Purpose – Given the importance of multi-stakeholder processes in managing water resources, this paper aims to shed light on various project management strategies being used in The Netherlands to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of implementing multifunctional water projects. Design/methodology/approach – Using two sub-projects of the restoration of the Regge River as a case study, ten strategies used by project managers are uncovered through interviewing involved actors and analysing the results according to contextual interaction theory. Findings – These strategies support local sustainable development through the overlapping of various local goals of different stakeholders and reducing risk of failed projects. Co-management can thus be used as a strategic way to achieve goal alignment, increased information and resources and trust. Originality/value – Given the pressures related to adaptation for climate change, these lessons can be used to support increasing both the natural buffering capacity of river resources in a way that also improve the economic and social values associated with the river basins.