Wetenschap - 1 januari 1970

Alterra research

Alterra research


The Dutch want water to be both wild and safe

When Dutch people think of water they like to see, they think of natural
flowing streams and large lakes and ponds. They like water to be part of a
wilderness, without much disturbance by mankind, but at the same time it
also has to be safe. This was the discrepancy that emerged from recent
Alterra research.

Fransje Langers, Maarten Jacobs and Rosalinde van Kralingen held a survey
among the Dutch population on the images that come to mind when they think
of water. They asked for instance whether people like the water to be wild
and natural, like the meandering brook in a valley, or functional and
controlled, like the ditches in the meadows. People were inclined to choose
the more natural and wild images of water the researchers showed them, but
there still were differences.

The researchers identified five different perceptions of water among the
Dutch public, the spontaneous wild water image, the controlled wild water
image, the harmonious water image, the quiet and pleasant water image and
the multifunctional water image. The followers of the four first water
images, the more natural ones, put nature above mankind. The followers of
the multifunctional water image leave more room for human intervention in
nature, albeit only to a limited extent.

The research also indicates that the perception of water of the Dutch
people corresponds to the images held by the civil servants who work for
Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands’ largest government institution for water
management. The public is more positive than the civil servants and they
are more outspoken in their views, and safety is more of an issue for them,
while the civil servants tend to know that safety is a condition that is
met. The more natural management of water is part of the Dutch government
policy. In the valley of the Renkumse Beek for instance, the small
industrial area in the Beukenlaan will be removed to make room for the
meandering of the brook. In the future people will be able to walk safely
along this 'wild and natural' stream.

Martin Woestenburg

Photo:
A meandering brook in Limburg, in the south of the Netherlands. The Dutch
like to see this kind of ‘wild and natural' water, as long as it is safe to
walk along.
Photo Guy Ackermans

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