Several strategic planning approaches have been proposed for dealing with future uncertainties in the urban water infrastructure sector. We identify three well established perspectives that address uncertainties in strategic decisions: an adaptive perspective, focusing on an incremental adaptation of existing structures as a reaction to unforeseen developments, a modeling perspective, focusing on an improved characterization of future context conditions and a managerial perspective, focusing on increasing the flexibility of the infrastructure organization. Despite their virtues, these approaches have definite weaknesses in their approach to uncertainty: they often consider a restricted scope of alternatives, they face substantial difficulties in predicting context conditions over time periods of decades and often consider objectives and tradeoffs only implicitly. We elaborate and illustrate with a case study a fourth perspective that may compensate for these specific weaknesses and complement the established strategic planning approaches. This perspective is based on a discursive, qualitative assessment of key elements in the strategic planning process among a selected set of local stakeholders and decision makers. We maintain that this approach leads to a more explicit and reflexive treatment of future uncertainty, conflicting objectives and a broadening of the considered alternatives and therefore to a more robust decision-making process.
Keywords: Foresight, Public participation, Strategic planning, Water sector infrastructure