Water is inherently circular. It cannot escape the hydrologic cycle and will re-emerge time and again as water. In the seventeenth century, city dwellers of Holland made use of this natural cycle. They withdrew water that had rained down or flowed into the city and put it to use for their own benefit. How did they ensure availability of water of the right quality, in the right amount and at the right place for the community? How was wastewater either deployed or disposed of?
In the article ‘Waste in Water. Water as Waste. Informal Collective Action in Seventeenth-Century Holland‘, dr. Marianne Groep-Foncke explores, amongst others, which parties within this polycentric governance system took the responsibility for the drainage of surplus water and the availability of water of sufficient quality for consumption or production purposes.
First, the article outlines how seventeenth-century city dwellers in Holland perceived water – and wastewater in particular. Then, the treatment of wastewater is used as a lens to zoom in on early modern urban society as a polycentric governance system: which formal and informal communities existed, what decision-making powers did they assume, and how did people keep each other in check?
M. Groep-Foncke (2023). Waste in Water. Water as Waste. Informal Collective Action in Seventeenth-Century Holland. In: Djoeke van Netten & Jasper van der Steen eds., De circulaire economie in de vroegmoderne Nederlanden, p. 47-66.