The Water Framework Directive has introduced a new governance approach that offers implementing agencies in EU Member States policy discretion to implement ecological ambitions. The aim of this paper was to gain insight into the way regional actors use this discretion and into the rationale behind their behaviour. Our research revealed that in regional implementation processes in the Netherlands, limited ecological ambitions have been framed due to several complications. These complications also occur in other EU Member States. As it might be possible to reduce some of the complications by improving collaboration, exchange and learning between the actors involved, the paper concludes by outlining the important role that communities of practice might play in the implementation process of water policy at the regional level.
Keywords: Communities of practice, Ecology, EU Water Framework Directive, Governance, Implementation, Netherlands