The Amstel Locks (1673) protected the Amstel River’s upstream areas, which are important for food production, from poor water quality by flushing water. The locks still play an important role in Amsterdam water management.
Looking Back Paves our Way Forward: The Delta City of Amsterdam


  • Sannah Peters Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht
  • Maarten Reinier Lemme Ouboter Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht
  • Jeroen Oomkens Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht




As one of the most famous delta cities in the world, Amsterdam exemplifies how decisions and narratives from the past can be the driving force for present-day actions and more effective design principles for future city planning. Water management in Amsterdam has often been, and frequently still is, reactive in response to water hazards, flooding, droughts, pollution and disease. While contemporary pressures urge water managers to redesign the living environment in harmony with changing water cycles, the centuries-long history of water awareness, cumulative knowledge and long-term spatial planning has led to gradual improvement throughout Amsterdam. Many solutions are still relevant today and are essential in decision making as we design a new climate-resilient future and deal with challenges such as sea-level rise and demographic change. Despite residing below sea level, the people of the delta city of Amsterdam exhibit a profound sense of confidence and security against flooding. Moreover, the material and immaterial dimensions of the water network serve as a tangible reminder of our ancestors’ deltaic identity, highlighting their contributions to our current living environment. Therefore, the water system plays a vital role in preserving Amsterdam’s urban landscapes, cultural heritage and historical significance, which also helps strengthen this delta city’s future water management and urban planning.

How to Cite

Peters, S., Ouboter, M. R. L., & Oomkens, J. (2023). Looking Back Paves our Way Forward: The Delta City of Amsterdam. Blue Papers, 2(1), 132–143.





methodologies and case studies

Author Biographies

Sannah Peters, Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht

Sannah Peters is an asset manager of water infrastructure responsible for the drinking water supply and wastewater transport in the city of Amsterdam and the surrounding area. Her career started with a thesis and publication at Waternet and KWR Water Research Institute, where she conducted a historical analysis of water management and governance in Amsterdam. Sannah explored how past experiences offer opportunities to address present and future challenges in Amsterdam and other cities across the globe. As a water and innovation technologist, she has contributed to projects on the energy transition and circular economy and on water quality in the water cycle. Sannah participated in the Dutch National Watertraineeship, which allowed her to gain experience at various water organizations. During the traineeship, she founded Youth for Drinkable Rivers, supporting the Drinkable Rivers initiative. She is also committed to water heritage, in which the past connects to the present.

Maarten Reinier Lemme Ouboter, Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht

Maarten Reinier Lemme Ouboter has a background in earth sciences, specializing in hydrogeology and geochemistry. He started his professional career at Delft Hydraulics, where he developed a strong foundation for integrated system analysis. Since 2001, Maarten has become the public voice – ambassador – of water at the Regional Public Water Authority of Amstel, Gooi and Vecht. His comprehensive knowledge of greater Amsterdam is essential in regional water, environmental and cultural developments. Securing this voice and its intrinsic values in investment plans makes Maarten instrumental for future challenges of the region. He advocates for more integrated approaches that include historical perspectives, particularly of the landscape, natural processes, culture, governance and its people. The outcome of all equations is ecology: can plants and animals sustainably co-exist in a water system with people and their ambitions?

Jeroen Oomkens, Regional Public Water Authority Amstel, Gooi and Vecht

Jeroen Oomkens is a senior legal policy advisor responsible for future-proofing regional legislation in the Netherlands. For 10 years, he has coordinated and led the development of tailored water, climate and environmental solutions to support the transition of (inter) national organizations and institutions. For the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he participated in a study on the political economy of water infrastructure investments in South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia and the Philippines. And for Cabo Verde he co-authored the National Adaptation Plan. Jeroen also contributed to policy developments for the European Green Deal, where among other projects, he led the impact assessment for the new EU Adaptation Strategy, inspiring a clear call for action. He is chairman of the Dutch committee of ISO standards on climate change adaptation and the Dutch Head of Delegation for the CEN/TC on climate change. Jeroen also volunteers within the SDSN Youth Network as a coach and expert. He holds a master’s degree in earth sciences and environmental management from the University of Amsterdam and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht.


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