Several strategic planning approaches have been proposed for dealing with future uncertainties in the urban water infrastructure sector. We identify three well established perspectives that address uncertainties in strategic decisions: an adaptive perspective, focusing on an incremental adaptation of existing structures as a reaction to unforeseen developments, a modeling perspective, focusing on an improved characterization of future context conditions and a managerial perspective, focusing on increasing the flexibility of the infrastructure organization. Despite their virtues, these approaches have definite weaknesses in their approach to uncertainty: they often consider a restricted scope of alternatives, they face substantial difficulties in predicting context conditions over time periods of decades and often consider objectives and tradeoffs only implicitly. We elaborate and illustrate with a case study a fourth perspective that may compensate for these specific weaknesses and complement the established strategic planning approaches. This perspective is based on a discursive, qualitative assessment of key elements in the strategic planning process among a selected set of local stakeholders and decision makers. We maintain that this approach leads to a more explicit and reflexive treatment of future uncertainty, conflicting objectives and a broadening of the considered alternatives and therefore to a more robust decision-making process.
Tackling uncertainties in infrastructure sectors through strategic planning: the contribution of discursive approaches in the urban water sector
Damian Dominguez, Bernhard Truffer, Willi Gujer; Tackling uncertainties in infrastructure sectors through strategic planning: the contribution of discursive approaches in the urban water sector. Water Policy 1 June 2011; 13 (3): 299–316. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wp.2010.109
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