5.2. Drinking Water and Health
In the early years, citizens were able to drink surface water, i.e., from river Amstel and the city’s canals, as they were not yet polluted and still contained an abundant fish population [21
]. As a result of population growth, surface water became gradually more polluted. This is why breweries in the city switched their drinking water source and started using water from the Haarlemmer lake and river Vecht in the vicinity via boat transport [20
]. This drinking water was not only used by the breweries, but also sold to citizens.
Unfortunately, only rich people could afford this water and poorer citizens were restricted to polluted drinking water from canals as well as rain barrels [22
]. Drinking water supply by ships was hampered during the winter when the rivers were frozen [23
]. An icebreaker pulled by horses had to clear the waterways, which was exhausting work and incurred high maintenance costs. Water shortage and great effort of icebreakers increased the price of drinking water and caused health issues in the city, predominantly among the poor people. It was Dr. Samuel Sarphati, a medical doctor and city planner in Amsterdam in the mid-19th century, who observed the poor hygienic conditions among the poor.
Plans were regularly made to search for drinking water in the deeper soil layers, but the drilling did not produce satisfactory results [22
]. After a few harsh winters and problems with drinking water supply by ship, this resulted in the establishment of an organisation named ‘Fresh Water Society’ (in Dutch, ‘Versch-Water Society’) [23
]. The public administration introduced all kinds of rules and regulations, and an agreement was made with the beer brewers. The ‘Fresh Water Society’ continued to fetch water from the river Vecht, and punctually implemented all regulations regarding the cleaning of the ships, and the regular water provision [24
]. As larger ships could not bring water into the canals because of their size, the water was transferred to smaller ships that transported the water to the citizens. In 1789, the city council possessed underground drinking water cellars and tanks that were filled with water from the river Vecht to meet Amsterdam’s growing water demand [21
]. The need for supply of fresh water was fuelled by incursions by the Prussians (1787). In 1806, a meeting was held between the city council and the brewers and they agreed to install freshwater tanks [22
]. Twelve freshwater tanks were allowed to be rented by the brewers so that they had a reserve stock in case daily supplies decreased. The drinking water status of Amsterdam before 1850 is similar to what we currently observe in a number of developing countries and illustrates the great efforts needed to secure water supply. Bringing good plans together, implementing them, and adequate funding proved to crucial in Amsterdam [22
Compared with The Netherlands, France and England were far ahead in the development of drinking water infrastructure [22
]. There were many initiatives, plans, and even organisations with different ideas about water supply. However, owing to lack of capital and/or cooperation with the city council, these were all nipped in the bud. The English and French were instrumental for Amsterdam. With the supply of financial and human capital in the form of English pipelines and machines and the perseverance of Jacob van Lennep (state attorney and poet) from Amsterdam, a drinking water pipe was constructed from the dunes at the coast to the city of Amsterdam [25
]. Drinking water was obtained from the dunes where Jacob van Lennep, Ferdinand Huyck, and other noble lords owned property. They founded the dune water company to supply drinking water through a pipe from the dunes to the city. The project was led by the English engineers John Aird, Charles Burn, and Bland William Crocker.
The day of 12 December 1853 was finally the day on which the first buckets of dune water could be tapped in Amsterdam (Willemspoort). Shortly afterwards, the dune water supply system expanded further within the city [25
]. Houses in Amsterdam could subscribe to dune water pipe connection. In 1866, there were 56 taps in the city where buckets of water could be obtained. Some citizens were still concerned about the quality, but in 1854, some doctors declared that the drinking water was of sufficient quality to drink safely [22
]. Until 1870, ships remained active in fetching water from the Vecht, but this gradually ended. Dune water was of great importance because of its hygiene, which was important owing to the fight against cholera in the preceding years. In 1866, a Christian foundation was set up to provide free water to poorer residents of the city, which contributed significantly to the preventive fight against cholera [21
]. Because the demand for dune water continued to increase, an increase in the extraction and construction of a second pipeline from pumping station Leiduin to Amsterdam was necessary.
Dune water consumption increased strongly from 1853 onwards due to a rapid population increase. This caused problems with maintaining adequate water supply [25
]. In 1885, the municipality granted the dune water company a new concession with the obligation to construct a pipeline for water supply from the river Vecht [25
]. However, the water from the Vecht was not considered suitable drinking water because of the quality, which is why a double pipeline network was installed in the city. Water from the Vecht could not be supplied for domestic use, but was used for the fire brigade, flushing sewerage, and industry [25
]. In the concession of 1885, the municipality stipulated that the dune water company had to transfer a large part of its income to the municipality [23
]. This arrangement caused financial and technical problems for the company. The demand for dune water continued to increase, so water supply capacity had to follow. On 6 July 1889, an emergency measure was passed authorizing the dune water company to supply Vecht water in case of need for housing, but only for bath appliances, water boxes, and garden sprinklers. Since 1885, part of the municipal council wanted drinking water supply to become a municipal company. On 1 May 1896, the dune water company was taken over by the municipality of Amsterdam and its name was changed into municipal water pipes (in Dutch, ‘Gemeentewaterleidingen’) [25
Further expansion was necessary owing to continued population growth. However, many ideas were rejected because of health and other risks [21
]. As a result, the municipal water supplier was forced to significantly expand the dune water extraction at a location named ‘Leiduin’ and to construct new transport pipelines between this location and Amsterdam [22
]. In 1916, large parts of Amsterdam’s surroundings were ravaged by a major flood. As a result, the municipal supplier provided water to other cities for years [24
]. Water supply increased by more intensive extraction of deep dune groundwater, as a result of which the deep freshwater resources were overexploited. In order to meet the demands, a start was made with water supply from other lakes (the Loosdrechtse plassen) in 1932 [26
]. Ir. Bierman, who had studied Amsterdam’s water supply during the Second World War, provided his ‘Report 1948’ to the municipal council [22
]. A proposal was made to construct a pipeline between the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal and the dune water extraction to supplement the dunes with river water that could infiltrate and mitigate the over extracted groundwater resource. After the Second World War, water supply in Amsterdam was firmly established by implementing this plan [22
]. The new plan included infiltration of the dunes and improvement and extension of the lake’s water supply system. These plans were conceived and quickly implemented owing to the rapid growth of the city and its water consumption. For this plan, the municipality and the province had to collaborate, which is why, on 14 December 1950, a Regional Water Transportation Company (RWTC) was founded [25
]. From 1957 onwards, the RWTC takes in water from the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, i.e., the river Lek, which is a branch of the river Rhine in the Rhine delta (Figure 5
). Afterwards, this water is filtered and then transported to the dunes [21
] and replenishes drinking water in the dunes.
In Leiduin, the capacity increased to 54 million m3
per year through modernisation and expansion of the filter company [26
]. In 1961, the old steam pumping station was decommissioned and a new pumping station with an electrically driven pump was put into use. In addition, a new transport line was built. Furthermore, in 1963, the International Rhine Commission was established in consultation with governments of various countries to clean the river Rhine and keep it healthy [21
]. In the following years, the company’s extraction capacity increased further by the construction of new infrastructure. Unfortunately, the river Rhine became increasingly polluted and saltier, partly due to intensive agriculture and industry (due to potassium mines upstream of the river Rhine). The various drinking water utilities that used Rhine water were joining forces and tried to tackle the problem both in The Netherlands and the foreign Rhine bordering countries [21
]. In addition, the companies invested further in water treatment technology to supply drinking water of good quality.
Most countries add chlorine to the drinking water to control bacteria and viruses. However, the by-products of chlorine can be slightly carcinogenic [26
]. This is why drinking water utility Gemeentewaterleidingen excluded chlorination. From 1983 onwards, the utility succeeded in providing reliable drinking water without adding chlorine. In times of emergency, however, there is always a chlorine dosage available [21
]. Over the years, almost the entire dune area has become the property of the municipality of Amsterdam and turned into a protected water extraction area [26
]. The area around Leiduin is used as a nature reserve, allowing recreational activities. In recent years, Waternet has been fully engaged in the integration of water extraction and nature management [26
5.3. Wastewater Disposal, Treatment, and Surface Water Quality
Until the 19th century, it was common to dump excrements and dirt into the canals via gutters. As a results, the canals in Amsterdam served as open sewers [27
] and water quality in the canals was very poor. As early as 1481, there were complaints in the city about the dirt and the stench. Despite the availability of partitions under the bridges, the situation did not improve. Owing to the open sewage system, diseases spread quickly and the odour nuisance was omnipresent [27
]. The canals were flushed by the tidal flows that flushed the sewage out of the city [27
]. Canals that were not flushed properly were dredged or were filled up [21
]. This eased up traffic and improved the air quality too. Complaints about odour nuisance increased in the 19th century. In summers with lower water levels, the odour nuisance was unbearable. In other European cities, sewers were already installed at that time (e.g., London in 1840, Hamburg in 1842, and Paris in 1850), but Amsterdam lagged behind [21
]. There was also a gradual understanding that poor hygienic conditions could be the cause of recurring epidemics of infectious diseases (such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, typhus, measles, red spark, and malaria). Infant mortality was high and the city was often ravaged by cholera or smallpox outbreaks. Furthermore, the industrial revolution exacerbated the problem with the discharge of wastewater from factories into the surface waters [21
The wastewater system improved after the establishment of the Public Works Department (named ‘Dienst der Publieke Werken’) in 1850. Wastewater treatment became even more necessary thanks to the planned building of the North Sea Canal that would also shut off the canal system, affecting the natural flushing. Moreover, the cholera epidemic of 1866 initiated discussions in the municipality about a sewerage system as a solution had to be found for the discharge of wastewater [21
]. In 1870, the Liernur sewer system came into operation [28
]. Before the municipality started to apply this system, this initiative was already carried out on a small scale by private individuals. This system was the first large-scale sewerage system of the city. Wastewater was collected at a central location, after which the faeces could be used as fertiliser for agriculture. In 1912, the Liernur sewage system was discontinued because it could not process the discharge of rainwater and domestic water [28
]. Water use increased owing to the construction of the water supply system. This made the faeces too liquid, causing the system to function insufficiently.
In 1906, it was decided to build a mixed sewer system outside the city [29
]. The new main sewer brought in water under the influence of gravity. The sewage system ended at a pumping station at Zeeburgerdijk, after which it was pumped to the inland sea (which became a lake after the completion of the sea barrier in 1932) [28
]. A mixed sewer system was chosen for hygienic reasons, but most of all, because of the lower cost compared with a separate sewer system [28
]. The collected wastewater was discharged into the lake IJssel without pre-treatment. Overflow of the sewage system was still discharged into the canals and the city centre because it was directly connected to the canals. The volume of wastewater fluctuated strongly as a result of changing population size and prosperity [28
]. In the 1930s, the 16th century city centre was connected to the sewer system and more wastewater had to be processed. The construction of sewerage in the city centre was co-financed by the government work fund as an attempt to combat unemployment during the global economic crisis. In 1926, the first large-scale wastewater treatment took place because the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in Amsterdam western area became operational. In addition, stormwater discharge took place by means of a separate sewer system. Later, another five WWTPs were constructed because of the large amount of wastewater produced by the fast-growing city [28
After the Second World War, major changes took place. Not only was the quality of the sewage system assessed on the basis of its importance for public health, but the environment also received increased attention. During this period, many technical developments were implemented for wastewater collection systems and improvement of the quality of the water. This new vision on the quality of waste and surface water further increased investments in the sewer system. Citizens agreed to spend their tax money on improving the wastewater system. Moreover, the municipality was forced to invest owing to the tightening of national environmental standards. In 1982, a large WWTP (650,000 inhabitant equivalent) became operational, ending the discharge of untreated wastewater [28
By 2005, a new project started as the WWTPs in the east and the south no longer complied with the requirements of Dutch and European legislation and regulations [30
]. The regional water authority Amstel, Gooi, and Vecht (AGV) and the municipality decided to build a new centralised WWTP in the Amsterdam West Port Area [31
]. The new WWTP applied advanced technologies, resulting in high-quality effluents water. More specifically, the treatment process removed nutrients at minimal chemical input and energy use. Furthermore, the energy content of the sludge and biogas was utilised by the Waste and Energy Enterprise (WEE) or AEB of the city [31
]. This project was one of the largest infrastructure projects in Amsterdam in recent decades. Moving WWTP from south and east to west, downstream of the river Amstel and the canal zone, improved water quality substantially. Another project that has ensured that virtually no untreated wastewater would end up in the canals is the project ‘Schoon Schip’ (i.e., clean ship). In collaboration with the municipality and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the water utility of Amsterdam has provided connections of all houseboats to the sewerage system [32
]. As a result, water quality in the river Amstel and in the canal zone meets high-quality standards as applied in official swimming locations most of the time. Only after sewage overflow, which occurs on average five times per year, water quality is unsuitable for swimming for three to five days after an overflow. Future challenges concern improving ecological water quality and dealing with the management of pressures such as boat traffic and structural diversity.
5.4. Solid Waste
Throughout the centuries, waste processing in Amsterdam followed a pattern of outsourcing and ‘do it yourself’ [31
]. In 1673, the management of solid waste passed to the regents of the poor chapel orphanage, a semi-governmental institution. The orphanage could use an extra source of income because—due to the plague epidemic—the organisation was required to take in many more orphans. The municipality tried to create a win–win by lowering the subsidy to the orphanage and cleaning the streets, but the orphanage could barely cope with the waste collection tasks. As a consequence, dirt remained on the street, residents complained, shortages ran up, and reorganisations followed [33
]. In 1804, the municipality outsourced the solid waste service to Nicolaus Sieburg and Martinus van der Aa [33
]. For 40 years, they kept the streets clean. However, little profit was made, causing the company to go bankrupt. In 1848, the contract to collect waste was taken over by the Association for Agriculture and Land Development, run by Dr. Samuel Sarphati [33
]. Sarphati’s goal was three-fold: (i) to promote public health, (ii) to improve agricultural land, and (iii) to create employment. In 1850, Sarphati’s second initiative was launched. He set up a street sweeper service to reduce pollution in the streets [34
The association did not last long, because the municipality took matters into its own hands again. A private urban cleaning service named ‘Dienst der Stadsreiniging’ was established in 1877 [32
]. The amount of solid waste accelerated due to rapid population growth. On 21 May 1913, the city council decided that municipal waste needed to be processed in a waste incinerator to be built in the north of Amsterdam. The purpose of the incinerator was not only to get rid of the waste, but also to produce electricity by converting heat into electricity [34
]. Five years later, the incinerator was commissioned with some delay as a result of the First World War. In 1919, the city’s first incineration plant was put into operation. The released energy could be used and the residual waste was used as building material [34
]. In 1969, the old installation was replaced by a new installation with more combustion capacity and, therefore, greater efficiency.
In 2001, the city established six waste-collecting locations where bulky household waste, hazardous waste, and electrical devices were collected [34
]. These sites were used to increase the reuse of bulky waste to a ratio of 70% [34
]. Waste was no longer considered to be an annoying side effect of urban life, but as a profitable source for recycling of useful materials and ‘clean’ energy generation [33
]. In Amsterdam, the Municipal Waste Management Service became the WEE in 2003. In 2014, the organisation became private in order to develop as ‘the producer of sustainable energy in Amsterdam’ [33
]. In the early days, almost everything was recycled, but this decreased owing to the increase of the share of non-recyclable materials. In recent years, the WEE has managed to increase the recycling rates again.
Moreover, the WEE expanded and opened new furnaces and even started to import waste from abroad; one-sixth of all Dutch waste was processed in Amsterdam [33
]. In 2006, WEE entered into a partnership with Waternet, providing mutual synergies, i.e., (a) the residual heat from the combustion gases is used to make the treatment process more effective; (b) the sewage treatment runs on the electricity generated by the waste incineration; and (c) the energetic yield of biogas, which is released during the purification of the sludge, increased by one-third [34
5.7. The Application of the CBF for Historic Analyses
Amsterdam has seen many developments in the field of water management and governance. The City Blueprint (Figure 6
) shows at a glance how water management has changed over time. The TPF applied in different periods (Figure 7
) shows which pressures dominated and, based on the CBF, which subsequent actions were taken to reduce these pressures.
The analytical framework was useful for assessing water management and governance in different historical periods. This comprehensive framework [14
] has been applied to assess water management of 125 cities in 53 countries in order to provide a frame of reference to enhance city-to-city learning. The historical analysis of Amsterdam’s water management demonstrates the applicability of the City Blueprint as a frame of reference to also learn from the past. Despite the complexity of the urban water system and limitations in the provision of historical information, this study demonstrates that it is possible to apply the framework and develop meaningful insights.
The connectivity between the indicators of both the TPF and the CBF is important to consider because there is often a clear link between pressures and measures. The framework approach is based on contemporary times and the methodology is not tailored to assess the indicators in other time periods as accurately as today. For example, the perceptions on drinking water quality have changed over time. Water that people drank in previous centuries will not meet the recent quality requirements, but for the people who lived in these past centuries, drinking water quality may have been quite sufficient. Another example is the poverty rate. Poverty is defined as the percentage of the population living below the poverty line of 1.9$ per day. The methodology is correct for the present time, but not applicable for other periods. Therefore, the scores of the TPF and CBF in this study are based on expert judgment that account for the historical context.
For this study, multiple interviews were conducted to score the indicators of the TPF and CBF in the different historic periods. Stakeholders who were interviewed are leading experts about the historical events. In addition, the scores were checked and justified by means of literature research. Furthermore, when completing the scores, it is important that the interviewees have a good overview of the events and knowledge of all areas of water management and governance. That is why only people who meet these knowledge requirements were interviewed.
The holistic overview of the historic developments in water management and the causes for that provide relevant lessons. One of these lessons is that Amsterdam’s water management performance accelerated after each consecutive crisis, which can be described as a pattern of problem-shifting. Problem-shifting refers to a process where short-term and reactive management solutions in turn create new water-related problems [36
]. The second lesson from the study of Amsterdam is that cities can rapidly improve their water management in only a couple of decades (Figure 6
It is interesting to explore if such an achievement is feasible for other cities that follow a similar trajectory. It should be realised that cities often face different pressures, causing these cities to make different decisions and follow different paths. To get a complete picture of which decisions are strategic in which situations, further research is recommended in other cities to better understand the role of contextual factors [37
]. At present, a cluster analysis is carried out for the 125 cities that we have assessed and a clear process of problem-shifting can be observed. It is thus recommended to adapt the CBA method to make it more suitable for assessing the indicators in an historical context.