Carel Dieperink

Dr. Carel Dieperink

Honorary Fellow


Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands


The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations reflect that Thales of Milete was right: Everything is water indeed! So, being essential to life, water should be governed in a rational. effective (evidence based), fair and respectful way.


Carel Dieperink is honorary fellow at NIOO and senior researcher and lecturer at the Environmental Governance Group of the Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University. He has an MSc. in Public Administration (Twente University) and a PhD in International Relations (Utrecht University). His research and teaching activities can be summarized under the heading multilevel water governance and focus on the interplay between (inter)national institutions dealing with water quality and/or quantity issues. Recent projects concern the implementation of European Water Framework and Flood Directives, integrated coastal zone management, international river basin management, knowledge co-production (assessment of Dutch and EU water and climate projects), groundwater (over-)extraction and soil subsidence in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta, the use of ICT-applications in urban water governance, water governance capacities and policy feedback mechanisms in water governance. Carel is also board member of the Regional Water Authority De Stichtse Rijnlanden.


Belangrijkste publicaties

  • Water Alternatives 12(3): 886-906.

    Policy discretion, adaptation pressure and reloading implementation experiences in EU water governance

    Van Eerd, M.M.C.J.; Wiering, M.M.A. and Dieperink, C.
    European water governance is characterised by processes of interplay and interaction. Member states present and discuss their preferences and expertise in the EU policy arena and implement EU policies at the domestic level. These processes of 'uploading' and 'downloading' are regularly studied. However, a knowledge gap exists concerning the 'reloading' of implementation experiences, i.e. the renewed uploading of information on how policies actually work domestically and how possible implementation problems are solved. Certain characteristics of EU policies are expected to affect processes of reloading. In this paper we study how adaptation pressures and the levels of policy discretion affect the reloading of implementation experiences. We empirically assess reloading processes in the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive. It was expected that a low level of policy discretion leads to clear reloading incentives, in order to either change the policy (if fit is low and adaptation pressure is high) or maintain stability (if fit is high and adaptation pressure is low). A high degree of policy discretion, on the other hand, leads to no incentive at all for reloading. The relatively specific Water Framework Directive indeed shows cases of reloading in which implementing agents discuss their rather technical implementation experiences in order to adjust policy or to maintain the status quo in line with their interests. However, it is notable that reloading also takes place in the relatively discretionary policy process of the Floods Directive. Reloading in this case is driven by social learning, and is triggered by the idealistic aim of improving flood risk management practices instead of changing or maintaining the policy on the basis of self-interest. The paper concludes that policy discretion and adaptation pressure do influence reloading processes, but that other factors also must be taken into account.
  • Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 62 (11): 1990-2009

    Governance conditions for successful ecological restoration of estuaries - lessons from the Dutch Haringvliet case

    Buitenhuis, Yannick & Dieperink, Carel
    Ecological restoration projects may provide solutions for degraded ecosystems in estuaries, but are challenging due to complex governance processes. Scientific studies on the latter are limited. The aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the governance process aiming at ecological restoration in estuaries. Based on a literature review, five success conditions for ecological restoration projects in estuaries were formulated. These conditions concern: (1) the presence of options for experimentation; (2) the use of the right communication strategies; (3) a pro-active role of key individuals; (4) sufficient project support; (5) active stakeholder and knowledge integration. These conditions were elaborated upon in a case study on the reopening of the sluices in the Dutch Haringvliet and by conducting seven expert interviews. The case study was a clear “example of failure” due to absence of several conditions. We conclude with some recommendations to enhance future ecological restoration projects.
  • Journal of Hydrology, vol. 557: 116-127.

    Governance Conditions for Adaptive Freshwater Governance in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta

    Ha, T.P. C. Dieperink, Van Pham Dang Tri, H. Otter and P. Hoekstra
    The Vietnamese Mekong Delta (VMD) is a region of utmost importance to Vietnam’s national food security. However, the availability of required freshwater resources (from both surface and groundwater sources) is currently under great threats due to dry season salinity intrusion, surface water pollution, and over-exploitation of groundwater. Global climate change, sea level rise, and upstream and in situ development activities may worsen the situation. Assuming that adaptive management could be a promising strategy to address the increasingly complex and unpredictable water-related problems in the VMD, we design and apply a framework to identify the extent to which the governance regime in this region exhibits conditions that are likely to promote adaptive freshwater management. Using both primary and secondary data, our analysis reveals that the prospects for adaptive water management in the study area are limited since several conditions were not present. We observe among others limitations in vertical and horizontal integration and public participation, restraints in knowledge and information sharing, inadequate policy development and implementation, and insufficient diversification of financial resources. Following our findings, we conclude the paper with recommendations both for national, regional and local policy interventions and for future research.
  • Ecology and Society, vol. 20, no. 4.

    Joint knowledge production: what’s in it for science?

    Hegger, D.L.T. and C.Dieperink
    Both in literature and in practice, it is claimed that joint knowledge production (JKP) by researchers, policy makers, and other societal actors is necessary to make science relevant for addressing climate adaptation. Although recent assessments of JKP projects have provided some arguments in favor of their societal merit, much less is known about their scientific merit. We explored the latter by developing a conceptual framework addressing characteristics of doing JKP as well as hypotheses on potential merits and pitfalls in terms of its process, output, and impact for science. Semistructured interviews with six environmental science research leaders as well as discussions with five researchers involved in past JKP projects were used to start operationalizing the framework into criteria and compiling a survey. This survey was filled out by 144 researchers involved in Knowledge for Climate, a large Dutch multiactor research program. The findings suggest that, at least in the context of recently carried out Dutch climate adaptation projects, JKP contributes to a broader empirical knowledge base; more reflexivity on the part of researchers; and more publications for policy makers. We conclude this paper by formulating next research steps, including evaluating what would be a proper balance between more versus less participatory forms of scientific knowledge production.
  • Water International, 2019: 684-700.

    The potential limitations on its basin decision-making processes of granting self-defence rights to Father Rhine

    Wilk, Bettina, Hegger, Dries L. T., Dieperink, Carel, Kim, Rakhyun E. & Driessen, Peter P. J.
    Recent grants of legal rights to rivers would seem to infuse traditional anthropocentric river governance with greater eco-centrism. Through a thought experiment, we scrutinize this proposition for the Rhine basin. We consider the governance implications of granting (procedural/material) rights to the river and elaborate on their implications for the three highly institutionalized regimes of the Rhine River of water quality, flooding and transport. Since we find that a shift to more eco-centrism has already occurred and since the right granted to the river would not be absolute, we deem radical transformations unlikely.