A history of futures: A review of scenario use in water policy studies in the Netherlands

M. Haasnoot, H. Middelkoop

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55 Citations (Scopus)
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The future of human life in the world's river deltas depends on the success of water management. To deal with uncertainties about the future, policymakers in the Netherlands have used scenarios to develop water management strategies for the coastal zone of the Rhine–Meuse delta. In this paper we reflect on six decades of scenario use in the Netherlands, and provide recommendations for future studies. Based on two criteria, ‘Decision robustness’ and ‘Learning success’, we conclude that (1) the possibilities for robust decisionmaking increased through a paradigm shift from predicting to exploring futures, but the scenario method is not yet fully exploited for decisionmaking under uncertainty; and (2) the scenarios enabled learning about possible impacts of developments and effectiveness of policy options. New scenario approaches are emerging to deal with the deep uncertainties water managers are currently facing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-120
JournalEnvironmental science & policy
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Scenarios
  • Water management
  • Climate change
  • Uncertainty
  • The Netherlands


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