Tuesday, May 11, 2010

As long as their feet are dry..

In the past couple days we have heard a few presentations about the Waterboards system in the Netherlands.  Waterboards are a part of the government, or an authority figure in the Netherlands that deals strictly with the management of surface water.  The problem that the Waterboards face is public interest.  While 60% of the country is at risk of being flooded, the Dutch have sort of become accustomed to being protected by the dikes and other forms of keeping the water back.  Because of this, the percentage of residents participating in the elections of the Waterboard and its associated organizations is about 24%!  A common phrase that has been used was "dry feet", the people are not very interested as long as they have dry feet! 

Another interesting phrase that has been used when describing the Dutch's system of water management is that "God made the world, the Dutch made the Netherlands".  This factoid seems a little silly, but when looking at maps of the area that the Netherlands now occupies, it is undeniable.  The Netherlands now sits on areas that were once completely submerged, and that water does not just disappear!  Through the usage of dikes (or levys), windmills, and other forms of pumping, this water is displaced in an effort to keep the Dutch's feet dry.

We've also had a chance to visit some really cool places around the Netherlands.  Yesterday we were in The Hague where we were able to visit the Parliment building and some of the "downtown" area.  There was very strange art work and even a Chinatown sort of area.  We all ate together at a little Greek restaurant where we ate Gyros while sitting outside where we were able to really take in the atmosphere. 

Today we went to Kinderdijk to see the windmills.. WOWWWW! The windmills were amazing!  Right off the bat we were trying to capture their beauty from the bus, but little did we know that we would be able to actually get right up close and actually walk through the inside of one of the windmills!  We learned a lot about how the windmills work: each windmill is capable of transfering 1 m of water, therefore if an area was 2.5 m below sea level, 3 windmills would be needed to pump out the required water.  When more modern pumps were developed, the windmills were no longer used.  At one point in time, people wanted to destroy them to avoid maintenance costs, but luckily someone realized the culture value that the windmills held.  During WWII, the Germans occupied all the energy that was needed to run the modern pumps and luckily, the windmills were still there to save the day!  Kinderdijk has a total of 19 windmills!!

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