This paper introduces a special section devoted to participation and evaluation for sustainable river basin governance. The departing point for this research was the recognition that although there is a relative agreement regarding the need to develop new multi-dimensional, inclusive and plural approaches to water resource management, there is still a deficiency of related methodologies and tools. This acknowledgement has motivated the undertaking of the ADVISOR - Integrated Evaluation for Sustainable River Basin Governance research project, which aimed at improving the understanding of evaluation processes, as part of river basin planning and management, and to test the use of specific tools to support the conduct of participatory processes. The paper starts with a discussion of the concept of integrated water resources management and an illustration of the water policies that have been adopted in different countries as a response to these trends. The conceptual framework that was developed in ADVISOR is then presented, as well as the main results from the ex-post analysis of the decision processes regarding five water related projects in different European countries. This analysis concluded that, in most situations, the decision-making processes fell short of including the interests, perceptions and values of affected parties. The remaining of the paper introduces the articles that form this special section, mostly devoted to the testing of new platforms for participation and deliberation. In the final section, a discussion on the assumptions and limitations of deliberative processes is presented, based on the results from the application of the different methods. Further research needs on the integration of different deliberative tools and on the integration of deliberation with decision processes are identified. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.