The Netherlands is situated in North-Western Europe and extends for around 300 km from North to South (longest distance) (Figure 9.1). It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The population is currently estimated at 16,929,326 (Reinhard, 2009). The Netherlands is surrounded by the North Sea in the West and North, Germany in the East, and Belgium in the South. It shares some major rivers (4 river basin districts) with surrounding countries; namely Belgium, France and Germany. The Netherlands has 451 kilometres of coastlines. The Dutch dunes are part of a larger system called Deltawerken (in English: Delta Works). The delta works consist ofdams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees,and storm surge barriers. The former ‘Zuiderzee’ (Southern sea) is now an internal artificial lake (IJsselmeer, since 1932) in the middle of the country, with mainly fresh water (from rivers IJssel andVecht), which is a major supply for drinking water. The Zuiderzee Works, which closed off the IJsselmeer lake from the sea by dams and locks, is the largest hydraulic engineering project undertaken by theNetherlandsduring the twentieth century.
Figure 9.1. Map of the Netherlands
Together with theDelta Works in the South-West, the Zuiderzee works have been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World Works. The Netherlands has a unique geographical history, since much of the current land was won from the sea, and still much of the country (about a quarter) is below sea level. The country is very flat, with only some hills in the East and South for elevation. The Netherlands has always had a special relation to the waters surrounding it, with its sea-faring history and with major floods at the beginning of last century urging the country to take more care in shielding the land from the water (e.g., through the Delta works). The country enjoys a so called temperate maritime climate, influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures vary from 2°C - 6°C in the winter to 17°C - 20°C in the summer. The average rainfall in a year is 76.5 cm which is quite a lot. Drinking water in the Netherlands comes from several sources. The Netherlands tries to use the best sources available to produce its drinking water: microbiologically safe groundwater, surface water with soil passage, and surface water which is directly treated in a multiple barrier treatment (Smeets, Medema, & van Dijk, 2009), and since 2005 most of it is produced without the use of any chlorine. Preferred physical process treatments are used, such as sedimentation, filtration and UV-disinfection. If absolutely necessary, ozone or peroxide is used for oxidation. Microbial growth in the distribution system is prevented by production anddistribution of biologically stable (biostable) water, and the use of biostable materials. Just because the Netherlands has such ample supply of (safe) water, it does not mean that the Dutch use it lightly. In 2004 the average municipal water use in the Netherlands was measured among the lowest in developed countries at only 128litre/capita/day. About 60% of Dutch drinking water comes from groundwater, mainly in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. The remaining 40% comes from surface water, mainly in the West where water utilities pump from the Rhine and the Meuse because groundwater is brackish.
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