Thirsty Cities: Shared Water Heritage in the Small Island States of the Dutch Caribbean

S.S. Loen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Securing fresh water supply on the Dutch Caribbean islands, former colonial overseas territories of The Netherlands from the 17th century, always has been, and still is, a challenge. Between 1904 and 1915 the cartographers Werbata and Jonckheer drew the first topographical maps of the islands. Detailed data was needed for the (re-)development of fresh water management system based on rainwater harvesting. The re-development of this decentralized water system as envisioned by governor De Jong van Beek en Donk was stopped short due to the regions oil boom. The water intense oil industry turned to groundwater exploitation and seawater desalination. Post oil Dutch Caribbean communities still rely predominantly on energy intensive desalination plants for their water supply. The destructions of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten in 2017 exposed the vulnerability of this system. Decentralized fresh water management systems enabling island communities to become more self-sustaining in the face of climate change and disaster are needed. In the field of water management there is growing acknowledgement that nature based solutions (NBS) offer an “alternative approach to increasingly relying on engineering solutions”. Heritage inspired design and solutions, learning from vernacular and historical systems and practices, has the potential to add to the body of knowledge, possible strategies and solutions to manage fresh water resources sustainably and cope with the consequences of climate change. This paper therefor investigates the development of fresh water management systems and strategies in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao during colonial rule. The Werbata-Jonckheer maps are an important source in this investigation for the development of a first landscape typomorphological overview of fresh water supply systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLDE Heritage Conference on Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings
EditorsUta Pottgiesser, Sandra Fatoric, Carola Hein, Erik de Maaker, Ana Pereira Roders
PublisherTU Delft Open
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6366-356-4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventLDE Heritage International Conference on Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals - TU Delft, Delft, Netherlands
Duration: 26 Nov 201928 Nov 2019


ConferenceLDE Heritage International Conference on Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals
Internet address


  • Heritage inspired design and solutions
  • rainwater harvesting
  • storm water storage
  • water supply
  • micro catchment and soil storage systems
  • climate resilient fresh water management


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