use of pesticides and the ‘Long Term Crop Protection
Plan’
As described before, the Dutch ‘Long term crop protection plan’ aims at a
decrease in the structural dependence of crop protection on pesticides, and at
a general reduction in the use of pesticides. Besides these generic goals,
more specific goals were set for the year 2015. Firstly, the use of pesticides
should generally be reduced by 50% by 2000 (compared to the amount used
in 1987). Secondly, the use of harmful pesticides should be sanitized. In fact,
pesticides that have potential to leach to the groundwater should be due for
review and re-registration. It has been left to the sector itself to decide how
to reach these goals.
As far as the first goal is concerned, the plan has been quite successful, in
that a reduction in use of the amounts of pesticides (in kilograms) has been
achieved. In 1995, the annual emission of pesticides to the soil and the
groundwater had been reduced by 80% compared to 1986. The target was a
reduction of 40 to 45%. The effect of the remaining pesticides on the
environmental quality has not been reviewed (LNV 1996). Environmental
organizations think this achievement can be explained in terms of the
enormous reduction in the use of soil disinfectants, while the use of other
harmful pesticides has not actually been reduced. Meanwhile, new more
concentrated and more harmful pesticides have also entered the market,
making the result in terms of reductions in kilograms less laudable
(Vereniging Milieudefensie 1996). In 1995, the Centre for Agriculture and
Environment (CLM) and the Agriculture-Economic Institute (LEI), in a
preliminary evaluation, recognized the achievement of reductions, although
they warned that fewer kilograms used do not automatically imply
improvements to the environment. The government would give a misleading
signal to the agricultural sector, if it were only to count kilograms and ignore
the results in terms of environmental quality (VROM 1993-1997).
As far as the second goal of the ‘Long term crop protection plan’ is
concerned (sanitation of harmful pesticides), environmental organizations do
not believe that a reduction has been achieved; instead there has been an
increase of 2% (Vereniging Milieudefensie 1996). This has been explained
in terms of delays in the European harmonization of pesticides policies, and
the fact that producers of pesticides went to court to appeal against the
sanitation of their products. The illegal use of pesticides stayed outside the
statistics. Assessments of the amount of illegal pesticides in the Dutch
market vary from 2 to 10%.
For the sanitation of harmful pesticides the approval policy is important.
The European Union is working on the revision of a substances list, as a base
of allowance of pesticides in the EU in future. Probably only 89 of the 700
pesticides in use will meet the new requirements. Pesticides that are no
288 Chapter 8
longer necessary, or pesticides that are evidently harmful to humans or the
environment will be banded or restricted in their use on the basis of
Directive 91/414/EU on the marketing of phytosanitary products. According
to the European environmental movement, consumers’ organizations, and
labor unions in the agricultural sector, this will not necessarily enhance
environmental protection, as there is no guarantee that the 89 remaining
pesticides are less harmful. They want the EU to consider more closely the
environmental effects of pesticides when revising its list of pesticides
(Verdonk & Velders 1996; VROM 1993-1997).
8.3.2.3 The registration of pesticides and the ‘Pesticides Approval
Commission’
Until 1993, the approval of pesticides was in the hands of the four
responsible ministries that participated in the Pesticides Approval
Commission. Because of ongoing interdepartmental conflicts about what
environmental and public health criteria should be applied, and the
consequence that pesticides were neither approved nor banned, the
Parliament intervened, and in 1993 it established a new, independent
Pesticides Approval Commission. At the same time, Parliament passed the
‘Long term crop protection plan’, while also approving the requirement that
90 environment critical pesticides should be sanitized before 1995. Three
years later (in 1996), the result is that those 90 pesticides have not been
sanitized and that even 70 new pesticides have been approved without
reviewing them on environmental criteria. Some of the newly approved
pesticides are very persistent and toxic substances. This could happen
because the ministries involved in the previous commission did not establish
any criteria for the newly established commission and they also neglected to
supervise the work of the new commission. An evaluation report on the
approval policy since 1993 by a task force of departmental officials, makes it
clear that obvious standards and criteria were missing in some cases where
the commission was forced to make a balanced consideration of the interests
involved. The task force writes, that the consideration of interests should not
be a matter for the commission, and should be left to the political arena. The
responsible minister for agriculture concluded, after reading the report, that
the approval policy had failed with respect to the involvement of politics in
the implementation work of the Pesticides Approval Commission. The
discretion of the commission needs to be restricted as much as possible, he
judged. By contrast, the Agricultural Board and the producers of pesticides
think, that the Pesticides Approval Commission has insufficient
discretionary competence (Brand 1994; VROM 1993-1997).
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 289
8.4 A policy network point of view: the dynamics of
agricultural issues in the water supply sector
8.4.1 Water supply sector growing into a policy community
Environmental interests have only recently gained attention within Dutch
groundwater management. Initially, groundwater was managed only to
supply drinking water and for the related health care aspects. That was why
the Ministry for Public Health introduced the Water Supply Act in 1957, not
only to make demands on the quality of drinking water, but also to
institutionalize the organization of the drinking water sector. This act
formalized an already existing practice by which provinces could permit or
forbid the establishment of new or the expansion of existing water supply
companies.
Until the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, most of the water supply
companies were local and private initiatives. The beginning of the twentieth
century saw the establishment of companies covering a wider area, often
with the participation of municipalities. Municipalities and private persons
were not willing to cooperate in all cases, however. To guarantee the
efficiency of water works all over the country, several provinces developed
regulations governing the water supply on their own initiative, a practice that
later found support in the Water Supply Act.
Since 1975, most of the provinces have made plans for a further
concentration of water supply companies. The number of companies has
been reduced: from 102 in 1980 to 73 in 1988, to 49 in 1990, to 41 in 1993,
and to 28 in 1997. But there are plans for a further reduction still, to about
30. The provinces and the drinking water sector itself, as represented by the
Vewin (National Association of Water Supply Companies), agreed that the
structure of the drinking water sector in its present form does not fit the
demands for securing clean water supplies in the future. They believe that
the water supply companies can only fulfill their tasks, if they have a strong
organization, which implies adequate technological know-how and financial
capacity (Vewin 1991a; 1993; VROM 1993-1997; VROM 1995b).Those
supply companies that use surface water for the production of drinking
water, are faced with greater problems in guaranteeing good quality than
those who use groundwater. The latter consider themselves to be relatively
invulnerable, which is why they offer a lot of resistance to reorganization
plans. They argue that they have never had problems with the supply of
water, and that they have always had a good quality, that their charges are
reasonable, and that their customers are always satisfied (Van der Knaap
1987). The smaller companies, in particular – most of which do not have the
provincial authorities participating as a shareholder – try to maintain their
290 Chapter 8
autonomy. But the burden of proof lies with them to demonstrate, that they
can still operate in an efficient way. The Vewin is very cautious in taking a
stand (Vewin 1989). Actually, they support the idea of developing more
professionalism and efficiency in the drinking water sector. But the Vewin
tries to avoid a confrontation with the smaller companies, since it wants to
be an organization that represents the entire drinking water sector
(Achttienribbe 1993; Langendijk 1994).
We may conclude that, until the 1950s, the water supply sector can be
qualified as a fairly fragmented network. Though the companies shared a
common purpose, they acted individually. Water supply came into being due
to local initiatives, and for a long time they sought to maintain their
autonomy. After 1957, the sector became more integrated due to two
developments. First, reorganizations and mergers between companies led to
scale enlargements in the sector and an increasing interrelatedness. Second,
the interrelatedness and commitment within the sector increased as a result
of the rise of national organizations which were intended to promote the
interests of the entire sector, such as the Vewin and the KIWA (a research
institute for technological innovations in the water supply sector). The need
to increase efficiency in the sector encouraged a strong policy community
with a strong technocratic approach to the problems the sector was faced
with. Thus, these institutional changes were generated from inside the policy
community, based upon a common perception of the way forward.
8.4.2 The water supply sector encountering the agricultural sector
in an issue network
The presence of nitrates in groundwater poses a serious threat to the drinking
water supply. More than 50% of Dutch water extraction locations (especially
those in the east and the south) are likely to become unsuitable as drinking
water sources in the near future. They are situated in areas with a sandy soil
and many intensive cattle farms. Although there were already indications
that excess manure was being produced in some regions in the Netherlands
as early as the mid-1960s, it took until the 1980s before the government
began to deal seriously with the manure problem. The delay was due to a
demarcation dispute between the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture.
The Soil Protection Act, which came into effect in 1987, is the first Dutch
legislation that aims at integrated protection of the soil and groundwater. It is
primarily aimed at preventing excessive manuring, by intervening in the
spreading of manure on agricultural land. The Act contains a number of
standards to fix the amount of manure which is allowed to be spread on the
land. These standards apply nationally.
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 291
As described in section 8.2.1.1, the Soil Protection Act provides additional
protection for areas in which groundwater needs to be withdrawn for the
supply of drinking water. Provinces are authorized to enforce more
restrictive manuring standards in these areas. Farmers within the protected
areas should be financially compensated for the losses by means of a charge
paid by those who abstract groundwater (mainly the water supply
companies). The reason for the compensation provision was to prevent
protests from the farmers in groundwater protection areas, who are faced
with greater restrictions than farmers outside those areas.
The drinking water sector was thus confronted by a very strongly
organized opponent from outside the sector – the farmers. Although the
agricultural sector constitutes only five percent of the active labor force in
the Netherlands, it has had considerable influence in Dutch politics. Since
1954, the agricultural sector has been nationally organized in the
Agricultural Board. The agricultural lobby was very effective, which is, for
example, reflected by the fact that it usually is consulted at a very early stage
of policy making. The Agricultural Board also has regional boards in each
province, that consult with the regional or local authorities, particularly
about planning and land use. The regional boards played an important role in
determining the manure policy for groundwater protection areas. They
negotiated with the provincial authorities and the water supply companies
about the manure restrictions that are to be applied in these areas, the
disposal of the resulting manure surpluses, and the compensation payments
for farmers (Dekker 1988).
While the agricultural sector is strongly developed at all levels – national,
regional, and local – the drinking water sector was for a long time not so well
organized. Traditionally, water supply companies are proud of their
autonomy. The Vewin always played a modest political role, being only
active in emergency situations, such as the ‘bentazon affair’ in 1988, while
fulfilling its main task of providing service to the drinking water branch. At
the end of the 1980s, the Vewin became more politically involved and
responsive, although the political discussion on the Soil Protection Act had
already been concluded. When the presidency came into the hands of the
governor of the province of Zuid-Holland, the Vewin succeeded in moving
the negotiations concerning the compensation in groundwater protection
areas from the regional level (with one negotiator from the Agricultural
Board representing the whole country negotiating with each water supply
company separately) to the national level. Since then, the framework for
regional negotiations is the state level.
We conclude that external interests and pressure on the water supply
sector in some sense strengthened the sector as a policy community. It
became a more tightly organized policy community, especially in terms of
292 Chapter 8
an increasing commitment between the members of the community. In the
meantime, however, the issue of agricultural pollution of groundwater
confronted the water supply community with another strong policy
community, the agricultural sector. This sector is very experienced and has a
long tradition in lobbying and negotiating strategies. The agricultural sector
as a network is not only characterized by a strong commitment, but also by a
strong interrelatedness. This strong interrelatedness forced the water supply
sector to participate in negotiations on a more aggregated (regional and
national) level. In fact, it strengthened the interrelatedness within the water
supply sector (Kuks 1988; Den Breejen 1991).
8.4.3 Consultation between water supply companies and farmer’s
organizations as the most promising strategy
The discussion of the compensation payments shows, that the regulatory
strength (‘control capacity’) of the authorities is very limited in the case of
groundwater quality management. Although they try to regulate by means of
ordinances and prohibitions, the enforcement of these rules is difficult.
Therefore, a system has been chosen in which private organizations (water
supply companies) have to participate in the enforcement of the rules.
The drinking water sector is beginning to define its role, however. In
1990, the director of Vewin stated:
This is a considerable change for organizations which traditionally are engaged
in pumping and presenting the bill. However, if you want to create groundwater
protection areas, then others may have fewer opportunities to use the soil in these
areas. If that is the case, groundwater protection can only be realized by offering
compensation to them. This is not a new phenomenon: the drinking water sector
already contributes one third (about 20 million Dutch guilders) of the costs of the
Rhine Salt Treaty. In the Third National Policy Document on Water
Management this is called ‘paying for quality’. (Jehae & Van Soest 1990
[translation by the author])3
The compensation provision formally implies that farmers can claim their
losses against the province, which in turn may charge the water supply
companies that withdraw groundwater in that area. Water supply companies
prefer to settle the matter in a friendly atmosphere. They also want to control
the disposal costs of manure surpluses and to avoid unnecessarily high bills.
For both reasons, several water supply companies have started to act in the
matter of disposal of manure surpluses, which in itself is a very unusual task
for a water supply company. An increasing number of companies are also
attempting to buy out farmers in their most vulnerable areas.
3 See also V&W (1989) and Van der Schot (1995).
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 293
Although methods exist for the purification of groundwater that is
polluted with nitrates, the drinking water sector strongly opposes this option
as long-term solution. The director of Vewin explains:
If the water supply companies started with complete purification tomorrow, the
polluters could no longer be forced to change their behavior. We want to use the
drinking water, and with that the consumer, as a crowbar for improving the
environment. (Velema, Boer & Verheul 1989 [translation by the author])
The strategy of consultation, chosen by the water supply companies to deal
with agricultural pollution of groundwater, had already been tested by the
companies which use surface water from the large rivers for their drinking
water production. Those companies are mainly located in the western part of
the Netherlands. They have huge problems in maintaining a good water
quality. A great part of the pollution in these rivers stems from foreign
industries, which means that they are dealing with extra-territorial actors.
The director of Vewin indicated that Vewin is reluctant to develop new
techniques for analyzing water for the purpose of tracing polluters. However,
the data can often be used to exert pressure on polluting industries. For
example, the City of Rotterdam has chosen to consult with polluting
industries, even when they are located abroad, rather than taking judicial
action. In 1990 a spokesman of the City of Rotterdam stated:
We try to handle the collected data very carefully, just because we want to get in
conference with the discharging industries. Negative publicity will be applied
only when the polluter is really unwilling. However, threatening publicity has
proved to be a very strong instrument. (Jehae & Van Soest 1990 [translation by
the author])
This demonstrates that the drinking water sector realizes that it has its own
role to play in water management, and that it can often reach further than any
other authority. This seems to be true for the case of point source pollution.
But is this also true for non-point source pollution? Consultation with
polluters was regarded to be the only solution to the problem, since the
national and provincial authorities were unable to guarantee strict
enforcement of regulations. However, the case of groundwater protection
areas also demonstrates that the possibility of using a consultation strategy
depends heavily on the extent to which non-point source polluters are
organized. The agricultural industry is very well organized, and that may be
one of the reasons why they became the first target group to be addressed by
the Soil Protection Act in 1987.
In practice, the approved approach seems to have been based largely on
self-regulation. Thus, the secretary general of the Ministry of Agriculture,
when he signed the negotiated agreement on the use of pesticides, argued
294 Chapter 8
that the target group was also consulted on the reduction of the use of
pesticides by farmers.
One can prohibit the use of pesticides, but the need for them won’t disappear.
Such a measure has hardly any effect, because the farmers would use other or
illegal means which could be worse on a large scale. Actually, the reason for
using excess pesticides nowadays is that farmers have too little knowledge about
how to use them and they won’t take risks. A policy strategy should be more
directed to an increase in expertise by means of the branch itself. (NRC
Handelsblad, December 23, 1988 [translation by the author])
However, it remains very difficult for authorities and water supply
companies to address the problem of non-point source polluters in less
organized branches. One of difficulties of tracing polluters is that pollution
reaches the groundwater only after a long period. Even if farmers entirely
ceased manure spreading, it would still take fifteen to thirty years before all
the current nitrate pollution has come out with the groundwater that is used
for the production of drinking water.
Finally, we may formulate some conclusions on the way in which the
water supply community dealt with external threats. On the one hand, water
supply companies reacted in a very technocratic way by searching for
technological innovations to satisfy the demand for drinking water of an
acceptable quality. On the other hand, they tried to react against the Soil
Protection Act which ignored the polluter-pays-principle. They did not
succeed in their opposition, although they were strongly supported by
environmental groups. The water supply sector and the environmental
groups are united in their support for the polluter-pays-principle. In this
sense, the strong relation between the water supply sector and environmental
groups can be conceived as the existence of a broader policy community.
However, the interrelatedness in this community is weak: no strong or
intensive interactions exist between both sets of actors. In the end, the
polluter-pays-principle was not applied due to a successful lobby by the
agricultural sector and due to the lack of political organization and influence
of the drinking water consumers. It appeared that the best feasible political
outcome was to saddle the consumers with the costs of pollution prevention.
Another indication for the existence of common interests of the water
supply sector and environmental groups, is that they both stress the
importance of strict enforcement of the rules. However, water supply
companies realize that it is very difficult to control the spreading of manure.
The control capacity of the regulatory agencies (provinces) is limited in this
respect. That is why the water supply sector expects better results through
direct negotiations with farmers’ organizations. After the settlement of the
compensation provision in the Soil Protection Act, ‘consultation with target
groups’ was left as the most promising strategy in the issue network in which
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 295
the water supply sector and the agricultural sector both participate (Kuks
1988; Bressers, Huitema & Kuks 1995; Van der Schot 1995).
8.5 Another policy network point of view: the dynamics
of environmental issues in the agricultural sector
8.5.1 The traditional agricultural network
This section analyses the policy network which is traditionally involved in
the formulation of agricultural policy. We call this the traditional agricultural
network. In fact, we describe the network as it existed in the Netherlands
until the 1980s, before the development of the manure policy. In our analysis
of the relationships in the agricultural network we make use of the
‘interrelatedness’ and ‘commitment’ concepts (cf. Bressers & Kuks 1992). In
the following section we examine what changes the network has undergone
as a direct result of the manure problem, and the consequences this has had,
and may have for the choice of policy instruments. In that section we
actually handle the agricultural network and the related environmental policy
in the 1980s and 1990s.
Three aspects of interrelatedness may be distinguished in the network
relationships. In the first place it should be noted, that the discussion
between policy makers and the agricultural target group is highly
institutionalized. The Agricultural Board consults frequently, and on a more
or less regular basis, with the Ministry of Agriculture and the agricultural
specialists in Parliament. Each month, formal talks take place between the
Agricultural Board and the minister. This way, the Agricultural Board is able
to formulate timely responses to policy initiatives, or to initiate policy itself.
The permanent committees for the agricultural sector are in the habit of first
consulting with the Agricultural Board before any parliamentary debate on
agricultural policy begins. This practice is described by a Member of
Parliament: ‘When the minister returns from Brussels he spends the entire
day in discussion with the Agricultural Board. The permanent committee is
sometimes only informed a week later.’ (Dekker 1988)
In the second place, it is notable that a considerable number of personal
ties exist in the agricultural sector. Many administrators in the agricultural
sector simultaneously occupy different positions in other organizations, and
therefore represent the interests of the sector on a number of different fronts.
Personal ties exist not only within the agricultural interest group (particularly
between the Agricultural Board and its five component organizations), but
also between the agricultural interest group and other organizations in the
agricultural sector (such as trade cooperatives, industrial cooperatives, the
296 Chapter 8
banks and insurance companies with a strong tradition in the agricultural
sector). Many agricultural administrators also occupy positions in political
organizations at different government levels, or in Government management
boards and semi-state institutions.
Thirdly, we have observed that the agricultural sector has an extensive
infrastructure at its disposal which serves to support the farming industry.
The sector has its own educational institutions, an impressive information
network, a considerable number of renowned quality control institutions, an
extensive research and development department, and its own daily and
weekly newspapers with a wide readership in the agricultural sector, which
are considered to be an important source of information. However, the
question we must ask ourselves is, whether this can be considered as
indicative of interrelatedness or of commitment. On the one hand the
infrastructure increases the intensity of interaction, for instance, from the
point of view of communication structures. On the other hand, this
infrastructure deepens the understanding between policy makers and target
group as an example of commitment at network level.
One reason for the strong interrelatedness in the agricultural network is,
that the target group consists of a large number of small, self-employed
entrepreneurs, who form a relatively homogeneous group with respect to the
way they carry on their businesses. As this concerns small enterprises
(family businesses), the need for interest groups is considerable. The
agricultural market has to be protected and the industry needs support in
order to increase its productivity, reduce its costs, and be in a position to
exploit export opportunities. The homogeneity of this industrial sector
means, that it can be successfully represented by one umbrella organization,
the Agricultural Board. However, mutual dependence is an essential factor.
The Ministry of Agriculture is expected to represent the interests of the
agricultural sector in the Dutch council of ministers and in the European
council of agricultural ministers. Therefore, the ministry is dependent on the
target group to obtain information on administration in this sector, and on the
interest group, as far as disciplining its members is concerned.
The strong interrelatedness in the agricultural network has led to what is
known as corporatism. Policy formulation in the agricultural sector is in the
hands of three actors: the Ministry of Agriculture, the agricultural
commissions in Parliament and the Agricultural Board, which are also
referred to as the iron triangle, who form a united, consensual front before
taking a standpoint. The representation of agricultural interests is
institutionalized in the Agricultural Board, whose authority is recognized by
both target group and policy makers, and that has been granted civil
authority to implement policy, and discipline its policy field autonomously.
It is very difficult for outsiders (such as the Ministry of Environment) to
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 297
break through this corporatism (Bressers & Kuks 1992; Frouws 1993;
Termeer 1993).
We can also recognize forms of commitment in the agricultural network.
The policy makers have a strong positive attitude to the target group of the
policy. They clearly consider the representation of the interests of the target
group to be the reason for their existence.
This strong commitment has two main sources. In the first place most of
the actors in the agricultural network have remarkably similar backgrounds.
Many actors (and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture) grew up in an
agrarian family, have either had an agrarian education or have studied at the
only agricultural university in the Netherlands, which has always maintained
strong ties with the agricultural sector. Anyone who has found access to the
agricultural network, transfers easily from one function to another.
Administrators are generally recruited from the sector’s own ranks. Top
administrators in the agricultural sector generally have occupied other
positions in the agricultural network. Until recently, this also applied to the
officials who have successively filled the post of minister of agriculture.
Another reason for the presence of this strong commitment, is that policy
formulation is very dependent on information generated by the agricultural
sector itself. The Agricultural Boards, as well as the various research
institutions (which form part of the infrastructure) ensure that the policy
makers are well informed on the concerns of the target group of the policy.
The strong commitment in the agricultural network means, that
considerable resistance is offered by policy makers to product restrictions in
the agricultural sector. Maintaining a strong agricultural sector has become
their own interest. Necessary changes are generally sought in technological
innovations in this industry. Policy makers have absolute confidence in the
self-governing ability of the agricultural sector (Bressers & Kuks 1992;
Frouws 1993; Termeer 1993).
8.5.2 Changes in the traditional network and consequences for the
choice of instruments
From about 1980 on, the agricultural network has been under pressure
because of the manure problem. In this section we describe which new actors
have been trying to gain access to the agricultural network, the response of
the existing network to these ‘newcomers’, and the consequences this has
had for the way in which policy has been pursued in respect of the manure
problem. At least three phases can be distinguished in the history of dealing
with the manure problem (Bressers & Kuks 1992).
298 Chapter 8
8.5.2.1 First phase (1972-1984): the network tries to deny the
existence of the policy problem
As early as the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s it became
clear that a manure problem existed, and that it would be necessary to tackle
this problem nationally. However, publications with facts concerning the
size of the problem, collected by the national statistical bureau (CBS), were
kept back by representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture. Members of
Parliament received insufficient information about the seriousness of the
problem. They gained the impression, that the growing pace of the intensive
cattle breeding would diminish, and that the main problem consisted of
malodors, distribution and fodder composition. It would be possible to
develop technical solutions to these problems (Frouws 1990: 38). Apart from
the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Board, as well as the target
group itself played down the manure problem during this phase. Even at the
end of the 1980s 35% of the farmers interviewed denied the existence of a
manure problem; 57% denied that manure could threaten the fertility of the
soil (Vermeulen 1992).
Using delaying tactics, the Ministry of Agriculture tried to block the
introduction of manure policy measures. An interdepartmental struggle was
going on. Although the Ministry of Environment started to formulate the
Soil Protection Act in 1980, the Ministry of Agriculture initially disputed the
range of this act. As they did not succeed, they suddenly introduced a draft
for a new Manure Act in 1981. The Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the
Agricultural Board feared losing the traditional role of initiator, which they
used to have within the agricultural network. Moreover, they used the
delaying tactic of establishing research committees, which were assigned the
mission to study the seriousness and size of the manure problem, as well as
the possibilities for its solution.
It is typical of this phase, that both ministries developed distinct
regulations with respect to the manure problem in the Netherlands. The
regulation prepared by the Ministry of Environment was characteristic of a
situation of weak commitment and weak interrelatedness. The Soil
Protection Act initially contained very ambitious objectives, which could
only be realized by means of directives. By contrast, the Manure Act of the
Ministry of Agriculture showed the characteristics of a situation in which a
strong commitment and a strong interrelatedness exist. A preference can be
seen for policy instruments stimulating self-regulation. While the Ministry of
Agriculture has its own target group, which can be identified very clearly as
a homogeneous group, the Ministry of Environment lacked such clear
identifications with any specific target group until at least the middle of the
1980s. Because of a weak interrelatedness and a weak commitment with
target groups, the Dutch environmental policies in the 1970s and the
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 299
beginning of the 1980s are characterized by: a sectored approach to each
environmental sector; a restricted role for target groups in the policy making
process; optimistic and therefore ambitious, but mostly unrealistic
objectives; and a preference for regulation by standards and permits as the
dominant policy instruments.
8.5.2.2 Second phase (1984-1989): the network tries to delay the
policy formulation process
In 1984 the then ministers of agriculture and environment reached the
compromise, that the formulation of both acts would be attuned to each
other, and that they would be signed by both ministers. At least this
‘condemned’ both ministries to cooperation, although it did not imply the
end of the existing interdepartmental struggle. This was an initiative of the
former minister of environment Winsemius, who wanted to ‘unfreeze’ the
cold relationship that had existed for years. He also conducted a sort of
‘tour’, explaining his objectives to agricultural organizations and farmers all
over the country. The double responsibility arrangement changed the
struggle from a demarcation dispute into a debate about the contents of both
regulations. The use of delaying tactics continued. Because both regulations
were arranged as a framework regulation, it was possible to delay the
decision making concerning the filling in of the framework. In this way the
agricultural network gained time to look for technical solutions to the
manure problem.
Because of the ‘condemnation to cooperate’ issued at the ministerial
level, the traditional agricultural network became confronted in the second
phase with new actors. Those new actors were trying to enter the traditional
network, or to ‘open the iron triangle’. First of all the Ministry of
Environment announced its entry as a new policy maker in the agricultural
sector. It is typical of this ministry, that its access to important target groups
in environmental areas (agriculture, industry and transport) depends on other
ministries, that are traditionally responsible for policy concerning these
target groups. External integration is pursued by the Ministry of
Environment as a means of compensating for its lack of power. Attending to
environmental issues should become an integral part of every ministry
dealing with environmental matters. Ministries and interest organizations of
non-environmental policy sectors have reacted to this initiative by consulting
their own environmental experts (Frouws 1988: 47-48). Since the beginning
of the 1980s, the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment have been
engaged in interdepartmental talks on a collective approach to the manure
problem. In addition to the ministry, new interest groups also announced
their entry in the traditional agriculture network. From the beginning, the
environmental interest groups proposed a reduction of the livestock numbers
300 Chapter 8
in the Netherlands, as a permanent solution to the manure problem. They
wanted to urge the policy makers not to underestimate the manure problem.
The entry of new actors to the policy formulation network has sparked
off two distinct reactions. The first was that the traditional actors tried to
keep their ‘iron triangle’ closed. Although the Ministry of Environment tried
to draw the initiative for the manure policy to itself, the agricultural sector
has been successful in ensuring that the Ministry of Agriculture functioned
as co-policy maker. By means of the iron triangle, the Agricultural Board
has been able to exercise a powerful influence on the manure policy. The
Ministry of Agriculture has continually sought to avoid direct contact
between the Ministry of Environment and the agricultural target group. It
wished to be solely responsible for determining which information is
received by the target group, and when. In this context, it is noteworthy how
an official has described the reaction of the Ministry of Agriculture to the
plans of the Ministry of Environment to instigate an investigation into the
consequences of a possible reduction of the numbers of livestock:
Agriculture had serious doubts (…). They feared, and not without grounds, that
the outside world would blame the Government for planning to reduce the
numbers of livestock. The only purpose of this investigation, however, was to
establish the consequences of a reduction. To pursue a good policy you have to
know what the consequences of reduction might be. (Logemann 1990
[translation by the author])
A second reaction to the entry of new actors to the policy formulation
network was that a gradual division occurred in the traditional agricultural
network. On the one hand there were signs of disagreement within the iron
triangle. The manure legislation had already led to an open conflict between
the minister of agriculture and the Agricultural Board. Members of
Parliament no longer relied solely on advice from the Agricultural Board,
but also included advice given by environmental groups in their decision
making (Termeer 1990: 99). The policy formulation process in the
agricultural sector no longer occurred in isolation, and consequently it
became politicized. Meanwhile, farmers’ interest groups were dealing with a
problem of legitimization (Frouws 1990). Since policy makers were asking
their advice on burdensome and restrictive measures, they feared that their
legitimacy would decrease in the eyes of their members. This blocked the
cooperation with the policy makers within the iron triangle. Completely
against the corporatist tradition, the Agricultural Board came out with
discordant advice, especially in reference to the allocation of production
rights (as was the case with the advice on the so-called Verplaatsingsbesluit).
On the other hand, there were indications of a divergence between the
iron triangle and the agricultural target group, particularly in respect of
relaying information to the target group on the seriousness of the manure
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 301
problem and the need for change. Different actors in the agricultural sector
feared, that both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Board had
continually delayed providing information, with the result that adjustments
achieved in the sector would probably be inadequate and would make a
reduction in the numbers of livestock inevitable in the end. These actors
believed that the policy makers should be clearer about the investments to be
made by the target group, in order to maintain production levels in the future
(Klep 1989; 1990; Termeer 1990). Numerous stock breeders were keeping
more animals than they themselves considered necessary, reasoning that if
the livestock percentages have to be reduced in the future, it would be better
to have as many animals as possible on the census date (Klep 1989). The
formulation of a manure policy made it difficult for the iron triangle to keep
its ranks closed. However, it did not mean a total break with the rules of
corporatist decision making. The agricultural network still was in existence,
and it unmistakably placed its mark on the manure policy.
The formulation of policy for the manure problem has ultimately led to a
division into three major solutions: restriction on the spreading of manure,
relocation of manure surpluses, and the encouragement of innovation. The
solution that requires restrictions on the spreading of manure is the result of
an initiative of the Ministry of Environment. The Agricultural Board was
successful in attaching a rider to this solution, to the effect that the existing
size and organization of the stock breeding industry may not be affected.
This limiting condition also created a basis for compensation claims in areas
where, as a result of the special protection requirements, stricter manuring
standards were enforced than those that applied nationally. The option of
reduction of the agricultural sector, advocated by the environmental
movement, had to be considered more seriously, when the minister of
agriculture imposed a deadline of 1994 to the solution of the problem of the
manure surpluses. If this attempt failed, then volume measures (reduction of
livestock numbers or closure of certain farms) would have to be taken
(Termeer 1990: 99).
The solution requiring the relocation of manure surpluses is an initiative
of the Agricultural Board. This organization insisted that the problem of
manure surpluses should not be viewed as a regional, but as a national one.
The manure surpluses are then treated as a problem of logistics, which can
be solved by transferring the surpluses to areas without surpluses. To support
this solution, the Agricultural Board took the initiative of setting up a
National Manure Bank, whose task was to establish an infrastructure to deal
with the relocation of manure surpluses. Later on, the minister of agriculture
gave this National Manure Bank a legal status (Doorewaard 1990: 67, 69).
The solution that mandated the encouragement of innovations is also an
initiative of the Agricultural Board, yielding a varied set of instruments. For
302 Chapter 8
example, the Board achieved a progressively stricter phasing of the
manuring standards over a time span of thirteen years. In comparison with
the target standard, which will be valid in the year 2000, the initial standards
are very flexible. The phasing was considered necessary to develop
technological options for the prevention, disposal and processing of manure.
This solution also resulted in a surplus tax. On the one hand this tax has a
regulatory function by encouraging a reduction in manure production; the
less manure produced the less tax one has to pay. On the other hand, the
proceeds from this tax are used to finance innovations in the agricultural
sector intended to solve the manure problem.
The agricultural sector itself has played a very important role in
implementing policy in the first two solutions. A manure accounting system
has been introduced, to ensure that the rules for manuring are being adhered
to. The cooperation of the traditional institutions is required to implement
this system. These institutions are the responsibility of the Agricultural
Board. To relocate manure surpluses, manure banks have been created,
administered by participants in the agricultural network. As a result of
personal ties, the administration of these manure banks is firmly in the grip
of the agricultural network.
Another point worth mentioning is the strengthening of the infrastructure
in the agricultural sector, which is a result of the third solution. The agrarian
industry itself has also gained in strength, as a result of this solution, and it is
precisely this group which is exercising political pressure to prevent
reductions in the agricultural sector. As the stimulation of innovations has
proofed to be successful, it will be more difficult to make reduction of the
agricultural sector a policy target in the future.
8.5.2.3 Third phase (1989-1993): the network tries to recover its
balance
Because of the growing criticism concerning the agricultural pollution of the
environment, and influenced by a new wave of environmental attention at
the end of the 1980s, the agricultural network developed a more offensive
strategy. The Ministry of Agriculture is trying to regain the initiative on the
formulation of agricultural environmental policy, which means that it wants
to play a role at an earlier stage of the policy formulation process. In an
interview with us, the head and an officer of the General Environmental
Policy Sector stated: ‘As Ministry of Agriculture we should stop adopting a
reactive and defensive approach and make our input in an earlier phase’.
Furthermore, it was observed by the respondents, that the attitude to
environmental affairs is shifting within the Ministry of Agriculture. The
external pressure creates more opportunities than before for ‘reformers’
within the organization. Attitudes do not change as much on all
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 303
environmental subjects. The Ministry of Agriculture has taken more
initiative on manure policy than, for instance, the introduction of
environmental management systems in farming, according to our
respondents.
The year 1989 is a landmark, as important documents were delivered
both by the Agricultural Board (‘Integraal Milieu Actieplan voor de Landen
Tuinbouw’) and the Ministry of Agriculture (‘Structuurnota Landbouw’),
in which self-regulation by the network through the development of
sustainable production methods was the central element. Both documents
advocated the use of such policy instruments such as covenants. The
advantage of such instruments for certain agricultural areas would be, that
the implementation of environmental policy could be temporized (softpedaled)
and financially better supported. Besides that, the publicity effect of
covenants was recognized, as a lot of criticism concerning agriculture could
be parried this way.
Meanwhile, at the end of the 1980s the Ministry of Environment started
to focus on the agricultural target group. Of the 800 officials employed in the
Directorate General for Environmental Protection, approximately 50 are
directly involved in agriculture. A management team was created to
implement the target group policy for agriculture. Its task is, in conjunction
with the agricultural sector, to seek policy measures which promote
ecologically sound production methods (Logemann 1990). In an interview
with us, the ‘target group manager’ stated, that his task was two-sided: he
also had to aim at improving the understanding of the agricultural sector
within his own ministry.
The environmental interest groups developed a much more tolerant
attitude to the target group. In an interview a spokesman of the
environmental movement put it like this:
We shouldn’t think about it, but nevertheless it remains a real possibility that the
entire agricultural sector might suddenly decide to collectively ignore the rules
which apply to manuring. If we take a radical standpoint this will only create illfeeling
on a regional level.
The agricultural target group is viewed as an unruly group in which
moderate solutions, which leave the future prospects for agriculture
unchanged, have the most chance of success (Van Duinhoven 1991).
With respect to the policy network in the third phase, we can perceive at
least four reactions. At first, the Ministry of Environment became accepted
as a network participant by the ministry of agriculture. Since 1984 both
ministries consult each other frequently with respect to the manure policy.
An interdepartmental manure project group assembles monthly, while about
10 to 20 working groups within the scope of this project group meet much
more frequently. Demarcation disputes still exist, especially as the Ministry
304 Chapter 8
of Environment initiates the further detailing of the manure policy, and it
also happens that two separate policy proposals are presented to both
ministers. But in the end, policy making is integrated and, with respect to the
relation between agriculture and environment, this will be stated in the same
way in separated official documents from both ministries. In an interview
with public officials of the Ministry of Agriculture it was observed, that
‘sitting at the table, it turns out that both parties agree much more than might
have been expected beforehand’. Disputes mostly concern the pace and the
scope of the policy. The environmental section wants to go faster and
further, which can be explained by the fact that, although the interrelatedness
between the Ministry of Environment and the farmers has increased, the
commitment is still weak. There is still little resistance of these policy
makers to ambitious objectives.
Secondly, the ministry of environment has been accepted as a network
participant by the target group. In spite of the reserved attitude of the
Ministry of Environment in this respect, a lot of consultation with the
Agricultural Board does take place. In an interview with us, the agricultural
target group manager at the Ministry of Environment puts this as follows:
The farmers realize that they won’t make it with the Ministry of Agriculture
alone. Their experience is that they don’t have enough influence on the
environmental minister through their own minister of agriculture. That is why
they want to contact the Ministry of Environment directly. A recent image study
has shown, that farmers attach a more positive image to the Ministry of
Environment than they do to the Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers experience the
Ministry of Environment as a more client-oriented and flexible organization.
Thirdly, the iron triangle still exists, although it functions more openly than
it did. Expertise from outside is more welcomed. ‘The environment’ has
become a daily issue, for example in the farmers’ daily newspaper. The
admittance of external expertise has been made easier because of external
pressures on the function of the agricultural network and particularly its
ministry. Organizational problems have speeded up the opening of the iron
triangle. Environmental as well as agricultural intermediaries initially
entered the Ministry of Agriculture separately to do their lobbying. At the
moment they are invited to enter the ministry at the same time for
consultation. Also, several organizations within the agricultural network are
becoming more and more environmentally oriented. The commodity board
for cattle fodder, for example, is promoting the introduction of a mineral
balance within cattle breeding industries. An important role is played by the
Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CLM), an organization started by
environmental campaigners who recognized that a ‘trench war’ against the
farmers would not make sense. This center tries to develop solutions to the
manure problem which leave room for self-regulation by farmers.
Groundwater governance at the national level in the Netherlands 305
Fourth, we still perceive in this phase, as in the phase before, that the
division between the target group and its interest organizations still exists.
Because of the one-sided attitude of the agricultural intermediaries, that
prevented an early and adequate solution of the manure problem, the farmers
are now surprised now by the rapid pace of current policy making
(Doorewaard 1990: 89). The agricultural sector is faced with a dilemma, also
known by other target groups of the environmental policy, such as industry
and transport: as a result of successful representation by its interest group,
the target group itself is given the opportunity to arrange matters and to
avoid drastic measures; at the same time, however, the target group runs the
risk of achieving too few results in the environmental area, which means that
more severe measures will be unavoidable in the future. If the agricultural
sector does not succeed in finding a permanent solution for the manure
surpluses, then a reduction of the sector will become inevitable. The paradox
of this situation is that successful representation of interests in the short term
may injure the target group in the long term. Representation of interests will
only be successful in the long term, if it is attended by a strong discipline
among the target group in respect to self-regulation.
At the beginning of the 1990s, some starting points of the manure policy
were already beyond discussion. Consensus had been reached between most
actors involved, that the manure problem required strong intervention.
Consensus also existed with respect to the building up of a sustainable cattlebreeding
industry, to be realized through technological solutions (reduction
of the percentage of minerals through adjustment of cattle fodder, spreading
of manure through transportation, and industrial processing up of manure).
However, disagreement still existed on the kinds of intervention to be
applied, on the pace and intensity of solving the manure problem, and on the
division of financial burdens related to interventions. As a result of a strong
interrelatedness and a strong commitment, the interest group and some of the
policy makers of the Ministry of Agriculture are not prepared in general to
make harsh, short-term demands on the target group to solve the manure
problem (Klep 1990; Bressers & Kuks 1992; Frouws 1993; Termeer 1993;
Bloemendaal 1995).
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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
AID Agricultural Inspection Service
CLM Centre for Agriculture and Environment
DLV Agricultural Extension Service
IPO Netherlands Association of Provinces
KIWA Institute for Certification, Inspection, Research and Consultancy on
Water Supplies
LEI Agricultural Economics Research Institute
LNV Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries
Nefyto Netherlands Foundation for Phyto-Pharmacy
RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
310 Chapter 8
Vewin Netherlands Waterworks Association
VROM Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment
V&W Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management
311
Chapter 9
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the
Netherlands
9.1 Introduction
In this chapter we discuss the capacity of water suppliers to control the
prevention of pollution. This ‘control capacity’ specifically concerns the
relationship between water suppliers and farmers. Although water suppliers
have no regulatory competence in this relationship, regulations do play a
background role. On the one hand, water suppliers are regulated by drinking
water quality standards, which force them to produce drinking water above a
specified quality level. On the other hand, farmers are regulated by the
Dutch national and provincial government, which impose restrictions on the
use of fertilizers and pesticides in agricultural operations. In Chapter 8 we
described how developments in the environmental regulation of farmers – in
particular the manure legislation since 1987 (regulatory context) – as well as
increasing groundwater pollution – in particular an expected rise of nitrate
levels (problem context) – provoked dynamics in the network context and the
way in which water suppliers and farmers regard each other. Despite the
regulatory gap in the relationship between water suppliers and farmers, we
want to know whether water suppliers do try to bridge this gap by
encouraging the prevention of agricultural water pollution by other means.
And if they do so, how successful are they? Or, to put it in other words, what
is their control capacity?
In our study of the Netherlands, we assume that an actor – a water
supplier – has ‘control capacity’, if on the one hand he is making efforts to
gain control over the behavior of another actor – a farmer – and if, on the
other hand, these efforts appear to be successful. An attempt to gain control
over the behavior of another actor will be operationalized by the actual
transfer of resources from a water supplier to a farmer, the water supplier’s
aim or motivation being to diminish agricultural pollution of drinking water
312 Chapter 9
sources. We are specifically interested in the types of resources that are most
successful.
A measure of success can be found at several levels. At first, we can say
that an attempt is successful if it achieves better quality groundwater. This
can be proved by measuring the quality of the upper groundwater, just below
the ground level, or the deeper groundwater as pumped by a water supplier,
and by finding a relationship between the attempt and the improvement in
the water quality as an effect.
Secondly, we can say that an attempt is successful if it changes farmers’
behavior and moves them to take preventive actions which they would not
have undertaken in the absence of the attempt. More generally, a preventive
action can be each environmental innovation within a farm (for example, an
action that reduces the amount of manure produced), or more precisely
speaking, an innovation that is directly related to improving the groundwater
(such as an action that reduces the application of nitrogen in a groundwater
protection area).
Thirdly, we can say that an attempt is successful if it motivates farmers,
causing them to consider preventive action. In other words, an attempt can
be seen as successful if it changes the willingness or motivation of a farmer.
This kind of success can be measured by looking at the participation of
farmers in prevention oriented projects or by looking at farmers’ reactions to
the water suppliers’ invitation to consider preventive action.
In our study the measure of success is a combination of the second and
the third criteria. We conclude that an attempt by a water supplier to move a
farmer towards prevention is successful, when the farmer shows a
willingness to work on prevention, making commitments to specific
preventive actions. The water supplier’s attempt is considered to be the
independent variable, with the water supplier’s motivation to encourage
prevention and to transfer resources as necessary elements. The farmer’s
behavior is considered to be the dependent variable, with the farmer’s
willingness or motivation to work on prevention and an investment of his
resources in preventive action as necessary elements. We also try to
formulate statements on specific types of resources that can be successful
and therefore helpful to a water supplier if they are transferred to farmers to
encourage prevention. In our opinion, an indicator of the success of a
specific resource is not the only proof that it works; this can also appear
from the susceptibility of a farmer to that resource and the potential
influence of a resource on a farmer’s consideration of preventive behavior.
In this chapter we will start in the next section by describing what
strategies were undertaken in the five selected provinces by water suppliers
in co-operation with provincial authorities, in order to encourage farmers in
groundwater protection areas to take preventive action. In another section we
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 313
will take a more detailed look at the motivation of water suppliers, what they
expect from their work on prevention, and how these motives are related to
the motives of the other actors involved (provincial authorities, farmers and
farmers’ organizations). We will consider both the willingness of water
suppliers to encourage prevention, as well as the responsiveness of farmers
to these attempts. In the following section we will analyze the resources that
were transferred during the water suppliers’ prevention oriented actions.
Again, we will consider each of the resource types in two ways. On the one
hand we look at the extent to which water suppliers are dependent on a
resource if they want to encourage farmers to take preventive action. On the
other hand we look at the extent to which farmers are susceptible to a
resource when they consider preventive action. At the end of the chapter we
try to formulate conclusions about the control capacity of water suppliers, its
relationship to the motives and resources of water suppliers as well as
farmers, and on the background role played by the problem context, the
regulatory context and the network context, as described in Chapter 8.
9.2 Preventive strategies on the provincial level
9.2.1 Period 1988-1991
The Soil Protection Act, which lays down the basis for groundwater
protection policies in the provinces, was passed in 1987. It required the
provinces to designate groundwater protection areas before 1989, and to
provide legislation for these areas in order to achieve adequate groundwater
protection. The provinces have the competence, by means of ordinances, to
regulate the use of fertilizers and pesticides and, in doing so, to be more
stringent than the standards adopted under the national manure and
pesticides policies. Such additional regulations mean that farmers within
groundwater protection areas will be more stringently regulated than farmers
outside these areas. Provinces have an interest in bringing about an
accelerated protection in groundwater protection areas, since groundwater
protection policy, over and above a national policy, is their constitutional
and political responsibility. On the other hand, provinces do not feel any
responsibility to go further than the final standards that were set by the
national government as a long term goal for the Netherlands as a whole. The
provinces also choose to use the same basis for regulation as the national
manure standards, which is the amount of phosphates applied per hectare per
year. The specific protection level, created by the provinces, should have a
function as long as the general protection level, created by the national
government, does not provide sufficient protection to groundwater sources
314 Chapter 9
that are used for drinking water production. Because of the present state of
the groundwater quality, the national legislators who passed the Soil
Protection Act believed they could not effort to wait for a national protection
level in order to provide adequate protection to drinking water resources.
They wanted to enable the provincial authorities to bring this about as soon
as possible.
The Soil Protection Act also created the provision to compensate farmers
in groundwater protection areas for the disadvantages they are faced with
due to the more stringent regulations. Such disadvantages are considered to
be the extra surplus of manure that farmers have to discharge and the extra
costs they incur in respect of alternative means to fertilize the soil and
protect their crops. Formally speaking, farmers should be compensated for
their financial losses by the provinces, and the provinces should in turn be
compensated by those who abstract groundwater and who profit from
groundwater protection, i.e., the water supply companies, or rather the
consumers, who pay the compensation, in the end, as part of the drinking
water price.
The creation of this compensation provision was not just a political
choice to weaken the resistance of farmers in groundwater protection areas
to more stringent standards, it is also considered to be a logical continuation
of a practice in some provinces, in which water supply companies were
already compensating farmers for the dehydration damage to crops due to
the abstraction of groundwater and the lowering of the groundwater level in
water abstraction areas. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the water supply
companies in some provinces were even giving subsidies to farmers to
reduce the amount of manure spread on the land in water abstraction areas.
So it seemed to be a logical consequence to continue the paying role being
played by the water supply companies.
In the provinces of Drenthe, Overijssel, Gelderland, and Limburg the
compensation provision has caused the water supply companies most closely
involved to start informal negotiations with farmers organizations (in all
cases the regional department of the national Agricultural Board) on direct
arrangements for compensation payments, bypassing the formal route via the
provincial authorities. These negotiations started around the same time that
the provinces were preparing their ordinances (in the period 1987-1989). The
provinces had no objection to these informal arrangements. On the contrary,
they considered that it would be better for the acceptance of the more
stringent standards if the water suppliers and farmers could achieve a
satisfactory mutual understanding. So the provinces tried to encourage such
negotiations. These were especially concerned with standardizing the types
of costs that would be allowed in the compensation of the farmers. Such
standardization also gives the farmers the advantage of having greater
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 315
certainty in advance about payments, rather than having to wait and see what
they would get paid after action had been taken. Furthermore, an informal
arrangement would have the advantage of keeping administrative costs as
low as possible. In the informal construction, the water supply companies
would not have to pay the administrative costs of the provincial bureaucracy.
In 1989, compensation arrangements were available in all four provinces,
having been set up by the most closely involved water supply companies.
The other smaller companies followed the agreements and signed them, too.
Farmers in these provinces appealed to the provincial authorities on less than
five percent of the damage claims, because they could not finally agree with
the water supply company about their right to compensation payments. In
those cases, the provinces were advised by an expert committee to adjudicate
on the proposed damage claim. Exceptionally, in the province of Noord-
Brabant the relevant water supply company did not wish to negotiate, giving
preference to the formal way of handling the farmers’ financial claims,
which means that farmers will be compensated by the province, and that the
province will thereafter be compensated by the water supply company.
In 1991, the water supply companies and the provinces started to come to
the conclusion that the specific protection level in groundwater protection
areas was having an effect in terms of reducing the agricultural pollution of
the soil, but that hardly any effect could be found on the groundwater
quality. In 1994, an evaluation study by the Dutch Ministry of Environment
on five years of groundwater protection policies confirmed this conclusion.
A first explanation for this result is that the manure legislation did not relate
standards to the use of nitrogen, but to the use of phosphates, while nitrogen
in artificial fertilizers was not included when the standards were set.
Secondly, a large amount of historical pollution is still making its way
underground and this is distorting the effects of policy measures on the
groundwater quality. Improvements are difficult to measure if unknown
amounts of underground pollution will affect the quality of groundwater for
many decades to come. This obscures the policy makers’ short-term
intentions to achieve improvements in the groundwater quality. Thirdly, the
geographical delimitation of groundwater protection areas was based on
geohydrological assumptions which, the passage of time revealed, had not
always been correct. It could happen that a water supply company, after
some years, had to say to a farmer ‘sorry, we made a mistake, your land is
not part of a groundwater protection area any more.’ So the weakness of
some geohydrological assumptions also weakened the effects of the policy
(VROM 1994).
Looking at the policy mix of standard setting and financial compensation,
the water supply companies concluded that this mix scarcely encourages
farmers to work on prevention of agricultural pollution. Water supply
316 Chapter 9
companies do not like to spend their money this way, mainly helping farmers
to get rid of their manure surpluses. They prefer to spend this money on
environmental improvements in farming practices, with a more sustainable
effect on the groundwater quality. On the other hand, water supply
companies realize that they gained a lot of confidence among farmers, by
being cooperative in compensating farmers, and that this confidence base
helped the enforcement of the provincial standards in groundwater protection
areas. However, this is only the case in provinces where the water supply
company negotiated about a compensation arrangement. The compensation
arrangements helped to weaken the resistance to provincial standards,
although this resistance was originally massive and turbulent, especially
during the period 1987-1989, when the farmers first had to become
accustomed to the introduction of national manure legislation and then to
more stringent provincial standards which, in their experience, made matters
even worse for them. After five years of experience with groundwater
protection policies, evaluation studies in the four provinces with a
compensation arrangement, showed that about 70% of the farmers involved
were satisfied with the way the provinces and the water supply companies
handled the groundwater protection measures. These farmers considered the
water supply companies to be reliable partners in business.
The water supply companies have also concluded, that the instrument of
compensation payments offers them more information about the way in
which farmers in groundwater protection areas are operating their farm and
how this might affect the groundwater quality. The compensation payments
to farmers enable water suppliers to ‘buy’ information about ‘non-point
source pollution’, and such information is normally hard to get. In the end,
this information will help water suppliers to improve the geohydrological
models they use to predict the future quality of their drinking water sources.
9.2.2 Period 1991-1995
In 1991, the way in which provinces and water supply companies approach
farmers in groundwater protection areas gradually started to shift towards
another policy style. It was learned that the 1989 ordinances generated
hardly any effects on the groundwater quality. The standards set in these
ordinances are not related to the nitrate pollution of groundwater, but only to
the phosphate contents of manure. To protect groundwater it is necessary to
regulate the application of nitrogen directly. This means that even the use of
nitrogen in artificial fertilizers should be regulated. Moreover, the sanitation
of harmful pesticides is not proceeding fast enough, mainly because of a
delay in the implementation of the national pesticides policy. Most
compensation arrangements, which have a term of six years, will end in
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 317
1995. In all, about 1,000 farmers in the Netherlands are involved in a
compensation arrangement with a water supply company. It is not only the
setting of standards that has been criticized by the water supply companies,
but also the compensation provisions. Water supply companies think they do
not achieve adequate results (in terms of groundwater quality improvements)
for the money they spend on compensation payments. They prefer to spend
this money on investments in more prevention oriented farming operations,
to achieve a more lasting effect, instead of spending the money on the
discharge and manufacturing of manure surpluses.
In the interim, the Centre for Agriculture and Environment1 started a pilot
project in the province of Overijssel, in which pilot farms account for their
nitrogen losses through minerals book keeping, trying to decrease these
losses by optimizing their farming practices. The participating farmers are
meeting each other in study groups, in which they discuss and will be
informed about possibilities for reducing the use of nitrogen and pesticides.
The Agricultural Extension Service (Dienst Landbouw Voorlichting or DLV)
has also been involved in these study meetings, partly because of their
expertise, but also to increase the acceptance of study meetings by involving
an information service that farmers are already familiar with. The pilot
project turned out to be very successful, partly because the participating
water supply company was offering a financial contribution to innovative
measures with a demonstrable effect on the groundwater quality. This pilot
project was an initiative of the CLM in collaboration with the Vewin, the
national association of water supply companies, which since 1991 has tried
to encourage other water supply companies to start comparable projects for
farmers in groundwater protection areas (Vewin 1993).
From that time on, the water supply companies in the provinces of
Overijssel, Drenthe, and Gelderland, encouraged by the Vewin, started their
own stimulation policy, which gradually came to replace the compensation
policy. For that matter, the national compensation provision in the Soil
Protection Act arranged that compensation payments should be only
temporary and should only be offered for as long as there was a difference
between the protection levels offered by the national legislation and the
provincial legislation. Because of the progression in national standard
setting, the difference is gradually reducing to zero (with a target of the year
2000). The water supply companies in Drenthe, Overijssel, and Gelderland
decided to restrict the compensation payments to a minimum, in order to
give the new stimulation policy a more prominent place. The resulting
minimum compensation payments are at least available to farmers that are
not willing to do something more, while farmers participating in the projects
1 Centrum voor Landbouw en Milieu (CLM), an institute funded by the national government
for studies on environmental innovations in farming practices.
318 Chapter 9
might get payments for measures with a broader environmental scope than
only improving the groundwater quality. A difference from the
compensation policy is that the stimulation policy is related to the whole
farming process, while the compensation payments are related only to those
parts of a farmers’ land that are located in a groundwater protection area.
Another difference is that the stimulation policy activates farmers to do more
than is required by the existing legislation, on a voluntary the basis.
Monetary encouragement does not conflict with the polluter-pays-principle,
because farmers are encouraged to do more than they need to do, compared
with farmers outside groundwater protection areas.
Water supply companies are sending the message to farmers in
groundwater protection areas, that they can be leaders in prevention
compared to farmers outside these areas by means of temporary subsidies.
This message is received as a positive one by the farmers, who are tired of
the process of manure legislation that has been ongoing for almost ten years
now. The farmers’ interest in the stimulation policy is growing and their
participation in such projects is estimated by the respondents in the water
supply companies to be about 20 to 40 percent of the total farmer population
in those groundwater protection areas where a stimulation policy is
available.
On the other hand, one could ask why it is still difficult to encourage the
rest of the farmers. One explanation mentioned by the respondents is, that
after all the discussions about environmental problems in the agricultural
sector, a large part of this sector has lost confidence in public policy in
general. It is difficult to motivate these farmers to do more. The step from
external regulation towards self-regulation is difficult to communicate to this
group. Another explanation mentioned by the respondents is, that many
farmers calculated that the water supply companies’ stimulation policies are
unattractive to them. There are more costs than revenues in their case. A
third explanation mentioned by the respondents is, that many farmers are
reluctant to provide the commercial information about their own firms, as
required by the stimulation policy, since such information will be made
public. Participation in a stimulation project requires, that a farmer is willing
to provide precise data on his farming methods and his minerals accounting.
Water supply companies have to guarantee in the negotiated agreement with
agricultural representatives, that they will treat this information
confidentially, without passing it on to the provincial or national authorities.
Water supply companies have to make clear that they are not public
controllers for the enforcement authorities.
But even the water supply companies are not completely satisfied with
their new policy. After three years of experience with this policy in the
provinces of Overijssel, Drenthe, and Gelderland, the respondents from the
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 319
water supply companies in these provinces conclude, that a lot of study
groups do not come up with measures that might be effective for the
protection of the groundwater. The agricultural sector is too much interested
in subsidies and demonstration projects, and too little in getting results.
Besides, many farmers do not realize that the water supply companies are
only interested in financing measures that improve the groundwater
protection, and not in financing other environmental measures. Intermediary
organizations in the agricultural sector and agricultural advisers give the
advice to farmers, that it is important to do something, while caring too little
for the results of what is being done.
The agricultural sector expects that the support for this stimulation policy
can be increased by leaving the implementation of the policy to the
intermediary organizations of the agricultural sector itself. That would
counter the reservation that farmers have about providing information about
their own business. An intermediary of the agricultural sector would not be
regarded as part of the government. This could increase the confidence of the
farmers in the policy.
On the other hand, the water supply sector does not have enough
confidence in the intermediaries of the agricultural sector. Besides that, the
acquisition of information from the farmers, as well as the building of
confidential relationships with farmers through direct contacts, are essential
parts of the policy. In the experience of the water supply companies,
individual farmers are often more receptive than intermediate agricultural
organizations.
In 1994 the Vewin started to stimulate a new type of policy instrument
that might generate more precise effects on groundwater quality. This
instrument is termed ‘payment by results’ (resultaatbeloning) and can be
characterized as a ‘performance subsidy’. Again, this instrument has been
developed in collaboration with the Centre for Agriculture and Environment
(CLM), and is a more elaborate form of minerals accounting and stimulation
policy: only results for the groundwater quality will be subsidized. The
Vewin has created this instrument in collaboration with the water supply
companies of Drenthe, Overijssel, and Limburg (CLM 1994).
9.3 Comparison of the five selected provinces
Agricultural water pollution in the Netherlands is especially a problem to
water suppliers in the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country. It
shows up in areas where groundwater is used for the production of drinking
water and where farmers make intensive use of a vulnerable soil (sandy
loam). This combination of circumstances is most evident in five (Drenthe,
320 Chapter 9
Overijssel, Gelderland, Noord-Brabant, and Limburg) of the twelve
provinces that make up the Netherlands. For the Dutch study we have chosen
to focus on these five provinces.
9.3.1 Water supply companies
For this study we looked at one specific water supply company in each
selected province (some statistics on these provinces are presented in table
9.1). All the selected companies use groundwater as their main source for
drinking water production. Also they all pump groundwater in
predominantly agricultural areas. Given these criteria, we interviewed the
largest companies, supposing that they are the leaders in taking preventive
actions on agricultural water pollution.
– Drenthe has two water supply companies, both of which serve cities as
well rural areas. Some communities along the borders of the provinces
are served by water supply companies in the neighboring provinces
(Groningen and Overijssel). For this study we looked at the Waterleiding
Maatschappij Drenthe (WMD), which is the largest water supply
company in the province. This company has 14 pumping sites.
Table 8.1 Some Statistics
Total area Inhabitants Inhabitants/km2
The Netherlands 33,900 km2 100% 14.9 mln. 100% 439
Gelderland 5,000 km2 15% 1.9 mln. 12% 360
Noord-Brabant 4,900 km2 14% 2.2 mln. 15% 442
Overijssel 3,300 km2 10% 1.0 mln. 7% 306
Drenthe 2,700 km2 8% 0.4 mln. 3% 166
Limburg 2,200 km2 7% 1.1 mln. 7% 509
Source: EU (1990)
Agricultural area Agricultural
livestock
Livestock/ha.
Gelderland 257,000 ha. 1,382,000 5.4
Noord-Brabant 275,000 ha. 1,915,000 7.0
Overijssel 210,000 ha. 948,000 4.5
Drenthe 166,000 ha. 275,000 1.7
Limburg 112,000 ha. 564,000 5.0
Source: EU (1990)
Drinking water price per 1,000 liter in Dutch guilders
Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg (WML) Hfl. 2.81
Waterleiding Maatschappij Overijssel (WMO) Hfl. 2.41
Waterleiding Maatschappij Oostelijk Gelderland (WOG) Hfl. 2.23
Waterleiding Maatschappij Oost-Brabant (WOB) Hfl 1.79
Waterleiding Maatschappij Drenthe (WMD) Hfl. 1.79
Source: Consumentenbond (1997)
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 321
– Overijssel has three water supply companies, one of which serves an
urban area (Enschede), the other two serving larger regions. For this
study we looked at the Waterleiding Maatschappij Overijssel (WMO),
which is the largest company in the province. This company has 28
pumping sites.
– Gelderland has four water supply companies, which all serve on a
regional scale. Two of them are purely water supply companies, while
the two others are combined water and energy utilities. For this study we
looked at the Waterleidingmaatschappij Oostelijk Gelderland (WOG),
which is large, but not the largest water supply company. This company
is not involved in energy distribution. Gelderland has 54 pumping sites in
total.
– Noord-Brabant has six water supply companies, three of which serve
urban areas (Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg), the three others serving on
a regional scale. For this study we looked at one of the regional
companies, the Waterleidingmaatschappij Oost Brabant (WOB), which
is the largest company in the province and which has 18 pumping sites.
– Limburg has two water supply companies, one of which serves an urban
area (Maastricht). The other one is called the Waterleiding Maatschappij
Limburg (WML) and it serves ninety percent of the province of Limburg.
9.3.2 Agricultural pollution of water sources
Agriculture in the province of Drenthe is predominantly potato cultivation,
for which large amounts of pesticides are needed. Pesticides constitute the
main problem of agricultural water pollution in this province. A lot of
groundwater is polluted with a soil disinfectant that has been applied in
potato culture since 1968. On the other hand, farming in this province is less
intensive than elsewhere. Therefore fertilizers are much less a problem in
Drenthe. Groundwater is abstracted from quite shallow levels at moors. Most
pumping sites of the WMD (Drenthe) are rather vulnerable.
The provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland have predominantly
intensive livestock farming. Most problems are caused by the spreading of
(animal as well as artificial) fertilizers on the sandy grounds. Pesticides are a
less serious problem in these provinces. Groundwater is abstracted from
sandy soils from quite shallow levels. Most pumping sites of the WMO
(Overijssel) and the WOG (Gelderland) are rather vulnerable.
The province of Noord-Brabant is also notorious for its intensive
livestock farming – the most intensive of all the Dutch provinces – but it has
only a few vulnerable areas. Most of the soil in this province consists of
clay, which offers a sound protection to the groundwater, that is abstracted
from very deep levels. There are only two shallow pumping sites in sandy
322 Chapter 9
areas (Boxmeer and Vierlingsbeek) where the groundwater is highly
vulnerable to agricultural pollution (both fertilizers and pesticides are a
problem there).
The province of Limburg also has a culture of intensive cattle farming.
Especially the northern and middle parts of Limburg have the highest
manure production in the country. Groundwater is only withdrawn from the
deeper aquifers in these areas, so pollution effects of excessive manuring
will not become apparent within 50 to 100 years. Only a few well fields are
vulnerable in a short run perspective, because they have to abstract from
shallow water layers. Although the nitrate standards are exceeded in some
water wells, mixing with water from cleaner wells helps to keep the nitrate
level in the water down. It is also planned to close some of these polluted
wells and to start using surface water sources instead for the production of
drinking water.
Half of the drinking water produced in Limburg originates from
groundwater sources in the southern part of this province. These sources are
very vulnerable to nitrate pollution, because they are not covered by
underground protection layers. Although farming in the south of Limburg is
not very intensive, a lot of historical pollution is still on its way
underground. It is expected that the first of the twenty water wells in this
area will not show too much pollution before 2000. Many more water wells
will follow after that. For the time being, problems with nitrates are solved
by mixing water instead of using purification techniques. Pesticides play a
role in Limburg, although a modest one compared to Drenthe. Limburg has
relatively much more arable land and horticulture than Overijssel,
Gelderland and Noord-Brabant.
We may conclude that in all the provinces studied, the water supply is
highly dependent on groundwater as a source for drinking water production.
However, this dependency will diminish in the future, because more surface
water will be used for the drinking water production to prevent problems
with the dehydration of nature reserves. In Limburg, the provincial authority
planned to increase the amount of surface water sources from 10% up to
40% within eight years. In four out of the five provinces in this study, the
groundwater is rather vulnerable to agricultural pollution. Noord-Brabant is
an exception, as most of the groundwater is quite well protected by clay
layers.
All provinces have some water wells in which nitrate pollution is a
problem, since nitrate levels in the pumped water exceeds the nitrate
standard for drinking water. Until now this has not occurred on a large scale
and water suppliers succeed in bringing down nitrate levels by mixing with
water from less polluted wells. Only a few water wells had to be closed,
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 323
because other solutions would be too costly. There are barely any violations
of standards in water wells (VROM 1996).
To conclude, agricultural pollution of groundwater seems to be
manageable for the moment and for the near future, especially as the result
of avoidance strategies (mixing water or abstracting from deeper layers or
surface water). By contrast, in the longer run pollution might leach to the
deeper groundwater layers and cause problems on that level. Meanwhile, an
unknown amount of historical pollution will show up in the future and will
cause problems of an unpredictable extent.
9.3.3 Policy approaches towards agricultural pollution of water
sources
Drenthe. In 1989, the provincial government designated groundwater
protection areas and passed an ordinance with standards for these areas to
restrict agricultural operations. The ordinance offers the option of
compensation payments. Originally the Water Supply Company Drenthe
(WMD) rejected the possibility of initiating negotiations with farmers’
organizations on compensation arrangements. The WMD hardly had any
contacts with farmers, partly because there was no existing practice of
compensating farmers for dehydration damage. The first contacts with
farmers’ organizations were very formal and difficult. Through mediation of
the provincial authorities collaboration with the farmers’ organization was
finally established, negotiating a compensation arrangement in which
standard types of costs are identified for reductions in the use of fertilizers
and pesticides. The largest part of the compensations paid is related to
reductions in pesticides use, mainly in relation with the intensive potato
farming. The other water supply companies in Drenthe followed the
arrangements negotiated by the WMD. The agricultural sector in Drenthe is
very satisfied about the arrangement with the WMD and the way in which it
has been implemented.
In 1993, the WMD started to develop a stimulation policy, following the
example of the largest water supply company of the neighbor province
Overijssel, where a pilot project appeared to be successful in 1991. The
Vewin encouraged the WMD to develop its own stimulation policy. At the
end of 1994, about 100 out of 250 farmers in groundwater protection areas,
were participating in stimulation projects. The regional department of the
national Agricultural Board is playing a modest role in the policy
implementation by communicating the policy to the farmers, although the
WMD recognizes them as an important partner in creating support among
farmers for such projects. The province itself prefers to be a partner at a
324 Chapter 9
distance and leaves the initiative as much as it can to the water supply
company.
Overijssel. In 1989, the provincial government designated groundwater
protection areas and passed an ordinance with standards for these areas to
restrict agricultural operations. The ordinance offers the option of
compensation payments. Shortly after the presentation of a draft of the
ordinance, the Water Supply Company Overijssel (WMO) and the regional
department of the national Agricultural Board started negotiations on a
compensation arrangement, which were very soon successful. Although the
arrangement also applies for pesticides, such compounds are not much of a
problem in this province, certainly not compared to nitrates. The quick
establishment of an agreement on the compensation payments between the
water suppliers and the farmers’ organization can be explained by the
already established practice in Overijssel of compensation payments to
farmers for dehydration damage. Both parties actually preferred to keep the
provincial government at a distance, since they did not need a mediator due
to that earlier relationship. In the end, the other water supply companies in
Overijssel also signed the agreement negotiated by the WMO. The
agricultural sector in Overijssel is very satisfied about the arrangement with
the WMO and the way in which it has been implemented.
In 1990, Overijssel was the first province where a water supply company
started a pilot project to experiment with a stimulation policy. This
experiment was set up by the Centre for Agriculture and Environment
(CLM). The first experiences in this pilot project were very good, and at the
end of 1994 about 100 farmers out of 600 farmers in groundwater protection
areas, were participating in such projects. Although the regional department
of the Agricultural Board would have liked to play a more central role in the
implementation of the stimulation policy, the WMO argued that its own
contacts with individual farmers were good enough to do most of the
implementation work on its own. So the agricultural organization was not
needed as much as it was in other provinces to build up a basis of support
among farmers for the new policy, although the WMO still recognizes their
role in building support if that is needed. At that time, the historically good
relationship between WMO and farmers motivated the Vewin and the CLM
to start a pilot project in this province. As in Drenthe, the province itself
prefers to be a partner at a distance and leaves the initiative as much as it can
to the water supply company.
Gelderland. In 1989 the provincial government designated groundwater
protection areas and passed an ordinance with standards for these areas to
restrict agricultural operations. The ordinance offers the option of
compensation payments. Very shortly after the presentation of the draft
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 325
ordinance, an agreement on compensation payments followed between the
Agricultural Board and the Water Supply Company of Eastern Gelderland
(WOG). Gelderland was the first province where a water supply company
signed a negotiated compensation arrangement. At that time, other water
supply companies and the Vewin heavily criticized this agreement, which
was too generous in their view.
Initially (in 1987) the Agricultural Board was trying to negotiate with the
Vewin on a national model for compensation settlements in the provinces.
The Board planned to impose such a model on the regional agricultural
boards and the water supply companies in the provinces. However, the
Vewin did not want to commit itself to such a model, since this would deny
the autonomous position of water supply companies, which is quite
characteristic of the water supply sector in the Netherlands. The Agricultural
Board concluded that such a model would only be viable if the national
associations involved are strong enough to give a lead to their own sectors.
For example, negotiations on a national model for a compensation settlement
between the agricultural sector and the energy sector were very successful,
because the Gas Union, the representative of the energy sector, controls 80%
of Dutch gas distribution.
In 1987, the national Agricultural Board started to negotiate on the
provincial level. It chose to start in the province of Gelderland, where a
generous compensation scheme for dehydration damage was already in
place. The Boards high expectations, based on the reputation of the WOG,
proofed to be right when the first negotiated agreement on compensation
payments was established in Gelderland. It was so favorable to farmers, that
the water supply companies in other provinces were alarmed about the tough
negotiators of the Agricultural Board. The WOG, on the other hand, had
opted for a favorable settlement to build up a good relationship with the
farmers in order to create guarantees for effective groundwater protection. It
was aware of its dependence on the farmers. Manure standards are difficult
to enforce, and one has to rely a lot on the willingness of the target group to
cooperate. Further, the WOG considered it a matter of prestige to be the first
one in the country with a compensation settlement for groundwater
protection. Not long after, the other provinces followed suit. In all cases the
national Agricultural Board assisted the regional boards. Although the
presence of a previous compensation settlement for dehydration damage was
favorable to the success of the negotiations, the large water supply
companies in the other provinces were more reserved during the
negotiations.
After the agreement was reached in 1989, it still took two to three years
before the other water supply companies in this province agreed to endorse
it, which they did in the end. Since then, all the water supply companies of
326 Chapter 9
Gelderland and the regional department of the Agricultural Board meet twice
a year, with WOG acting as chairman. The compensation arrangement
applies to fertilizers as well as pesticides, although, as in Overijssel,
fertilizers are much more of a problem in Gelderland.
In 1993 the WOG started a stimulation policy, initiated by the Vewin and
following the successful example of the neighbor province of Overijssel. As
in Drenthe and Overijssel, the province itself prefers to be a partner at a
distance and leaves the initiative as much as it can to the WOG. It only
participates through a financial contribution to the stimulation projects. The
introduction of the stimulation policy has led to a modification of the
compensation agreement, as is the case in Overijssel and Drenthe:
compensation payments will be reduced to a minimum, while farmers can
receive a larger subsidy, based on their contribution to groundwater quality
improvements, instead.
Noord-Brabant. In 1989, the provincial government designated groundwater
protection areas and passed an ordinance regulating the use of fertilizers in
these areas, but not the use of pesticides. As an experiment, the ordinance
was only applied to the two most vulnerable areas. The proposed standards
were very strict and they included a total ban on the use of artificial
fertilizers. As the standards were not established in agreement with farmers
or farmers’ organizations, they provoked tremendous resistance among the
target group. The heavy protests forced the provincial government to
withdraw the ordinance and return with a revised version, which was much
weaker in its approach to the groundwater pollution problem. The new
standards have been bargained down and the ban on artificial fertilizers has
been annulled. In a 1995 evaluation of the revised ordinance of 1989, the
province concluded that it has had too little an effect on the groundwater
quality, partly due to the lack of support for it (Provincie Noord-Brabant
1995).
The lack of policy support might be explained by the absence of a
compensation agreement in Noord-Brabant. The relevant Water Supply
Company East Brabant (WOB) refused to negotiate with farmers’
organizations on this. The involvement of the WOB is much less than its
colleagues in the other provinces under study, especially because the WOB
does not depend to any great extent on vulnerable water well fields. The
official opinion of WOB is that they do not expect much effect from a
protection level in groundwater protection areas additional to the national
protection level. Therefore they do not advocate area specific protection.
They also advocate that the national government should not walk away from
its responsibility to provide an adequate, nation-wide groundwater protection
level.
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 327
Besides that, the relationship between the WOB and the agricultural
sector has always been difficult. The dominating culture inside the WOB
organization is to keep the agricultural sector at a distance and they are not
pragmatic in that attitude. In a manner of speaking, they are capable of
spending 100 guilders to prove that they spent one guilder too much on
compensation payments to farmers. For that reason the WOB also
disapproves of compensation payments for pesticides, since they don’t think
in terms of pesticides as crop protection but only in terms of pesticides as
despicable polluting materials. Among farmers this attitude provokes
reactions like ‘water supply companies are our opponents, like governments,
creating obstructions that make it even more difficult to survive in these hard
times, so we have to get rid of both of them.’
At the beginning of the 1990s, the province realized that it would have to
change its policy style towards farmers. The groundwater protection
ordinance of 1989 considers groundwater protection too much as a
technocratic issue, denying the political aspects. An important motive for
changing the provincial policy style is that high level governmental officials
and high level representatives of influential agricultural organizations in
Noord-Brabant have started consultations to come up with a political
reaction to the extensive debate in society on manure policy, which took
place at the end of the 1980s. The heat of this debate was especially fierce in
Noord-Brabant, since this is the province with the most intensive agriculture,
but also with very extended nature conservation areas (forest). The spreading
of manure and the resulting ammonia emissions, as well as the withdrawal of
water from agricultural lands and the resulting dehydration, are serious
problems that threaten the survival of forests in Noord-Brabant. The
provincial government realized, that the unique combination of intensive
agriculture in an important natural environment needs strong political
attention to farmers as well as environmentalists. The consultations that were
started, aimed to consider all political matters that relate to the interaction
between agriculture and the environment.
Consultations were also strongly advocated by the agricultural
organization Noordbrabantse Christelijke Boerenbond (NCB), which is very
active in the province and which is known in the Netherlands as the best
organized and most influential regional farmers association. While in other
provinces a regional department of the national Agricultural Board acts as
the main agricultural representative, here the strong position of the NCB
made it impossible to set them aside. The NCB is heading in its own
direction, to a large extent independent of other farmers’ organizations.
The strong ties between the provincial government and the NCB are
more or less keeping the water supply company WOB out of the game. The
province prefers to be the leading player, and the agricultural sector is in
328 Chapter 9
favor of a leading role for the province. Therefore, in 1992 it was the
province which initiated a policy to encourage preventive actions in the
agricultural sector. This policy not only applies to groundwater protection
areas, but also to all areas where environmental values need protection. The
WOB prefers to be a partner at distance and only provides some financial
contributions, although they do not expect much effect from this on the
groundwater quality. They see it more as a matter of creating some goodwill.
Just before the province initiated a stimulation policy, the WOB tried to
set up a policy itself for the vulnerable groundwater protection areas of
Boxmeer and Vierlingsbeek, mainly because Vewin asked them to take such
an initiative. However, the resistance among farmers was so great, that only
five farmers showed any interest. This might also be explained by the
enormous delay in the payment of compensations for dehydration damage in
these areas. In some cases farmers have already been waiting for twelve
years for compensation. The WOB is much more formal in its handling of
such claims. Neither does the WOB incorporate agricultural expertise into its
own organization, unlike other water supply companies in our study. In
dealing with the agricultural sector, the WOB prefers to leave matters to the
province.
Although the agricultural organization NCB is playing an influential role
on the level of consultations with high level government officials, their role
in the implementation of stimulation policies is more restricted. Provincial
officials at the implementation level believe, that they have good direct
contact with farmers. They think that direct consultations with farmers are
often easier than consultations with their representatives. Many times
representatives have opinions that are too much on principle and not
sufficiently pragmatic, while individual farmers might be much more
flexible and co-operative. Despite that, provincial officials recognize the
importance of agricultural mediators in gaining support for provincial
projects among farmers.
Limburg. Since 1989 the province of Limburg, like the other provinces, has
had an ordinance for groundwater protection areas. In that ordinance a
distinction is made between legislation for the southern part of Limburg,
where standards are more stringent because of the vulnerability of the whole
Mergelland region, and legislation for the middle and northern parts of
Limburg. Originally, the province made the mistake to present a draft
ordinance (although not without consultations with the water supply
company and the regional department of the Agricultural Board), without the
option of compensation payments. As in Noord-Brabant, this raised strong
protests among farmers, who got the idea that the agricultural organizations
had already given their commitment to the ordinance without discussing it
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 329
with the farmers involved. Especially the stricter standards for the south of
Limburg provoked a lot of resistance. People were speaking in terms of ‘the
Margraten war’ and ‘the battle of Gulpen’ (after villages located in
Mergelland in the south of Limburg).
This was a signal to the province to get the large Water Supply Company
Limburg (WML) and the regional department of the national Agricultural
Board around the table, to prepare an agreement on compensation payments.
The province took the initiative and not long afterwards the WML and the
agricultural representatives had come to an arrangement. The
implementation of the arrangement is in the hands of the WML. In practice,
99% of the claims made by farmers are covered by this agreement. The rest
is handled by the province, which has an advisory committee to deal with
them. The WML adheres strictly to the principle that, if they have to pay,
they also want control over the implementation of the agreement, without
delegating this to agricultural organizations. The agreement does not apply
to pesticides, since the provincial ordinance does not regulate the use of
pesticides in groundwater protection areas. In this respect the Limburg
ordinance differs from the ones in Drenthe, Overijssel, and Gelderland,
although pesticide use in Limburg is higher than in Overijssel and
Gelderland. In general the compensation settlement in Limburg has been
quite well accepted by the farmers.
In 1995, in an interview, provincial officials stated that they noticed that
the style of co-operation between the province and agricultural
representatives had changed a lot. They attribute this to new national ideas
about policy styles, like ‘network steering’, which have had an impact in the
provinces. Provincial officials think that the opinion about regulations and
their feasibility has changed:
Nowadays, everyone talks about network steering and win/win situations.
Although many people don’t know what it means, they strongly feel that it will
bring about a cultural change in the way we deal with each other.
In Limburg the regulatory climate changed around 1990/1991, after the last
round of negotiations about final arrangements for standards in Mergelland,
the most vulnerable region in the south. The solution there was that the
national government was willing to provide a fund with subsidies for farmers
who are co-operative in meeting standards that are more stringent than
everywhere else in the Netherlands. ‘From that moment on, maybe because
the last regulatory barrier had been removed, the diametric oppositions were
over’, as the officials involved concluded.
In 1991, the province started initiatives for a stimulation policy. For that
purpose, it created a Task Force on Agricultural Emissions, and invited
representatives of the province, the agricultural sector and the water supply
company WML to participate. Agricultural organizations are invited to
330 Chapter 9
propose projects, or the province can come up with projects itself. Since
1991, about 100 project proposals have been submitted for the province as a
whole although, as in Noord-Brabant, these projects are concerned with a
much broader variety of environmental improvements than only
improvements in the groundwater quality. The WML has not initiated its
own stimulation policy, because it is mainly using deeper groundwater, and
does not expect groundwater quality to improve due to temporary measures.
The results will not be visible within 50 years, and that is too long a period
to be an appropriate argument for providing money now. Despite this, the
WML has invested in incorporating agricultural expertise within its own
organization, and in that respect the WML differs from the WOB in Noord-
Brabant. Reacting to an initiative from Vewin and CML, the WML also
showed itself to be interested in experimenting with performance subsidies
that guarantee a more direct relation between financial incentives to farmers
and results in terms of groundwater quality.
9.4 Motives of water suppliers
In this section we will look in greater detail at the motivation of water
suppliers, their expectations of working on prevention, and how these
motives are related to the motives of the other actors involved (provincial
authorities, farmers and farmer’s organizations). We will consider both the
willingness of water suppliers to encourage prevention, as well as the
willingness of farmers to react to the water suppliers’ attempts at
encouragement. An analysis of motives is important to learn more about the
control capacity of water suppliers. In particular this analysis will tell us
about the conditions under which water suppliers might be motivated to
choose prevention of agricultural water pollution as their strategy and to
choose to transfer resources to farmers as part of this strategy.
9.4.1 Motives of the water supply companies
Providing drinking water of good quality is what water supply companies
see as their main task. Water abstraction (pumping), water production
(purification), and water delivery are their core business. They do not
consider preventing agricultural pollution to be their task, and they do not
view drinking water directives or standards as an incentive for water supply
companies to get more control over groundwater polluting activities. On the
other hand, water supply companies are aware that the presence of pollution
in drinking water resources is in fact an incentive for them to think about
alternatives for water purification and treatment. Thus, agricultural water
Groundwater governance at the regional level in the Netherlands 331
pollution is forcing them to become active in encouraging prevention, since
this might be more efficient than curative solutions. In particular, the extent
to which they need to invest in complicated or expensive purification
techniques, is seen by them as an indicator of the success or failure of
groundwater protection.
A first principle of the water supply sector as a whole concerning
groundwater protection, is that the national government should be
responsible for the general protection of the groundwater in such a way
groundwater should be fit for the production of drinking water throughout
the entire country. Secondly, additional protection of groundwater in areas
with water wells should always be a temporary measure to solve crisis
situations. The general level of protection should meet the specific levels of
protection as soon as possible in order to prevent extra costs of additional
protection (in terms of financial compensation).
These principles reflect how water supply companies think about
governmental responsibility towards groundwater protection: national and
provincial governments are not allowed to walk away from their
responsibility in providing adequate protection levels. However, since the
Soil Protection Act (1987) in the Netherlands created a legal construction in
which those who profit from additional groundwater protection have to
compensate those who incur losses because of this, water supply companies
are prepared to pay for additional protection, on the conditions that
additional protection will be temporary and will anticipate provisions for
general protection.
The compensation payments in groundwater protection areas are
considered to be temporary, and the Soil Protection Act supports this idea
since it indicates that compensation will no longer be necessary after 2000,
in which year the general protection level should replace the specific level of
groundwater protection needed for drinking water purposes throughout the
country. In this context, it is quite understandable that water supply
companies have problems with the third phase of the Dutch manure policy,
which does not guarantee such protection before 2010.
In the end, water supply companies are not completely satisfied with the
results of the provincial ordinances of 1989 and the related compensation
settlements. Although they realize that it was a learning experience, which
made the water supply sector more adaptive towards the way in which the
agricultural production sector operates and is affecting drinking water
sources, they also think that it was not a very efficient way of handling
agricultural groundwater pollution problems.
Water supply companies prefer to apply the compensation money for the
encouragement of innovations that optimize the use of minerals and
pesticides. Such a policy might relieve the use of excessive amounts of
332 Chapter 9
minerals and pesticides. With respect to the use of nitrates, water supply
companies think they have succeeded in gaining some reduction with their
own strategies to encourage farmers to take preventive actions, in
combination with the provincial ordinances, although this has not had any
immediate impact on the groundwater. With respect to the use of pesticides,
they think they depend heavily on the national pesticides policy, especially
the implementation efforts of the ‘Long term crop protection plan’. In the
short run, regional