The Dutch Water sector has, over a period of four years, seen its revenues increase by 10% to €21.3 billion. Most revenues are generated in the maritime subsector, which accounts for about 58% of the total turnover of the water sector, followed by the delta subsector (27%). The industry, which is being lifted by international demand, provides jobs to around 86,000 people.
Water stands at the heart of a range of global needs, ranging from the need for drinking water and water for sanitary purposes, but also a range of global challenges such as urbanisation, food (to accommodate for population growth) and climate change.
Historically, the Netherlands, a country in Western Europe with a population of around 17 million, has had a long and complex relationship with water. Large tracts of the country are ‘polders’ (reclaimed land below surrounding water levels), with human ingenuity, engineering feats and constant vigilance holding back the waves from the reclaimed land. Building on the connection, the Dutch have over the past decades grown into one of the globe’s leaders in water expertise, and today the country’s experts in the field not only keeps themselves busy with solving their own intricate water challenges, but they are also increasingly taking the stage as an advisor on water matters to governments, corporates and institutions across the globe.
According to recent data from Ecorys, an international consulting firm, the Dutch water sector has seen solid growth in recent years. An analysis on the latest data available (2014) shows that the industry has hit a turnover of more than € 21 billion, about 10% more than in 2010. Around €7 billion stems from the export of knowledge and services to clients abroad – here too considerable growth has been realised compared to 2010. According to the data, if the turnover of foreign-based workers (managed from the Netherlands) is included in the numbers, then the amount exported would approximately double.
With a value of €21.3 billion the water sector holds a mid-table position in the output of the Netherlands, yet it is described as one of “the most important” sectors by the researchers, as it has a strong coordinating role in various economic and social issues.
The maritime subsector accounts for the largest chunk of revenue, at €12.3 billion (~ 58% of the total water sector), of which around 36% comes from exports. The second biggest subsector, in terms of turnover, is delta, accounting for €5.8 billion in revenues (~27%), of which exports represent 38%. The water subsector’s revenue account for €3.2 billion, around 15% of the total, of which 13% of the turnover comes from international clients.
The data further reveals that the industry employs around 86,000 professionals, which represents more than 79,000 FTEs. Most are employed in the maritime subsector, which in turn consists of several industries such as boat building / marine industry, inland shipping, shipbuilding, ports, marine, engineering, marine, offshore and fishing. A good sign, related to the relative strength of the market, is that over 80% of workers in the subsector hold a permanent contract, which in turn provides a relatively large contribution to gross value added. According to provisional data for 2015, employment in the maritime sector grew by 710 jobs last year, a slight increase of just under 1% compared to the year previous.
The researchers conclude that the Dutch water sector is performing well and that several companies in the industry are market leaders, especially in the subsectors of engineering (e.g. Arcadis, Fugro, Royal HaskoningDHV) and designing and building superyachts (e.g. Royal Huisman, Vitters Shipyard).
Looking ahead, Hans Huis in 't Veld, the main spokesperson for the sector’s key working group (known as ‘Topsector Water’ in the Netherlands), says that the Dutch still face an enormous potential to expand their international footprint in the market. “There is high demand for new technologies to purify water on an ecological basis, to generate sustainable energy, to build floating solutions, or develop environmental solutions for water security, among others. Our goal is to get water issues on the political agenda.”