In order to implement water management in a sustainable way, the related decision-making processes have to take the ecological and socio-economic consequences into account. In The Netherlands, policy makers struggle with the question of how they can deal with flood risks. This paper presents some results of a research project sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Water management in order to develop a risk assessment approach that assists decision-makers in dealing with flood risks. It shows that dealing with risk in decision-making related to water management manifests itself in different ways. One aspect is the incorporation of risk in the process of valuation of socio-economic effects. Another aspect is the incorporation of the valued socio-economic effects into the decision-making process. The paper shows that different attitudes towards risk determine to a large extent how the valued effects are assessed. This element has been widely discussed in the literature. The results are innovative in that they also show that risk attitudes and the understanding of the risk concept interfere with the outcome of the decision-making process in the field of water management. The paper provides an approach to how the concept of risk can be operationalized in different ways by decision-makers in dealing with flood risks. The approach is applied in two case studies. The results show that different institutional contexts impose different ways of dealing with risks which may significantly change over time (discount rates, risk attitudes, relevance of ecological effects, etc.).

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Environmental Modelling & Software
Department of Sociology

Bouma, J. J., François, D., & Troch, P. (2005). Risk assessment and water management. Environmental Modelling & Software, 20(2), 141–151. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2003.09.002