Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 657–668 | Cite as

From overexploitation to sustainable use, an overview of 160 years of water extraction in the Amsterdam dunes, the Netherlands

  • L. H. W. T. Geelen
  • P. T. W. J. Kamps
  • T. N. Olsthoorn


Dune slacks are low-lying, nutrient-poor, species-rich, inter-dunal, seasonally flooded wetlands, are amongst the most threatened habitats in the Dutch coastal dunes. Since 1853 Waternet has been extracting groundwater from the coastal dunes southwest of Haarlem to produce its drinking water. Dune slacks largely disappeared due to the desiccation caused by this water abstraction, over more than a century biodiversity declined as a consequence. Increased societal concern pushed habitat restoration high on the political agenda by the end of the 1980s. It was agreed to do what is possible to restore original dune slacks without endangering the water supply. Far reaching interventions in the dune water system were foreseen to achieve this mutual goal. To allow reliable decision making, the entire hydrological history of the drinking water production in the Amsterdam Dunes since 1853 and its ecological consequences were evaluated over a 10-year study period. The main tool was a 3D groundwater model constructed using all information gathered to date and calibrated using the long-term monitoring data available and widely extended for the purpose, to which ecological modeling was added and calibrated with the available long-term and extended vegetational inventories. These scientific tools were used to assess proposed interventions to be decided upon, which aimed at finding a new balance between groundwater extraction and nature restoration. In 1996 and 2007 large-scale measures were taken, which include filling in of recovery canals, mowing, grazing and sod-cutting to support the native plant communities of wet dune slack habitats. Results of these measures in terms of the restoration of natural hydrological conditions are shown together with the first results for the recovery of wet slacks vegetation that resulted from the combined hydrological and ecological restoration measures that were taken since 1995.


Dune slack restoration Watersupply Amsterdam Coastal dunes Eco-hydrology 



We want to thank Charlie Stratford for his effort to bring the eco-hydrological knowledge of coastal dunes together and stimulation to come to this publication and an anonymous referent for his comment. The proposed changes have greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. H. W. T. Geelen
    • 1
  • P. T. W. J. Kamps
    • 1
  • T. N. Olsthoorn
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Waternet (Amsterdam Water Supply), Nature Management DepartmentVogelenzangThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty CITG (Civ. Eng. & Geosc.)Technical University DelftDelftThe Netherlands

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