Sustainable resources management requires a major transformation of existing resource governance and management systems. These have evolved over a long time under an unsustainable management paradigm, e.g., the transformation from the traditionally prevailing technocratic flood protection toward the holistic integrated flood management approach. We analyzed such transformative changes using three case studies in Europe with a long history of severe flooding: the Hungarian Tisza and the German and Dutch Rhine. A framework based on societal learning and on an evolutionary understanding of societal change was applied to identify drivers and barriers for change. Results confirmed the importance of informal learning and actor networks and their connection to formal policy processes. Enhancing a society's capacity to adapt is a long-term process that evolves over decades, and in this case, was punctuated by disastrous flood events that promoted windows of opportunity for change. © 2013 by the author(s).