Transforming Urban Water Governance Through Social (Triple-loop) Learning

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Transforming Urban Water Governance Through Social (Triple-loop) Learning

Transforming urban water governance through social (triple‐loop) learning

Åse Johannessen,  Åsa Gerger Swartling,  Christine Wamsler,  Kim Andersson,  Julian Timothy, Arran Dayana, Indira Hernández Vivas,  Thor Axel Stenström


The sustainable development of cities is threatened by a worldwide water crisis. Improved social learning is urgently needed to transform urban water governance and make it more integrated and adaptive. However, empirical studies remain few and fragmented.

Therefore, the aim of this paper is to analyze how social learning has supported or inhibited sustainable transformations in urban water governance. On the basis of multiple case studies conducted in urban, flood‐prone areas in Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, India, and Sweden, we study learning processes related to different aspects of water management and governance.

Our results show that transformations in water governance are often triggered by crises, whereas other potentials for transformation are not tapped into. Furthermore, learning is often inhibited by “lock‐ins” created by powerful actors. We conclude that there is a need for a more proactive design of governance structures for triple‐loop learning that takes into account the identified barriers and supporting principles.

Keywords climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, flood risk, integrated water resources management, social learning, transformation, urban water services, water governance


Johannessen, Å., Gerger Swartling, Å., Wamsler, C., Andersson, K., Arran, J. T., Hernández Vivas, D. I. and Stenström, T. A. (2019). Transforming urban water governance through social (triple-loop) learning. Environmental Policy and Governance. DOI: 10.1002/eet.1843 

Source: Wiley Online Library