This chapter revolves around the relationships that the people of the Netherlands have formed with, and around water. Water and physical safety are narrowly related, but over and above that immediate connection, the historical and cultural experiences with water are very important for how the Dutch people handle it, treat it, and even innovate around it. The aim of this chapter is not only to recount the history of one particular countries’ relationship with water, but to frame water management historically and culturally and thus give a more extended meaning to how the Netherlands interacts with, and around water. The relation to drinking water treatment might not be immediately apparent, but the following exploration of the Dutch dependence on water, and of the interdependent factors providing the country with access to safe drinking water today, will hopefully reveal it. This chapter will start with some information about the physical context of the Netherlands and its geography. Next, its environmental history will be described, which will clearly demonstrate the country’s ambivalent relationship with its watery environment and how it deals with it, both institutionally and through a model of negotiation. The high degree of interdependence of the Netherlands with surrounding countries for the accessibility of safe drinking water will be discussed, and how the Dutch people do their water management according to the ‘polder model’ (Photograph 9.1). Finally, a recent innovative water treatment process developed in the Netherlands is highlighted.
Photograph 9.1. The ‘Kamerik’ polder as example of the Dutch polder system
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