Water Civilization: The Evolution of the Dutch Drinking Water Sector

40 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Feb 2018

See all articles by David Zetland

David Zetland

Leiden University - Leiden University College

Bene Colenbrander

Leiden University - Leiden University College

Date Written: February 8, 2018

Abstract

Dutch drinking water companies now deliver safe affordable water to the entire population, but this result was not planned. It emerged, rather, from an evolutionary process in which various pressures on the commons resulted in changes to drinking water systems that addressed old concerns but uncovered new problems. Our analytical narrative traces this problem-solution-new problem pattern through four eras in which a common-pool dilemma is addressed by a private-good solution (1850-1880), a club-good solution (1880-1910) and public good solution (1910-1950) before returning to a private-good solution in the last 1950-1990 era. Actions, like the dates just given, were not always exact or effective, as the process was shaped by changing social norms regarding the distribution of costs and benefits from improved water services. This Dutch history is unique, but its insights can help improve drinking water services elsewhere.

Keywords: Drinking water, institutions, common-pool goods, public health

JEL Classification: H42, H75, I31, L33, L95, Q53, Q56

Suggested Citation

Zetland, David and Colenbrander, Bene, Water Civilization: The Evolution of the Dutch Drinking Water Sector (February 8, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2995720 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2995720

David Zetland (Contact Author)

Leiden University - Leiden University College ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501EE
Netherlands

Bene Colenbrander

Leiden University - Leiden University College ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501EE
Netherlands

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