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Waterwolf, or Water-wolf is a Dutch word that comes from the Netherlands, which refers to the tendency of lakes in low lying peaty land, sometimes previously worn-down by men digging peat for fuel, to enlarge or expand by flooding, thus eroding the lake shores, and potentially causing harm to infrastructure or death. [1] The term waterwolf is an example of “animalization,” in which a non-living thing is given traits or characteristics of an animal (whereas a non-living thing given human traits or characteristics is personification). The traits of a wolf most commonly given to lakes include “something to be feared”, “quick and relentless”,” an enemy of man”. [1]

Dutch people or the Dutch are a Germanic ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Aruba, Suriname, Guyana, Curaçao, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States. The Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large-scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Lake A body of relatively still water, in a basin surrounded by land

A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land, apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are also larger and deeper than ponds, though there are no official or scientific definitions. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. Most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.

The Netherlands, meaning “low countries” is a nation where 18% of the countries’ land is below sea level, and half of the land under one meter above sea level, and is prone to flooding. [2] Before modern flood control, severe storms could cause flooding that could wipe out whole villages in the area of the waterwolf. [3] Much of the land in the Netherlands is considered peat bogs. Peat is known to be an organic matter substance consisting of 10% carbon and 90% water and is usually found in colder climates where the plant growth and plant decay are slow. Peat is considered a carbon sequestration, and when dried can be burned as a fuel. Historically peat was the primary source of fuel in the Netherlands, and farmers would mine the peat to burn or sell, thus contributing to the erosion of the landscape.

Sea level Average level for the surface of the ocean at any given geographical position on the planetary surface

Mean sea level (MSL) is an average level of the surface of one or more of Earth's bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical datum – a standardised geodetic datum – that is used, for example, as a chart datum in cartography and marine navigation, or, in aviation, as the standard sea level at which atmospheric pressure is measured to calibrate altitude and, consequently, aircraft flight levels. A common and relatively straightforward mean sea-level standard is instead the midpoint between a mean low and mean high tide at a particular location.

Storm any disturbed state of an astronomical bodys atmosphere

A storm is any disturbed state of an environment or in an astronomical body's atmosphere especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather. It may be marked by significant disruptions to normal conditions such as strong wind, tornadoes, hail, thunder and lightning, heavy precipitation, heavy freezing rain, strong winds, or wind transporting some substance through the atmosphere as in a dust storm, blizzard, sandstorm, etc.

Bog wetland that accumulates peat due to incomplete decomposition of plant leftovers

A bog or bogland is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses, and in a majority of cases, sphagnum moss. It is one of the four main types of wetlands. Other names for bogs include mire, quagmire, and muskeg; alkaline mires are called fens. They are frequently covered in ericaceous shrubs rooted in the sphagnum moss and peat. The gradual accumulation of decayed plant material in a bog functions as a carbon sink.

The first great step to reclaiming land taken by the waterwolf was made with the creation of windmills that could pump water out of the surrounding area, allowing for the creation of polders, or areas inhabited below sea level with an artificially managed water table. [4] Modern flood control in the Netherlands consists of maintaining polders, levees, and is highlighted by the world’s largest dam project: The Delta Works. [4] While modern flood control has conquered the waterwolf, new events such as rising sea levels from climate change could once again bring the waterwolf. [5] See Flood Control in the Netherlands with the most notable "waterwolves" conquered being the Haarlem Lake and the Braakman.

Polder low-lying tract of land enclosed by embankments (barriers) known as dikes

A polder is a low-lying tract of land that forms an artificial hydrological entity, enclosed by embankments known as dikes. The three types of polder are:

  1. Land reclaimed from a body of water, such as a lake or the sea bed
  2. Flood plains separated from the sea or river by a dike
  3. Marshes separated from the surrounding water by a dike and subsequently drained; these are also known as koogs, especially in Germany
Water table top of a saturated aquifer, or where the water pressure head is equal to the atmospheric pressure

The water table is the upper surface of the zone of saturation. The zone of saturation is where the pores and fractures of the ground are saturated with water.

Levee Ridge or wall to hold back water

A levee, dike, dyke, embankment, floodbank or stopbank is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall, which regulates water levels. It is usually earthen and often parallel to the course of a river in its floodplain or along low-lying coastlines.

Detail of a map by Jacob Bartelz Veris drawn in 1641 of the Haarlem Lake, with a poem by Joost van den Vondel topped by a Dutch Lion fighting the Waterwolf as an allegory of the Dutch struggle against floods Kaart Haarlemmermeer wapen 1641.gif
Detail of a map by Jacob Bartelz Veris drawn in 1641 of the Haarlem Lake, with a poem by Joost van den Vondel topped by a Dutch Lion fighting the Waterwolf as an allegory of the Dutch struggle against floods

Related Research Articles

Holland Region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands

Holland is a region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The name Holland is also frequently used informally to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. This usage is commonly accepted in other countries, and sometimes employed by the Dutch themselves. However, some in the Netherlands, particularly those from regions outside Holland, may find it undesirable or misrepresentative to use the term for the whole country.

Flevoland Province of the Netherlands

Flevoland is the 12th and last province of the Netherlands, established on 1 January 1986, when the southern and eastern Flevopolders were merged into one provincial entity. It is located in the centre of the country, where the former Zuiderzee was. Almost all of the land belonging to Flevoland was reclaimed only in the 1950s and 1960s. The province has about 407,905 inhabitants (2016) and consists of six municipalities. Its capital is Lelystad and most populous city is Almere.

IJsselmeer lake in the Netherlands

The IJsselmeer, also known as Lake Ijssel in English, is a closed off inland bay in the central Netherlands bordering the provinces of Flevoland, North Holland and Friesland. It covers an area of 1,100 km2 (420 sq mi) with an average depth of 5.5 m (18 ft). The river IJssel flows into the IJsselmeer.


The Zuiderzee or Zuider Zee was a shallow bay of the North Sea in the northwest of the Netherlands, extending about 100 km inland and at most 50 km wide, with an overall depth of about 4 to 5 metres (13–16 feet) and a coastline of about 300 km. It covered 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi). Its name is Dutch for "southern sea", indicating that the name originates in Friesland, to the north of the Zuiderzee. In the 20th century the majority of the Zuiderzee was closed off from the North Sea by the construction of the Afsluitdijk, leaving the mouth of the inlet to become part of the Wadden Sea. The salt water inlet changed into a fresh water lake now called the IJsselmeer after the river that drains into it, and by means of drainage and polders, an area of some 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) was reclaimed as land. This land eventually became the province of Flevoland, with a population of nearly 400,000 (2011).

Geography of the European Netherlands

The geography of the Netherlands is unusual in that much of its land has been reclaimed from the sea and is below sea level, protected by dikes. Another factor that has influenced its physical appearance is that the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. It is ranked 30th overall on that scale, but is behind only three countries having a population over 16 million. Consequently, the Netherlands is highly urbanized.

Geography of Belgium

Belgium is a federal state located in Western Europe, bordering the North Sea. Belgium shares borders with France (556 km), Germany (133 km), Luxembourg (130 km) and the Netherlands (478 km). Belgium comprises the regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

Zuiderzee Works

The Zuiderzee Works is a man-made system of dams and dikes, land reclamation and water drainage work, in total the largest hydraulic engineering project undertaken by the Netherlands during the twentieth century. The project involved the damming of the Zuiderzee, a large, shallow inlet of the North Sea, and the reclamation of land in the newly enclosed water using polders. Its main purposes are to improve flood protection and create additional land for agriculture.

Peat accumulation of partially decayed vegetation

Peat, also known as turf, is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter. It is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs. The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet, because peatland plants capture CO2 naturally released from the peat, maintaining an equilibrium. In natural peatlands, the "annual rate of biomass production is greater than the rate of decomposition", but it takes "thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 1.5 to 2.3 m [4.9 to 7.5 ft], which is the average depth of the boreal [northern] peatlands". Sphagnum moss, also called peat moss, is one of the most common components in peat, although many other plants can contribute. The biological features of Sphagnum mosses act to create a habitat aiding peat formation, a phenomenon termed 'habitat manipulation'. Soils consisting primarily of peat are known as histosols. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding or stagnant water obstructs the flow of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of decomposition.

Beemster Municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Beemster[ˈbeːmstər](listen) is a municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Also, the Beemster is the first so-called polder in the Netherlands that was reclaimed from a lake, the water being extracted out of the lake by windmills. The Beemster Polder was dried during the period 1609 through 1612. It has preserved intact its well-ordered landscape of fields, roads, canals, dykes and settlements, laid out in accordance with classical and Renaissance planning principles. A grid of canals parallels the grid of roads in the Beemster. The grids are offset: the larger feeder canals are offset by approximately one kilometer from the larger roads.

Haarlemmermeer Municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Haarlemmermeer[ˌɦaːrlɛmərˈmeːr](listen) is a municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is a polder, consisting of land reclaimed from water, and the name Haarlemmermeer means Haarlem's Lake, still referring to the body of water from which the region was reclaimed in the 19th century.

Wieringermeer Former municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Wieringermeer is a former municipality and a polder in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Since 2012 Wieringermeer has been a part of the new municipality of Hollands Kroon.

Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel Town in South Holland, Netherlands

Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel is a town and former municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. Since 2010 it is part of the new municipality of Zuidplas.

Kinderdijk farm village in the Netherlands

Kinderdijk is a village in the municipality of Molenlanden, in the province of South Holland, Netherlands. It is located about 15 km east of Rotterdam.

Stelling van Amsterdam

The UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Defence Line of Amsterdam is a 135 km ring of fortifications around Amsterdam. It has 42 forts that are 10-15 km from the centre and lowlands, which can easily be flooded in time of war. The flooding was designed to give a depth of about 30 cm, too little for boats to cross. Any buildings within 1 km of the line had to be made of wood so that they could be burnt and the obstruction removed.

North Sea flood of 1953 Late January-early February 1953 North sea flood storm

The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm that occurred on the night of Saturday, 31 January 1953 and morning of Sunday, 1 February 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.

Ringvaart Ringvaart of the Haarlemmermeer Polder

The Ringvaart is a canal in the province of North Holland, the Netherlands. The Ringvaart is a true circular canal surrounding the Haarlemmermeer polder and forms the boundary of the Haarlemmermeer municipality. Ringvaart is also the name of the dike bordering the canal.

Flood control in the Netherlands

Flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as due to its low elevation, approximately two thirds of its area is vulnerable to flooding, while the country is densely populated. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide defense against storm surges from the sea. River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while a complicated system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture. Water control boards are the independent local government bodies responsible for maintaining this system.

Water board (Netherlands) Dutch water management authority

Dutch water boards are regional government bodies charged with managing water barriers, waterways, water levels, water quality and sewage treatment in their respective regions. These regional water authorities are among the oldest forms of local government in the Netherlands, some of them having been founded in the 13th century.

Land reclamation in the Netherlands

Land reclamation in the Netherlands has had a long history. As early as in the 14th century the first reclaimed land had been settled.


  1. 1 2 "The many faces of the Waterwolf, the Low Countries' greatest friend and foe". Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF). Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  2. "The Battle of the Floods - European studies blog". blogs.bl.uk. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  3. "How Dutch shooed the 'waterwolf' from door". Christian Science Monitor. 1982-12-09. ISSN   0882-7729 . Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  4. 1 2 "Dutch flood protection: Taming the water wolf - About us | Allianz". www.allianz.com. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  5. "California Turns to Holland for Flood Expertise". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
Personification An anthropomorphic metaphor in which a thing or abstraction is represented as a person

Personification is an anthropomorphic metaphor in which a thing or abstraction is represented as a person. The type of personification discussed here excludes passing literary effects such as "Shadows hold their breath", and covers cases where a personification appears as a character in literature, or a human figure in art. The technical term for this, since ancient Greece, is prosopopoeia. In the arts many things are commonly personified. These include numerous types of places, especially cities, countries and the four continents, elements of the natural world such as the months or Four Seasons, Four Elements, Four Winds, Five Senses, and abstractions such as virtues, especially the four cardinal virtues and sins, the nine Muses, or death.