Pluvial Flooding in Utrecht: On Its Way to a Flood-Proof City

Romy C. Brockhoff, Steven H.A. Koop, Karin A.W. Snel

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Downpours are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change. Cities are particularly susceptible to flooding from downpours because of their large share of impervious surfaces. Minimising pluvial flood risk requires all involved stakeholders to collaborate and overcome various barriers. Although an increase in citizen engagement in climate adaptation is generally preferred, experiences with inclusive decision-making are often limited. The aim of this paper is to obtain a deeper understanding of how the capacity to govern pluvial flood risk can be developed through citizen engagement. We scrutinised the capacity of local actors to govern pluvial flood risk in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. For the analysis of Utrecht’s problem-solving capacity, the Governance Capacity Framework provided a consistent assessment of the key governance components. The results indicate that Utrecht’s capacity to govern pluvial flooding is relatively well-developed. Collaboration between public authorities is advanced, sufficient financial resources are available, and smart monitoring enables high levels of evaluation and learning. However, citizen awareness and engagement in policy making is rather low. Accordingly, citizens’ willingness to pay for flood adaptation is limited. Stimulating flood risk awareness by combining financial incentives with more advanced arrangements for active citizen engagement is key for Utrecht and other cities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1501
Number of pages1
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Citizen engagement
  • Governance capacity
  • Climate adaptation
  • Flood risk governance


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