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Water Related Fun-Facts about the Netherlands

Updated on May 12, 2013

Somewhere in The Netherlands Dutch Men Fish Through Ice


Did you know polders are a Dutch invention?

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The Netherlands has Managed Water for Survival with Great Success

  • 27% of the Netherlands is below sea level.
  • The lowest point in NL is 6.74 meters below sea level. Located at Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, without the protection of dunes and dykes, this area would be permanently submerged to a depth of almost 7 meters under water.
  • 1/5 of the Netherlands consists of water, meaning that they have reclaimed from the sea 20% of their total land.
  • Without protection, 2/3 of the Netherlands would be frequently flooded.

These facts have earned the Dutch their world fame as "champions in water management":

  • The Amsterdam defense line consisting of waterworks and forts is included on the World Heritage list.
  • The "Storm Surge Barrier", a Deltawork in the Nieuwe Waterweg, is called the 8th wonder of the world.
  • Major Dutch companies like Volker Stevin, Smit International and Mammoet, partly responsible for the salvage of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, are the first in line if something has to be salvaged, dredged or constructed in foreign waters, including land reclamation, bridge building and harbor constructions.
  • Polders make up 60% of the landmass of the Netherlands.
  • The Ijsselmeer polders are the biggest in the world and form the chessboard-like landscape of the so called “new land”.

Poldering, a Dutch Water Management Contribution

The undisputable pinnacle of Dutch poldering is the South Sea project, which transformed the dangerous South Sea into an inner lake: the IJssel Lake. This became the home of the biggest polders in the world: the “Noordoostpolder” (completed in 1942), “Ostelijk Flevoland” (1957) and “Zuidelijk Flevoland” (1968). Together they form the “new land”, a symbol representing the Dutch conviction of the malleability of landscape and society.

Water History in The Netherlands

The hydraulic engineer and pioneering windmill builder Jan Adriaensz Leeghwater created a stir in the 17th century by transforming multiple lakes into polders using dozens of windmills. His first big success came in 1612 with the draining of the Beemstermeer (Beemster Lake) to the north of Amsterdam.

The Beemster, the oldest area of reclaimed land in the Netherlands, is renowned for its beautiful, carefully parceled landscape, and has rightfully been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Map of The Netherlands

show route and directions
A markerIJsselmeer -
get directions

B markerNiewuwerkerk aan den IJssel -
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Lowest point in the Netherlands: -6.74 m below sea level.

C markerNoordoostpolder -
get directions

D markerFlevoland -
Flevoland, Nederland
get directions

World Renowned Dutch Canals

  • Amsterdam boasts the most extensive canal system in the world.
  • The city has approximately 160 canals, totaling over one hundred kilometers in length.
  • The canal belt of the golden 17th century, when Amsterdam was the trade capital of the world, has become a world-famous attraction.
  • Over three million tourists a year climb aboard the canal boats for a tour around the historic open-air museum that is Amsterdam’s city center.
  • Amsterdam has over 1,500 bridges, more than any other European city.
  • The countless houseboats are an equally imposing feature of the capital. There are several hundred in the inner city alone, and no fewer than 2,400 throughout the entire city.

One of the Dutch inventions that changed ice-skating technology.
One of the Dutch inventions that changed ice-skating technology. | Source

Water & Sports: Ice-skating

IJspret or “Ice fun” is what Dutch people call their antics on the thin blades. The first suggestion of frost is enough to get the entire country sharpening their skates, and as soon as a thin layer of ice appears on the water, Dutch people rush excitedly to the nearest pond, lake, canal, waterway or wherever ice can be found.

  • Ice-skating as a sport has been dominated by the Dutch for many years.
  • Competitive skating has developed rapidly from an activity for robust amateurs braving snowstorms on outdoor rinks to a professional sport that is practiced primarily indoors.
  • Dutch inventors lead the way in the development of devices aimed at improving times by hundredths of a second:
  1. Aerodynamic skating suits.
  2. Strips that can be attached to the suit to reduce air resistance.
  3. Clap skates (which caused all existing records to be pulverized).

Water Frozen = Ice-Skating is On!

Eleven Cities Tour competitor skating through the frozen canals of The Netherlands against tough climate conditions.
Eleven Cities Tour competitor skating through the frozen canals of The Netherlands against tough climate conditions. | Source

The Eleven Cities Tour

This is a proudly Dutch two-hundred kilometer skating tour that passes through eleven cities in the Dutch province of Friesland. The tour only takes place in very severe winters (as the ice needs to be thick enough for safety reasons) and has only happened fifteen times since 1909.

The Netherlands is gripped with the skating bug for days in advance: will the Great Tour go ahead or not?!?! TV screens are filled with meteorologists giving their opinion, and the Frisian “sector managers” explain in intricate detail what the ice look like in their section of the route, where the wind may have caused weak spots in the ice, and where an ice-transplant may be needed.

With the exception of the elite competitive racers –usually friendly, very powerful country people who earn a living as farmers-, most participants have the Olympic philosophy that taking part is more important than winning. This is a good thing too, ass many thousands do not make the finish, beaten along the way by exhaustion and the brutal weather conditions.

More Interesting Facts about Netherlands and its People

The Dutch, I Presume? Icons of the Netherlands
The Dutch, I Presume? Icons of the Netherlands

If you are looking for a great book from which to learn everything about social and cultural aspects of The Netherlands, this should be it. The book excels by its quality impression and huge picture collection.



This article was inspired and is based on the beautifully edited book “The Dutch, I Presume?”, which visually portrays interesting icons proudly authored by The Netherlands. It is a colorful and attractive book written by Martijn de Rooi, and with tons of great photographs by Jurjen Drenth & Friends, that gives a very good description of the country, as well as Dutch personality, culture, traditions and way of living today.

The Netherlands & Climate Change, Rising Sea Levels

Comments or Other Water Related Fun Facts about Netherlands

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    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Chef-de-jour, well thank you for such nice comments, you are very kind. Being married to a Dutch woman must have given you a very broad overview of Dutch culture, not just water related facts and skating but facts about all aspects of Dutch life style. How lucky that you can visit the Netherlands every year!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      What a splendid article on the Dutch! My wife is Dutch so I know how important water is to them - I visit the Netherlands every year and have come to truly admire the Nederlanders for their creative management of H2O.

      Skating on ice is second nature to them (my wife still keeps her old skates in a bag just in case!)...and Olympic speed skating is very popular.

      Votes and a share for a well written hub.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      DDE, I am glad you found these water related fun facts about the Netherlands interesting, always nice to learn new stuff, isn't it? Thanks for your input, I appreciate your comments :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most interesting and well-researched hub on the Water Related Fun-Facts about the Netherlands. You certainly taught me something new.