The capital of The Netherlands, Amsterdam, is home to more than 800,000 people. Developments in water safety, water quality, and robust water infrastructure transitioned Amsterdam into an attractive, economically healthy, and safe city that scores highly in the field of water management. However, investments need to be continued to meet future challenges. Many other cities in the world have just started their transition to become water-wise. For those cities, it is important to assess current water management and governance practices, in order to set their priorities and to gain knowledge from the experiences of more advanced cities such as Amsterdam. We investigate how Amsterdam’s water management and governance developed historically and how these lessons can be used to further improve water management in Amsterdam and other cities. This retrospective analysis starts at 1672 and applies the City Blueprint Approach as a baseline water management assessment. It shows that developments in water infrastructure and water management have often been reactive in response to various crises. International knowledge exchange, implementation of integrated water resources management, and long-term planning improved the city considerably. We conclude that experiences from the past can be used to meet present and future challenges in many cities across the globe.
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