Public participation has become increasingly important in the water sector. However, the question remains as to what exactly is meant by participation. This paper explores the different ways that participation is understood in local and regional water plans and visions in the Dutch water sector. Partly driven by the key role played by participatory water management under the European Water Framework Directive, citizens’ engagement has become an important aspect in the plans of authorities across the board that are involved in water management. The study concludes that the most dominant view on participation is very narrow, with a strong focus on clarification and on raising awareness. According to a second, less dominant view on participation, it is stressed that the role of participation is to produce information, knowledge, and expertise to support policy making. As a consequence, power relations between government and the public remain very much top down, with very little room for bottom-up ideas.

You do not currently have access to this content.