Fictional law suit on Terschelling: water manager in court for for poor water quality

Springtij festival 2022

During the Springtij festival on Terschelling, a workshop was organized by several Utrecht University colleagues, in which the participants prepared a fictitious lawsuit against a water governance body. The lawsuit was filed, because of insufficient efforts to achieve good water quality. Not unthinkable in the future, because the ecological situation of many rivers, lakes and canals in the Netherlands is far from good. Researchers and students from the Utrecht University School of Law held this workshop, together with Rijkswaterstaat and Waternet.

The workshop, the ficticious lawsuit, was held in Dutch and was called: "Waterbeheerder voor de rechter". Summary of the case: The ecological situation of many bodies of water in the Netherlands is far from good. This topic is also becoming increasingly popular among the general public. We hear alarming reports about declining biodiversity, about PFAS and the negative advice for eating crustaceans and shellfish from, for example, the Western Scheldt and about plastic in the rivers and along the banks. It seems increasingly that, despite all efforts, the Netherlands will not achieve the EU targets for clean water.
How can the tide be turned? Perhaps through a lawsuit filed against water managers, inspired by climate issues, the nitrogen case or based on rights for nature.
In this session we investigate whether a lawsuit against the water managers can give an impetus to improving the ecological health of our water systems.

Organising Team:

  • Daan van Maurik, PhD candidate at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law and the Utrecht Center for Accountability and Liability Law (UCALL) 
  • Bente de Leeuw, Honoursstudent Utrecht Law College, from the master's programma Staats- en Bestuursrecht at Utrecht University 
  • Otto Spijkers, Professor at the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies (CIBOS) and at the Research Institute of Environmental Law (RIEL) of Wuhan University. Also involved in the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law
  • Herman Kasper Gilissen, Associate Professor/Researcher at Utrecht University, involved in the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law
  • Erna Ovaa, program leader Strategic Explorations at Rijkswaterstaat
  • Bart Krull, Public affairs officer at Waternet 
  • Anne Joppe, PhD candidate, Universiteit Utrecht
  • Otto Cox, owner of Wijzer Adviesbureau
  • Emiel Spanier, participant of Groene Vloot / NL Fossielvrij (tevens werkzaam bij Rijkswaterstaat)
  • Patrick Jansen, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation WUR / columnist Trouw
  • Roel Bronda, manager of waterbeheer/projectdirecteur Hoogheemraadschap de Stichtse Rijnlanden
  • Arjan van den Hoogen, senior adviseur Duurzaamheid, Wetterskip Fryslân
  • Wim van Vilsteren, senior adviseur Duurzaam Vernieuwen, Waterschap Vallei en Veluwe
Springtij festival 2022