Steenhuisen, B. 2006. Reliability management and coping with competing values. Case: unreliable surface water supply in the Netherlands. Seminar Infrastructure Reliability, Delft, 22 June 2006.
Managing surface water supply in case of unreliability is a highly demanding task though seldom called upon in the Netherlands. Via a system of canals and ditches surface water is provided to many sectors, such as drinking water, electricity, shipping, agriculture. A drought crisis causes a large amount of vital functions to compete for a scarce amount of water, leading to acute, complex and insurmountable trade-offs: agriculture vs. shipping, drinking water vs. safety, nature vs. electricity. This paper describes how the water sector manages these rivalries. How do policy makers and water managers deal with these competing values? What trade-offs do occur? In answering these questions, two decision-making processes are described: (1) national drought policy listing priorities and (2) water management dealing with drought in practice. In conclusion, patterns are sought among these decision-making processes together with characteristics of competing values and consequences for the occurring trade-offs.