Water is of vital importance. The Netherlands: 34,000 square kilometers where land meets water. Much of this area consists of artificial land created by man. Without dunes and water barriers, more than half of the Netherlands would be under water. The many dykes, locks, pumping stations, flood barriers, canals and ditches keep the Netherlands habitable. Local and regional water management in the Netherlands is in the hands of Water Boards. Water Boards are decentralized public authorities with legal tasks and a self-supporting financial system. Water Boards are responsible for flood control, water quantity, water quality and treatment of urban wastewater. Operational task include the management of pumping stations, waste water treatment plants, maintenance of waterways and flood defense structures. Water Boards are embedded in the general democratic structures. In 1850 there were about 3500 Water Boards. Mergers soon reduced this number. By January first, 2016, there are 22 Water Boards.