Swimming, sailing, surfing, fishing, canoeing, skating… the Netherlands is a land of water and a large number of Dutch people engage in leisure pursuits in or near water. Lots of walking and cycling paths are also located alongside water.

A water-rich environment helps people relax and recuperate. It also encourages them to exercise. Physical activity is good for people's health.

The Dutch government, the water sports sector and businesses all work together to maintain the quality and accessibility of recreational areas.

edited February 5th 2018

Recreation is healthy

There are many different forms of water recreation. These vary from sailing around leisurely in a motorboat to intensive sports activities and from individual activities to rowing or sailing in groups.

Research has shown that recreation is good for people's health. It helps reduce stress, encourages people to exercise and leads to increased social contact. A large European research program looks at how water can be used in the most optimal way to improve the liveability and health in cities.

Water has a cooling effect

Lots of people head for water when the weather is hot. It can be several degrees cooler on or near water than in a town or city. However, you should not forget that you are more likely to get sunburned more quickly when on the water. On top of this, Veiligheid NL, advices parents to keep watch of their children when playing near water to prevent drowning.

Water-related illnesses

The quality of Dutch bathing water is good and is checked during the bathing season. Contaminated water can cause illnesses through skin contact or swallowing. Possible health issues which may arise after contact with contaminated surface water are gastrointestinal infections, skin complaints (e.g. swimmer's itch), ear or eye infections and/or flu-like symptoms.

Hypothermia is dangerous. It can even be fatal. In water the human body loses heat approximately 20 times faster than in air. The colder the water, the faster the process. If someone has hypothermia (which is when body temperature drops below 35oC) they will lose strength, coordination and their sense of judgement. If the body cools down even more, this can lead to loss of consciousness and eventually heart failure. On the Sailing is something you do together [Varen doe je samen] website you can read about how to prevent hypothermia and what to do if it ever occurs. The website of the Red Cross provides information on what to do in the occurrence of drowning.

edited February 5th 2018

Recreational Cruising Network Policy Vision [Beleidsvisie Recreatietoervaartnet] (BRTN)

The Netherlands has a large network of waterways which can be used for recreational sailing. The state and the provincial governments work together with the water sports sector to improve the quality of this network and prevent any bottlenecks in it. This means, for example, drawing up standards for clearance measurements, preventing the closure of waterways by low fixed bridges and making waterways more attractive.

Waterway and harbour management

The government records how wide and deep the water has to be in all designated waterways. The central government does this for national waters (the sea, large rivers and canals) and the provincial government does the same for regional waters.

The water authorities, in turn, make sure that the waterways comply with these width and depth standards. They do so by dredging the waterway bed and by cutting back any excess water plants. Rijkswaterstaat maintains the country's national waters. The provincial governments are free to choose who performs the management tasks. Often this will be the water board, sometimes the provincial government itself and, in the case of harbours, it may also be the municipal authorities.

edited February 5th 2018

Getting out and about

There are all kinds of different ways to enjoy water. The Our Water website has an overview of water-related trips. Want to know more on bathing water? Take a look at our 'Bathing water' page.

Is something not right?

If there is something wrong with the water, you should report this to the government body responsible. This can be done centrally via the Water Notification Centre.