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According to an NTR report broadcast on Dutch Radio programme ‘Hoe?Zo!’, Dutch people living abroad miss three things more than any others: Dutch cheese, brown bread and potable tap water. Yet, whilst clean and safe drinking water might be the norm in the Netherlands today, it hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, up until around 150 years ago, most Dutch people drank water from wells, rivers and springs, which carried with it the risk of serious diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Although the Dutch authorities were aware that drinking water from such sources posed a threat to public health, the construction of a proper water supply network was continually postponed for financial reasons. It wasn’t until Dutch advocate and writer, Jacob van Lennep, convinced the Dutch authorities of the need for clean drinking water, through his talent for writing and oral debate, that the first potable water tap was finally opened at the Haarlemmerpoort in Amsterdam in 1853. The water pipe infrastructure was subsequently expanded and more and more Dutch households benefitted from a tap in their homes. However, the cost of drinking water was high as the water company sought to make as much money as possible. It was only after the Dutch government got involved with the drinking water supply and additional water companies increased competition, that the price of clean drinking water was significantly reduced.
Today the quality of the Dutch tap water is extremely high – the average Dutch person uses 120 litres of tap water per day, not only for drinking but also for bathing, showering and doing the laundry etc. Dutch tap water must comply with strict standards and is quality tested on a daily basis, meaning that it is entirely safe to drink. But what if you live abroad? Unfortunately, Dutch tap water cannot be sold or exported, so if you fancy some ‘gemeentepils’ (‘public lager’), as Dutch tap water is often affectionately called in the Netherlands, then you might have to opt for a real Dutch pils instead!
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?