Current discourse about water governance in Western countries is strongly influenced by approaches such as integrated, adaptive and participatory water management. These approaches put different demands on the production and application of knowledge in water governance processes, but mainly implicitly and without attention for the possible limits and trade-offs between these demands. In this article I explicate the role of knowledge within these various paradigms based upon an initial literature review and find out to what extent these demands are taken into account in two recent Dutch water governance programs with regard to flood safety. This theoretical exploration and empirical illustration results in a critical reflection on the limits and trade-offs between these various demands and suggest some lines for a research agenda about organizing knowledge for water governance which are different from the dominant perspectives currently dominating the literature on adaptive, integrated and participatory water management.