Symposium report: Urban Past, Urban Future? Sustainable Drinking Water in Dutch Cities, 1500-1900

On Thursday the 17th of March 2022, the project team Omgaan met droogte or Coping with Drought which includes EHC Board members Petra van Dam and Dániel Moerman, hosted their first Symposium as an EHC special event. In a hybrid format, with more than 30 attendants combined in person and on Zoom, several team members presented preliminary results.

“Petra van Dam introduced the project, explaining the resilience of a city to drought as an important subject. She explained that the project focuses on the history of urban fresh water, rather than just drinking water. People used fresh water for domestic purposes as well and had multiple water sources; groundwater was accessed through wells and pumps, rainwater was harvested from roofs into cisterns. She then raised the questions that the symposium would address: Who had access to which water? In particular, how did poor people have access to good water sources like wells in the eastern Netherlands and cisterns in the western Netherlands? How was water harvested, stored, and distributed? What happened in times of drought?”

(Marit Steman on

The speakers included Milja van Tielhof (case study of Amsterdam orphanage for households’ strategies of coping with water scarcity between 1666 and 1790), Bart Levering (micro-water-infrastructure found in the early-modern cities of Hoorn, Enkhuizen, and Medemblik) and Dániel Moerman (history of well-communities in Deventer between 1500 and 1850).

For more information and access to the symposium powerpoint please visit the official Coping with Drought Symposium please visit

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