It is amazing how deep water management is embedded in Dutch culture. Imagine a Dutch family out for a stroll, relaxing at a brook. In no time a network of channels and dikes is dug in the sides of the brook. Or a Dutch family seated at the dinner table, eating a traditional mashed potato dish. You will soon see canals and ditches running throughout the plate, filled with gravy.
Considering the fact that without dikes the Netherlands would only be half its current size, the relevance of water management is self-evident. Water management is a red thread through Dutch history that continues to develop. At the beginning of the 21st century, it faces challenges as real as ever.
Starting from small hamlets in the Middle Ages, protecting their lands by hand-dug ditches, water management took on institutional forms. Water boards were established and water policies written, making water management more and more sophisticated. The last century saw a shift in water management, no longer only focused on the protection of people and land. The new water management integrates environmental, economical, recreational, and safety interests.
Water management has also become an international trademark for the Netherlands. They are pioneers in sustainable water management and are renowned for their engineering capacities in waterworks. After the disaster in New Orleans, for example, Dutch engineers traveled to the U.S. to investigate opportunities to improve coastal protection. In the Netherlands, water organizations such as water boards continue to evolve, working together and with European collogues to face new challenges.