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White Horse Press Poster Prize for Bob Pierik and Petra van Dam

5 September 2023
At the ESEH Conference in Bern (Switzerland) this month, VU-researcher Bob Pierik received the ‘ESEH Poster Prize’ sponsored by the The White Horse Press.

A judging committee examined a dozen posters and concluded that Bob Pierik and Petra van Dam deserved the highest award for their ‘Who Drinks which Water?’ which combines graphic clarity, immediate attractiveness, and the effective integration of a lot of information and types of images without being text-heavy or cluttered. A higher-resolution version can be found via the following doi. The poster by Pierik gives a summary of the first results of the Coping with Drought project, led by VU-professor Van Dam. For more information visit the project website

History of drinking water in The Netherlands
For the Netherlands, the history of drinking water is virtually unknown before the advent of piped water, starting around 1850. However, in the early modern period, access to drinking water was highly flexible and adaptable. People procured water from multiple sources like groundwater, rainwater, and surface water. “We investigate societal resilience to drought in coping with shortages of drinking water. Urban inhabitants applied sophisticated and complex micro drinking water infrastructures. Such infrastructures differed per region and even per town, depending on the specific characteristics of the local hydrology. The benefits of the drinking water systems were not shared equally”, Pierik said.

Coping with Drought project
The poster by Pierik and Van Dam is meant as an introduction to the Coping with Drought project. We tried to capture three abstract themes in environmental history with case-studies from our research. The first theme ‘plurality’ is meant to show that water in early modern society was not a single entity, but that there was a lot of variation of water sources. “With ‘locality’, we wanted to show this diversity across geographic scales: from the micro-infrastructure of a cistern to the much larger scale of the water infrastructure of the entire Dutch Republic. Finally, with ‘environmental (in)justice’, we raise the question to what extent water access varied, as especially poorer neighbourhoods and households had poorer access to water”, Pierik said.

ESEH Conference
The conference is organized by the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) which promotes the study of environmental history in all academic disciplines and encourages anyone who has an interest in the field to join and become involved. More information on their website.