Strategy-making is key for realizing sustainable urban water management. Though general barriers and factors for change have been identified, fewer studies have assessed how different conditions influence municipalities’ strategy-making ability and, thus, how to plan strategically given these conditions. Healey’s strategy-making notion was applied to delimit a study of how size, finances, development path, and water organization influence Swedish municipalities’ strategy-making ability for urban water. Three municipalities, Laxå, Norrköping, and Skellefteå, with different, yet overlapping, institutional and socio-economic conditions were analyzed using semi-structured interviews, a stakeholder workshop, and document analyses. The study finds that even though key events have filtered urban water issues into the political agenda, this has not induced systemic change, except where the role of water management in urban development has been specified, i.e., has aligned dispersed planning processes. Organizational setup influences the strategy-making ability by prescribing not only when water issues are raised, but also what system perspective should be applied and what actors that should be enrolled. Judging from the three cases, size, finances, and development path do matter for strategy-making ability, but they appear to be less important than the organizational setup. Departures for improving strategy-making under different conditions are discussed.
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