The Netherlands is a country of water, as most of you will know. It's full of rivers, lakes and streams while large areas of land have been conquered over the sea, such as the entire province of Flevoland (which used to be the Zuiderzee, in English the Southern Sea). Not surprisingly, one of the oldest forms of democratic government in Western-Europe is a pure Dutch institute called waterschap.

According to my Dutch-English dictionary, the translation of waterschap comes closest to the British Conservancy or the American Board of Public Works. Shortly said it is a district water board, although the term waterschap is also used to describe the district itself. The entire Dutch country has been divided in districts, which are not along county or other administrative borders. At the end of this write-up you can find a list of all waterschappen in the Netherlands. The names of these water districts are reasonably cool in my humble opinion, because they mostly indicate historical regions that do not exist as such anymore, such as Zuiderzeeland, Sevenwolden, Westfriesland, Land van Nassau or Wilck en Wiericke. These names also prove the waterschap is an old administration, which actually dates back to the Middle Ages.

Every adult Dutchman is allowed to vote in the waterschap elections every four years. Hardly anyone takes the effort, although the water boards have an important function, namely that of water management, which is valuable in a country of dikes (or dykes if you like), sluices and locks. In general you can state that waterschappen are responsible for keeping the Dutch feet as dry as possible. Most significant therefore are the waterschappen in polders and those close to large water areas: the North Sea, the IJsselmeer and the rivers Rhine, Maas and IJssel. All water boards share responsibility for irrigation, drainage, water treatment and the maintenance of rivers and channels. And if for instance someone wants to build his house on a dike, he has to ask the waterschap for permission.

The waterschap executive committee is called hoogheemraad. Hoog means high, heem is old Dutch for home, and raad means council, but I would rather translate it as polder board. Each district has its own hoogheemraad with a so-called dijkgraaf as chairman, literally meaning earl of the dike.

Every tax-paying Dutch citizen pays a special fee for his own local waterschap. House owners pay extra.

All waterschappen in the Netherlands:

  1. Aa
  2. Alblasserwaard en de Vijfheerenlanden
  3. Alm en Biesbosch
  4. Amstel, Gooi en Vecht
  5. Betuwe
  6. Blija Buitendijks
  7. Boarn en Klif
  8. Brielse Dijkring
  9. Delfland
  10. Dommel
  11. Dongestroom
  12. Fryslân
  13. Goeree-Overflakkee
  14. Groot Maas en Waal
  15. Groot Salland
  16. Groot-Geestmerambacht
  17. Groot-Haarlemmermeer
  18. Groote Waard
  19. Hollands Kroon
  20. Hollandse Eilanden en Waarden
  21. Hunze en Aa's
  22. Krimpenerwaard
  23. Land van Nassau
  24. Lange Rond
  25. Lauwerswâlden
  26. Limburg
  27. Linge
  28. Maaskant
  29. Mark en Weerijs
  30. Marne-Middelsee
  31. Noorderzijlvest
  32. Oude Rijnstromen
  33. Peel en Maasvallei
  34. Reest en Wiede
  35. Reest en Wieden
  36. Regge en Dinkel
  37. Rivierenland
  38. Roer en Overmaas
  39. Rijn en IJssel
  40. Rijnland
  41. Scheldekwartier
  42. Schieland
  43. Sevenwolden
  44. Stichtse Rijnlanden
  45. Tieler en Culemborgwaarden
  46. Uitwaterende Sluizen in Hollands Noorderkwartier
  47. Vallei & Eem
  48. Velt en Vecht
  49. Veluwe
  50. Waadkant
  51. Waterlanden
  52. West-Brabant
  53. Westfriesland
  54. Wilck en Wiericke
  55. IJsselmonde
  56. Zeeuws Vlaanderen
  57. Zeeuwse Eilanden
  58. Zuiderzeeland

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