In collaboration with
Commisioner, BE
Ruben Castro
Architect, BE
Jenny Stieglitz
Illustrator, BE
Peter Firman
Architect, BE
Mark Jacobs
Designer, BE
Miyeon Lee
Artist, BE
Jasmijn Simons
Intern, NL
Niels Hendriks
Intern, NL

Mining Water – Mien Bleech

With Mining Water, Henriette Waal illuminated the economic and cultural paradox of ground water in Belgium Limburg, and she designed a series of distinctive and refillable bottles for ‘tapped water’.

The mine history is struggling with the power of groundwater, which is difficult to control. Mining in the Limburg region of Belgium has caused the land to subside. The village of Eisden has dropped twelve metres in elevation. As a result, a lot of groundwater flows to this village. Twelve Olympic swimming pools of top-quality potable water have to be pumped out daily into the canals and the River Maas. That is a huge quantity of potable water in a world where half the people have to cope with a scarcity of water all the time. Yet Belgians prefer to drink bottled water, consuming on average six times more than Dutch people do. Clever marketing by water companies in Belgium has created the myth that water from bottles is cleaner, more natural and better tasting. As a result, Belgians are among the world’s biggest drinkers of bottled water.

The refillable bottle design reinterprets the aluminium drinking bottle that mineworkers used below ground: ‘mien Blééch’, in mineworkers jargon means ‘my water bottle’, from the German word for ‘tin’. In contrast to their pressed aluminium predecessors, the new bottles are made of stainless steel and formed by means of hydro-forming technology, using water pressure. This technique requires no moulds, making the process ideal for the production of small batches.

Available in three sizes, the bottle comes with a film registration of testimonies from former mineworkers and other residents from Eisden. The project was developed within the framework of Expo Beyond Food and Design (2015).