Different strategy positions are possible with regard to new urban water infrastructural investments. A relatively new position argues that new water infrastructure needs to be linked to ongoing urban developments. This article investigates how the urban water management organizations in Rotterdam developed its climate adaptation strategy by creating urban development strategies that are sensitive to water issues. A crucial factor was the recognition that water could contribute to solving urban problems by upgrading neighbourhood quality. In this case study, a multi-level analysis is used to reconstruct the urban water management cascade, that is, the turns in thinking made by the Rotterdam water professionals, leading to this new approach. In particular the interactions between the envisioning project Rotterdam Water City 2035 and the broader policy context in this cascade together with how they were managed strategically are investigated. This research indicates that the Rotterdam urban water management organizations realized a successful water policy innovation; however, the institutional mechanisms needed to realize, operate and maintain the proposed multi-stakeholder projects on a city-wide scale are still missing. This is currently the major challenge for realizing climate adaptation in terms of water sensitive urban development.

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