Water boards have been around for centuries, since the interested parties themselves founded them for the first time in the Middle Ages, and chose their own administrators. They still do, which makes the water board the oldest form of democracy in the Netherlands.
Due to the water boards having bundled their forces over the years, their numbers have been reduced from 3500 in the 19th century to only a few dozen nowadays. Their working area often encompasses the catchment area of one or more rivers and/or streams. Water boards were formerly only involved in water damming and water management, tasks which were particularly important for the agricultural sector. Nowadays, their responsibilities also include the prevention of water pollution and improvement of the quality of surface waters. Water boards are therefore important for everyone in these modern times.
Reest & Wieden Water Board is active in the area between Assen, Vollenhove, the Friesian border and Orvelte, that is central and South-West Drenthe and North-West Overijssel. This region covers 137,500 hectares and houses more than 200,000 people, mainly in rural villages and partly in the cities of Meppel, Hoogeveen, Assen and Steenwijk. Most of our working field is for agricultural purposes. A reasonable share, that is a quarter, is countryside, and includes the Weerribben, Drents-Friese Wold and the Dwingelderveld national parks.
The Reest & Wieden Water Board is responsible for management of water quantity and quality. This means: ensuring that the water in the ground and in the ditches, canals, pools and lakes remains at a stable level, in order that water channels remain navigable, that waste water is purified and that the surface water is of good quality. The water board does so by managing and maintaining water courses, pumping stations, weirs and sluices, and sewerage water purification plants. Moreover, the water board is responsible for safety, by constructing and maintaining dikes and other forms of damming designed to prevent flooding. The groundwater, the water bed, the surface water and the river banks are all seen as being one system. Working simultaneously on water quality and quantity is called integrated water management. Water aspects are nowadays viewed within the total context of an area by all interested parties, so that they can jointly take a balanced and well oriented decision on the way in which an area can develop. Reest & Wieden plays its part in this process. Where can houses be built and where not? Where must space be created for water? Or should the natural course of brooks be restored? The purpose is to ensure a healthy habitat for people and animals alike.
The team at Reest & Wieden Water Board ensures that the groundwater level and the water in ditches, canals, pools and lakes stays at the right level. This is essential for agriculture, for nature and for the people living in the area. The ground must not be too dry and not too wet. After the interests of all the parties have been weighed up, the water board determines the required water level and maintains it.
Dams protect the area from flooding at high tide. Reest & Wieden is responsible for the dams in North-East Overijssel, which keep out the water from the Zwartemeer.Reest & Wieden keeps the water at the right level by means of more than 100 pumping stations and more than 1200 weirs and inlets.
Reest & Wieden is responsible for a number of water channels in northern Overijssel. The water board maintains the greenery and the depth of the shipping channel, to ensure free passage for commercial shipping, farmers and recreational shipping.
In the event of surplus water, the A.F. Stroink pumping station between Vollenhove and Blokzijl and the Zedemuden pumping station at Zwartsluis pump the excess water to the IJsselmeer.
Reest & Wieden supervises the quality of the surface water and cleans the waste water from households and companies, which ends up in one of the nine sewerage water purification plants, via the municipal sewer system. Here, the waste water is purified and sent back into nature via water courses, as clean as possible. The residue is a large volume of silt, which is processed by a specialised company.
Prevention is better than cure. If it’s not in the dirty water to start with, it doesn’t need to be removed. Companies are therefore not allowed to simply dump waste water into the sewer. They require a permit which describes exactly what is allowed. There are also rules governing the use of pesticides, fertilizers and nutrients which can introduce hazardous substances into the surface water or groundwater via the (rain)water.
Rainwater is relatively clean. However, it still often ends up in the sewer and from there in the sewerage water purification plant. Extra pressure is then exerted on the plant and unnecessary costs are incurred, due to the expense of the purification system. Together with local authorities, the water board therefore strives towards sewer systems which transport rainwater separately from roofs and clean, smooth surfaces, or guide it directly into the ground. Sewer water may not be discharged unpurified into the surface water. This still takes place in rural areas, when houses or farms are far from the public sewer system and the connection is too expensive. In such cases, IBA (individual treatment units for waste water) offer a solution. The water board provides a financial contribution to local authorities in order to ensure that remote plots are either connected to the sewer or provided with an IBA.
There are rules and regulations to combat water pollution, and the monitoring team and inspection officers of Reest & Wieden Water Board ensure that they are adhered to. Fines can be imposed or other measures taken if the rules are broken. In the event of sudden water pollution, immediate action is taken to limit the damage, clear up the pollution and to trace and penalise the perpetrator.
Agricultural and industrial companies require a permit before they can discharge waste water. Water board staff regularly check whether the limits of the permit have not been exceeded.The quality of the water, the water life and the water bed in the Reest & Wieden working area are all strictly monitored. Samples are taken daily and inspected for the presence of heavy metals, salt, oxygen, phosphates and nitrogen. The flora and fauna is also analysed.
At various locations in our working area, there are lakes which the provincial authorities have designated swimming lakes. In the summer, the water board checks whether the quality meets the statutory standards. The public can monitor the results via the media or the Reest & Wieden Water Board internet page.
Pumping stations, weirs, sluices, riverbanks, quays, dikes, water courses. They all need maintenance. They provide work for dozens of Reest & Wieden employees every day, who fix and arrange, mow and dredge, and remove all kinds of undesired matter.
Water courses need to be kept at the right width and depth in order to be able to take up and discharge enough water. Sooner or later, all substances such as plant waste but also polluted material which ends up in the water, will settle in the water bed. The water board therefore regularly undertakes dredging activities. Clean dredgings are left behind on farming land in order to serve as a fertilizer, and polluted dredgings are removed.
Ditches important for drainage are surveyed by the authorities. Owners of neighbouring land are obliged to mow the riverbanks annually before 15th November. The water board checks whether the surveyed ditches have been adequately cleared.
Muskrats and coypus live in holes. They dig holes in dikes and riverbanks of water courses, lakes and ponds, which can become weakened and subsequently collapse. They also cause subsidence of verges, agricultural land and roads, with all the subsequent risks for people, livestock and (agricultural) equipment. This is the reason that the water board combats these rodents so fiercely.
Reest & Wieden Water Board works at maintaining a healthy habitat for all. In doing so, we also pay plenty of attention to the interests of nature, and lend a helping hand where necessary. By giving old brooks their original course back again, for example.
Fish wanting to spawn swim upstream ’against the flow’. Their reproduction process can be put at risk if hindered by weirs. Reason enough for the water board to construct fish passages. Where there is room, we construct banks naturally, with a gradual transition between land and water, allowing flora and fauna to flourish.
Reest & Wieden Water Board likes to work as close to its people as possible, which is why the water board region is subdivided into districts. Besides the head office in Meppel, there are district offices, who can answer your questions or complaints regarding matters such as water level management, surveyed ditches, shipping channel management, maintenance of water courses and dams.
The water board is a democratic body, managed by a general board of directors, 25 of them in total. They do not represent political parties but rather defend the interests on behalf of their ’supporters’: the general public, building owners, companies and owners of agricultural and nature land. The board members, which represent the companies, are elected by the Chambers of Commerce of the provinces Overijssel and Drenthe. All other board members are directly elected once every four years by the general public. All members of the public of eighteen years and older have a right to vote and can also stand for office. The general board chooses a daily management team from its members, of a maximum of six members. The dike reeve is chairperson of both general and daily management. He or she is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the general board, for a six year period.
Monitoring and management of water quality and quantity is an expensive business. The question is who will pay the bill. The answer is simple enough: everyone with an interest in the work of the water board, that is all inhabitants. The water board works according to the principle of interest, payment and control. Interested parties pay their way and have control of how the finance is spent, by electing a member or standing for office for the general board. The water board charges a tax in order to cover its costs. Not everyone pays the same amount, because not all tax payers have the same degree of interest in the tasks carried out by the water board. The method of cost distribution is a point of constant attention.
Groundwater, surface water, rainwater, drinking water, waste water: all water is interconnected and forms a chain. Various parties are active within this chain, each with their own tasks and responsibilities: provincial authorities, local authorities, drinking water companies, water boards. They all have relations with a number of different interest groups: the general public, agricultural and horticultural organisations, nature and environment organisations, recreation boards, companies. It will therefore be clear that the Reest & Wieden Water Board does not operate alone, but rather cooperates closely with other participants and interested parties in the water chain in order to arrive at good, integrated and durable water management.
The water board consults with provincial and local authorities on zoning plans and locations where building activities may not take place, for example. The importance of such consultations has been proven in the floods and water management problems of recent years. Water plans are drawn up in collaboration with local authorities and water distribution companies, indicating where building work may take place and where not, along with all matters concerning the supply and discharge of clean and soiled water.
The temperature on earth is increasing, sea levels will rise by no less than 60 cm in the next 100 years, river waters will increase and the water bed will drop. The old strategy of stopping water by building ever higher dikes no longer works. In order to protect the Netherlands. In the long term, we need to create space for water, before it claims that space for itself. At the same time, we must ensure that there is sufficient water in times of drought and that the groundwater level remains stable. The new national government policy for water management in the 21st century therefore rests on three mainstays: retention, storage and discharge. Retention does not mean discharging surface water into the sea too quickly and too long, as this will otherwise be at the expense of the groundwater level. Storage means finding storage space for water which cannot be absorbed into the ground. Only after storage, the surplus will be discharged. On the basis of this strategy, Reest & Wieden Water Board carries out a number of large regional projects which often serve a number of purposes, such as improvement of conditions for agriculture and nature, quality improvement of the environment and reinforcement of the economy.
Besides the local, provincial and national authorities, the water board is also involved with the European government. There is an increasing amount of water management imposed from Brussels, where demands are made for (further) improvement of the groundwater and surface water quality (European Water Directive). This could lead to other requirements for all activities which influence the water quality, such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides by agriculture, discharges by companies, sewerage water purification plants and ships.
Retention is the process by which rainwater is allowed to sink into the ground, resulting in the groundwater fluctuating within agreed limits.
If there is more water than can be retained, it flows into the surface water. The water can be stored here, and the water level is allowed to fluctuate within agreed limits. The larger the water surface, the greater the storage capacity. If both the groundwater and surface water have risen to a maximum level, the water needs to be discharged. This can be achieved by opening weirs or by pumping it away. Discharge will always be necessary because of surplus rainfall.
All residents are allowed to vote in the four-yearly election of the Reest & Wieden Water Board. The water board also regularly organises meetings to discuss plans which also concern you. Be there and you’ll have a voice! If you see anything unusual in your neighbourhood, for example muskrats or water pollution, contact us, so that we can take action as quickly as possible.
Finally, there are lots of things you can do to help improve the water quality and limit the costs, without any great effort being required. Some people regard the kitchen sink, the toilet, ditches, canals and lake as dump sites. That’s bad for nature, and the water board has the expensive job of removing anything which doesn’t belong here. In the end, you’ll be presented with the bill, so check out the following tips and stick to them. You’ll be helping yourself and the water board.
Reest & Wieden Water Board does its best to help you become water wise. Plans and activities are published in the newspaper for your information and you’re always welcome at the general board meetings and information meetings, which are always announced in the local press. The water board also plays plenty of attention to education. Guided tours are therefore regularly organised in water purification plants, which is fun for all age groups, and educational as well. Other objects, such as Stroink pumping station, can also be viewed on request.
Finally, there is teaching material available for schools, and water board staff will be pleased to come and talk about their work. After all, the younger people become water wise, the better. For questions, don’t hesitate to call the water board. Pick up the phone, send an e-mail or visit one of our offices. They’re open from Monday to Friday from 8.00 to 17.00 hours.
For urgent matters, Reest & Wieden Water Board is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
The offices are open from Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 17.00 hours. For urgent cases, we can be contacted 24 hours a day.