Water Policy Networks in North Rhine-Westphalia

Aim of this research project is to analyse policy networks shaping water governance at the state level of Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany), to examine how structural features of these networks are related to their problem-solving capacity and to propose strategies for an improved meta-governance of these networks.

Coordinating the multitude of claims towards the usage of water is a demanding and complex challenge. Typically for such tasks, water governance has a tradition of being pursued in forms of network governance, with long-term relations between actors, intensive communication over policy options and preferences, and a general tendency to cooperate. However, these structures have already been put under pressure e.g. by regulatory changes like the EU Water Framework Directive, leading to a paradigm shift in the institutional environment. In the future they will face challenges like demographic change, sustainable sustenance of water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation, all of which comprehensively affect the provision, use and safety of water.

While these challenges call for expert knowledge and specialised competencies, research shows that for governance structures to be resilient, adaptive and efficient they have to be integrated - geographically to match ecological systems, but also cross-cutting boundaries between public, state and private actors or different branches of expertise.

To assess the current network structures, governance concepts and social network analysis are employed. Beyond examining the overarching network of water governance, it is possible to highlight relations in specific regulatory fields like diffuse immissions from agriculture and heavy rain hazards


  • PhD student: Frederik Brandenstein
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Nicolai Dose (UDE, Social Sciences)
  • Supervisor: Joachim Liesenfeld (RISP Rhein-Ruhr Institut für Sozialforschung und Politikberatung)
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. André Niemann (UDE, Engineering)
  • Mentor: Dr. Ulrike Düwel (Ministerium für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz NRW)