Students eligible for water authority: ‘We’ll bear the brunt of climate change’

Also student are up for election for the Noorderzijlvest water authority on March 15. The Student en Water party wants young people to have a say in water management. What does a water authority do, though? We asked party leader Ale ten Cate (19) five questions.

You’re up for election for the Noorderzijlvest water authority. People know even less about these election than they do the Provincial Council ones. What made you decide to stand for election?

‘I was taking to my friends about the Provincial Council elections; a friend of mine is eligible in these. The discussion turned to the water authority elections, which are happening at the same time. I realised I had no idea what those were and I’m pretty sure me and my friends aren’t the only ones.’

‘After a bit of research, we found out that most of the people on the water authority board are middle-aged white men. But the water authority makes decisions that affect young people and students just as much. So why aren’t we on the board? We thought it would be a good idea to make people think about a party that promotes their interests. Initially, it was just a stunt. But it’s since become a serious plan and we’ve garnered a lot of support, including from people at the water authority itself.’

Can you explain what the water authority is exactly?

‘The core tasks of any water authority is the storage, quality, and level control of any and all water within the district. That includes what the water is used for and everything that entails. People may think that doesn’t sound like a very big deal. But the quality of water is important for our drinking water, the fish population and biodiversity, as well any recreational activities that involve water.’

‘Managing the quality of water is a big job. Last year, a report was published that showed that the water quality in the Netherlands was one of the worst in the countries involved in the survey. Water authorities can impact that: how do we treat the water?’

But they’re also involved in water management such as water levels, managing dikes and such. That’s a big job, as well. The Noorderzijlvest water authority recently invested 190 million euros in the seawall between Lauwersoog and the Westpolder.’

How does a water authority work?

‘The water authority is board with twenty-three seats. Four seats are secured for farmers and nature management authorities, for example. The rest are up for election. Together, the seats make up the water authority’s governing board.’

‘The parties with the most seats supply six people to form the executive board, including the chairman of the water authority board. The executive board is similar to aldermen in municipal politics. The executive board implements the policies the governing board discusses.’

Are you expecting to have any influence on the authority right away?

‘We do expect to win at least one seat, maybe two. There’s no strong opposition in the Noorderzijlvest water authority. It’s not nearly as cut-throat at the municipal council. It’s much more collaborative, and one seat is enough to be involved in the discussion.’

What are your biggest issues on your election programme?

‘Recreation, sustainability, and diversity. In terms of recreation, we want more frequent testing of the water that people swim in, to prevent blue-green algae from occurring as often and shutting down recreational waters.’

‘Sustainability concerns water treatment, the energy transition, and building higher dikes. There’s a lot to do to make thing more sustainable, and we’d like to collaborate with the knowledge institutes in the region to brainstorm about sustainable solutions. We’d like to develop a new view of water management.’

‘Lastly, diversity is important to us because we want to ensure all interests are promoted and that young people have a voice. Young people will bear the brunt of climate change, so it’s kind of weird that they’re not represented on the water authority.’

Photo: Bram Buigel, Dewi Koster, Ale ten Cate, and Julia Hofma are on the list for Student en Water.



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