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Water Resource Management

in Germany
Part 1

Water Resource Management

in Germany
Part 1

Published by:
Federal Environment Agency (UBA)
Postfach 1406
06813 Dessau-Rolau
Fax +49 340 2103 2285
Ulrich Irmer (UBA, Head of Department II 2); B. Kirschbaum (UBA, Section II 2.1)
H. Bartel, K. Blondzik, A. Brinkmann, U. Claussen, H.P. Damian, K. Dscher, W. Dubbert, K. Fricke, F. Fu, C. Galander, H. Ginzky, S. Grimm, J. Heidemeier, F. Hilliges,
S. Hirsch, A. Hoffmann, C. Hornemann, C. Kabbe, B. Kirschbaum, K. Koppe, W. Leujak, V. Mohaupt, S. Naumann, C. Pickl, B. Rechenberg, J. Rechenberg, J. Reichel,
S. Richter, P. Ringeltaube, U. Schlosser, O. Schmoll, D. Schulz, K. Schwirn, C. Stark, R. Szewzyk, A. Ullrich, D. Vlker, A. Walter, S. Werner, R. Wolter, D. Wunderlich,
(all UBA)
KOMAG mbH, Berlin
RT Druckwerksttten GmbH, Mainz
Cover photos:
Background: N. Schmitz/PIXELIO
From left to right:
Marcia Herre/PIXELIO
Carina Hansen/Fotolia
Jrg Rechenberg/UBA
December 2010


Dear Reader,

Worldwide, more than 1.2 billion people exist without an adequate supply of clean drinking water,
while more than 2.4 billion people lack even basic
sanitary supplies. Climate change both present and
future will inevitably impact global and regional
water resources. As the global population continues
to grow, the sustainable management of the earths
water resources must give adequate consideration
to the requirements of mankind and nature. This
has become one of the greatest environmental
challenges faced by policy-makers this century.

In Germany, the proper management of our water

resources is a top priority. Supplying the population
with clean water and purifying wastewater function
at a high level. For this reason, in our everyday
lives, we need not spare a thought for the use of
water that is supplied and disposed of at a low cost.
This is an on-going task that is constantly being
adapted to fresh challenges. The players involved in
water resource management in Germany step up to
this challenge, mindful of the fact that water is indispensable both to us and to the entire natural
The aim is to achieve a good status of waterbodies
in Germany, with a high water quality and adequate habitats for our native fauna and flora. The
emphasis here is on ecology and on improving species diversity. However, central water uses such as
drinking water supply, wastewater disposal, ship-

Water Resource Management in Germany

ping, hydropower and flood protection must likewise be guaranteed. It is a combination of both
these factors ecological interests and the use of
water by humans that forms the basis for future
management planning.

This can only be achieved by adopting an integrative approach which involves those responsible for
pollution as well as the users of water who will benefit from any improvements.

The three fundamental pieces of legislation aimed

at implementing the integrative approach to water
resource management at European and national
level are the EU Water Framework Directive, the EU
Marine Strategy Framework Directive (which expands upon the geographical range and content of
the former), and the German Federal Water Act.

The Water Framework Directive created a mechanism enabling us to meet the changed requirements for waterbody protection on a European
scale. German water resources management has
adjusted to this new focus. It considers the rivers
and their catchment areas as uniform ecosystems
and organises waterbody management on a crossregional and cross-country basis, necessitating close
cooperation and coordination at all levels.

On 1 March 2010 the new Federal Water Act (WHG)

entered into force at national level. This Act represents an important milestone in the development
of German water legislation, by creating the first
comprehensive national regulations for the management of waterbodies in Germany based on the
modified constitutional competency regulations
resulting from the Federalism Reform. There are
plans to further concretise these regulations in the
near future in the form of national Ordinances, e.g.
on the protection of groundwater and surface waters and on facilities for the handling of substances
potentially hazardous to water. Provisions will also
be incorporated into the WHG to implement the
EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive that entered into force in mid-2008.

This latest version of the Water Resource Management in Germany brochure, which is aimed at
both specialists and interested members of the general public at home and abroad, addresses the developments associated with implementation of the
Water Framework Directive in Germany and the
new Federal Water Act. It also depicts the foundations and structures of the German water industry
and its international links. It outlines the solutions
successfully deployed in Germany to resolve water
resource management problems, particularly for
reducing pollution levels. Furthermore, it also high-

lights the challenges of water resource management in Germany, both now and in the future.

This brochure therefore provides a useful introduction to water resources management in Germany,
as well as an interesting account of the experiences
and achievements of German water policy.

Dr. Norbert Rttgen

Federal Minister for the Environment,
Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Water Resource Management in Germany





Fundamentals of water resources policy............. 7

Sustainable water resources management
implementation of Chapters 17 and 18
of Agenda 21 in Germany...................................... 8
The human right to water................................... 11
Protocol on Water and Health
to the UNECE Water Convention........................ 11

Conditions of
Water Resources Management............13



General.................................................................... 13
Available water resources, water demand,
water footprint....................................................... 16
Effects of climate change..................................... 19

Structures and Cooperation

in Water Resources Management........23




International cooperation.................................... 23
Cooperation between the European Union
and its Member States.......................................... 23
Cooperation with central and
Eastern European countries................................. 23
German Water Partnership.................................. 24
national cooperation............................................ 24

Statutory Mechanisms...........................31


European legislation............................................. 31
Federal legislation................................................. 33
Water resources legislation of the Lnder........ 37

Integrated Planning and

Management of Water Resources........39




Conceptual framework, political concepts........ 39

EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)............... 39
The concept behind the WFD............................. 39
Findings from management planning............... 40
PRTR (pollutant release and
transfer register).................................................... 41
European marine environmental policy........... 43
Protecting water resources
and aquatic ecosystems........................................ 44
Groundwater.......................................................... 44
Habitat and part of the water cycle................... 44
Groundwater quality............................................. 45
Inland waters......................................................... 52
Coastal and marine waters.................................. 59
International marine protection......................... 59
Regional marine protection................................. 61
National marine protection................................. 62
Maritime regional planning................................ 62
Pressures on protected marine assets................. 63
International cooperation on the
management of waters......................................... 68

Water Uses...............................................71


Water abstraction and water supply.................. 71

Drinking water supply.......................................... 72

Water Resource Management in Germany









Statutory framework and organisation

of drinking water supply in Germany................ 72
Water treatment.................................................... 74
Water distribution................................................. 75
Drinking water prices........................................... 76
Rainwater management....................................... 77
Wastewater disposal.............................................. 79
Legal framework.................................................... 79
Organisation of wastewater disposal
in Germany............................................................. 80
Impacts of the legal requirements...................... 82
Current challenges and
problem-solving approaches................................ 82
Integrative wastewater management
Options for a new Wastewater Ordinance........ 82
Industrial and commercial wastewater............. 84
Municipal wastewater........................................... 84
Micropollutants...................................................... 87
Wastewater treatment prices............................... 90
Substances dangerous to water........................... 91
Statutory framework............................................. 91
Installations for handling substances
constituting a hazard to water............................ 92
Transport of substances hazardous
to the aquatic environment by road,
rail and water......................................................... 94
Transportation of substances hazardous
to water in long-distance pipelines.................... 95
agriculture.............................................................. 96
Water pollution from agriculture....................... 96
Legal framework.................................................... 98
Sustainable agriculture....................................... 100
Ways of reducing water pollution.................... 100
Ways of improving the (environmental)
policy framework conditions . .......................... 101
Use of biomass..................................................... 102
Other uses............................................................. 104
Flood risk management...................................... 104
Shipping................................................................ 107
Inland shipping................................................... 107
Ocean shipping.................................................... 110
Energy extraction at sea......................................118
Fishing and marine aquacultures..................... 123
CCS storage of CO2 in the subsoil
or seabed............................................................... 126
Cooling water....................................................... 127
Leisure use of waters........................................... 128
Bathing water...................................................... 129


What can each and every one

of us do to help? Tips on
waterbody conservation......................139

Water Resource Management in Germany

1 Introduction

level of industrialisation, continue to call for special

efforts in the field of water conservation, also in
order to counteract the climatic changes currently
in evidence.

1.1 Fundamentals of water resources policy

Despite the large reductions in inputs of hazardous

substances into Germanys waters, a number of
persistent toxic organic substances and heavy metals continue to pose a problem. In the interests of
health protection and to protect the flora and fauna
found in surface waters, harmful substances must be
kept away from all waters as far as possible.

Thanks to its favourable climatic situation, water

quantity problems are uncommon in Germany. Although saving water helps to reduce the burden on
water resources, the main focus in Germany, as a
densely populated and highly industrialised country, continues to be on improving water quality and
the structure of its waters.

Nutrients represent another problem, something

which is particularly evident in the North Sea and
the Baltic. Over-fertilisation due to inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture, industry,
trade and households has led to excessive algal
growth and hence to various cases of oxygen deficiency and fish mortality.

In the years of reconstruction following the Second

World War, water conservation in both East and
West Germany was unable to keep pace with the
expansion of industrial activity. By the late 1960s
and early 1970s, water pollution had reached a
level that gave cause for concern.

In the economically stronger West the original

Federal Republic of Germany the national and
regional authorities made water conservation a
key area of their work at an early stage. A raft of
measures were introduced, leading to a rapid and
permanent improvement in water quality. In particular, industry causing water pollution was required
to take far-reaching water conservation measures.

By imposing stringent requirements on municipal

and industrial wastewater treatment plants and offering financial incentives under the wastewater
charges regulations, the Federal Government has
managed to bring about a considerable reduction
in discharges of hazardous substances and nutrients
into waters. However, the polluters concerned must
continue to make great efforts in the years ahead if
they are to achieve the further improvements needed to reach the objectives of the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)1 and the EC Marine Strategy
Framework Directive (MSFD)2 namely, a good status of surface waters, groundwater and marine waters. In particular, this means reducing the considerable inputs of nutrients from the agricultural sector and improving waterbody morphology.

The construction of over 8,000 biological sewage

treatment plants in the municipal sector and the
intensive treatment of wastewater and complementary in-house measures by industrial facilities led
to a considerable reduction in inputs of oxygendepleting organic wastewater constituents and of
pollutants into waters, with compelling success for
the quality of surface waters.

As an essential component of the hydrological cycle

and in the interests of ensuring drinking water supplies, groundwater is an area which requires special
protection. In this context, precautions to prevent
pollution associated with the handling and use of
substances hazardous to water in industry and
transport are particularly important. Other potential threats to groundwater include pesticides and
nutrients in the agricultural sector, inputs from
contaminated sites, civil and military legacy sites,
and defective underground pipelines. In the long
term, water resources must be managed so as to

The precautionary protection of waters as a component of the natural balance and guaranteeing public water supply and public wastewater disposal are
two of the central functions of the federal, regional
and local authorities when drafting their environmental policies.

One major task following German reunification on

3 October 1990 was to ensure the same level of environmental protection throughout the country.
The technical standard of water supply and wastewater disposal in the five New Lnder (States) was
well below that of the old Lnder. The goal was
therefore to achieve the same high level of environmental conditions throughout Germany.
While the high level of investment in the last
20years has brought substantial improvements,
water conservation remains an ongoing task. The
general context of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. its geographical situation in the centre
of Europe, its high population density and high

Water Resource Management in Germany

maintain or restore the ecological balance of

waterbodies, with a particular regard for
waterbody structures (hydromorphology)

1 Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October

2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy,
OJ No.L 327, p. 1 ff
2 Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008
establishing a framework for Community action in the field of marine environmental
policy, OJ No. L 164, page 19 ff.

guarantee reliable water supplies in terms of

both quantity and quality

ensure that all other water uses serving public

welfare continue to be possible.

While tasks are distributed on the basis of subsidiarity3 and decentralisation, water resources management policy is based on the following fundamental

Priority of prevention

Cooperation between all parties concerned

Allocation of costs on the basis of the polluterpays principle and full recovery of costs

Agenda 21 was adopted in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
in Rio de Janeiro. In 40 chapters it describes the
requirements for environmentally sound and sustainable development in all major policy areas.
Chapters 17 and 18 are particularly relevant for
water resources management.

Chapter 17 deals with protection of the oceans and

seas, including coastal regions, and the protection,
efficient use and development of their living resources. The following programme areas were defined:

A sustainable water conservation policy should

not only prevent imminent threats and restore any
damage already caused, but should primarily protect and conserve natural resources in a precautionary way.
Water resources management in Germany changed
with the entry into force of the new EC Water
Framework Directive on 22 December 2000 and
its implementation in Germany. Key new elements

River basin management in 10 catchment areas, i.e. the integrated management of groundwater and surface waters including lakes, estuaries (river mouths) and coastal waters,

The definition of ecological, chemical and

quantitative environmental objectives,

The obligation to initiate measures within

binding deadlines,

The involvement of the general public in the

planning processes

Transboundary cooperation for the protection of

inland waters and the seas is part of the Federal
Governments environmental policy work, since
responsibility for water does not end at territorial

3 The principle of subsidiarity is an important foundation of the European Union, whereby

subordinate bodies (in this case the Member States) are primarily responsible for government duties, whilst the superordinate body (in this case the EU) takes a back seat.

1.2 Sustainable water resources management

Implementation of Chapters 17 and 18
ofAgenda 21 in Germany

integrated management and sustainable development of coastal and marine areas,

protection of the marine environment,

sustainable utilisation and conservation of living marine resources, and

addressing serious uncertainties with regard to

climate change and the management of marine environmental resources.

Chapter 18 sets out objectives for the conservation

of freshwater resources, and is subdivided into
seven different programme areas:

Integrated planning and management of

water resources,

Assessing the quantity of available water


Protecting water resources, water quality and

aquatic ecosystems,

Drinking water supply and sanitation,

Water and sustainable urban development,

Water for sustainable food production and

rural development,

Impacts of climate change on water resources.

Agenda 21 formulates a number of sustainable development objectives with worldwide validity. It is

therefore only logical that not all the objectives will
have the same significance for a highly developed
and industrialised country like Germany. While
some can be considered to have been met already
in Germany unlike some less developed countries
others present a special challenge.

Below, we summarise the status achieved in the

principal action areas as defined in Chapter 18 of
Agenda 21. Comments on marine protection (chapter 17 of Agenda 21) may be found in Chapters 5.1.3,
5.2.3,, 6.7.5 and 6.7.6 of this Report.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Integrated planning and management of

water resources

An integrated approach to the management of

water resources is pivotal to water conservation
policy in Germany today, as well as being a central
element of the EC Water Framework Directive. The
management plans for the 10 river basins relevant
to Germany were prepared and published by the required deadline of 22 December 2009, and submitted to the European Commission by 22 March 2010.
As well as reviewing waterbody status, the management plans also contain objectives for improving it,
together with a summary of the measures planned
to achieve these objectives. This occurred with the
involvement of all affected parties and the general
public in the decision-making process. In many
areas of water resources management, further
improvements and achievements are reliant upon
a greater degree of acceptance. Consequently, the
involvement of all affected parties (consumers, agriculture, industry) must be ensured and their understanding of water resources requirements aroused.

ter (emission principle) and incorporate quality

requirements that take into account the waterbody
status (combined approach).

As inputs from point sources have decreased, the

importance of emissions from diffuse sources
(specifically the nutrients nitrate and phosphate,
but also pesticides, oxides of nitrogen, sulphur
compounds, heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from transport and industrial processes) has increased significantly. Frequent cases
of hygiene and ecological quality objectives being
exceeded are still recorded for heavy metals (especially zinc, cadmium, arsenic, copper and mercury),
several pesticides, certain industrial chemicals (e.g.
PAH, PCB, EDTA, NTA and HCB) and a number of
pharmaceuticals (cf. Part II, Chapters 6.46.7).

These days, further reductions of pollutant concentrations in wastewater treatment plants are approaching the limits of economic viability in many
cases. From both an economic and an ecological
perspective, it makes more sense to promote the
use of best available technology, the closing of
substance cycles in industrial processes, and the
use of substitutes for hazardous substances. At the
same time, greater efforts must be made to reduce
diffuse inputs into waters via improved agricultural practices and by reducing the deposition of
pollutants. Groundwater protection must also be
addressed in the agricultural sector. As a general
principle, agricultural production should be subject
to the same standards as apply to pollution from
the domestic and industrial sectors.

The transboundary cooperation in transboundary

river basins called for in Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 is
a long-established tradition in Germany, and existing River Basin commissions were used as platforms
to ensure the coordinated implementation of the
WFD at international level.

Assessing the quantity of available water resources

Water resources in Germany are quantified to

provide an adequate basis on which to plan water
resources management. Water quantity plays a
major role in the assessment of groundwater status
in particular, and plays a supporting role in the assessment of surface waterbodies.

Drinking water supply and wastewater management

The public drinking water supply in Germany is of

a very high standard as regards reliability of supplies and the quality of the drinking water. Drinking water is the best monitored of all foods.

Maintaining drinking water quality remains an

important task in Germany. The challenges include
viruses and parasites that are largely resistant to
chlorine (such as giardia, cryptosporidium), the
chemical pollution of untreated water especially
with nitrate and pesticides, and also with so-called
new environmental chemicals such as perfluorinated components (PFC). The focus here should be
on increased resource conservation activities (e.g.
greater cooperation between water supply utilities
and agriculture) rather than treatment technologies. An old problem lead pipes is still on the
agenda as a result of the lowering of the drinking
water limit value for lead which must be met by
2013. These pipes need to be replaced with new,
safe materials.

The proportion of the population connected to

the public drinking water supply system is around

Protecting water resources, water quality and

aquatic ecosystems

Reducing water pollution caused by wastewater

discharges has been a central aspect of water conservation activities in Germany for the last 35 years.
Large sums have been invested in the establishment
and operation of wastewater treatment plants,
and many industrial installations have managed
to reduce their pollution levels substantially by
introducing internal production measures (closed
cycle systems, substitution of hazardous substances).
This has resulted in a remarkable improvement in
the quality of surface waters. Nevertheless, many
waters are still a long way from achieving a good
hygienic, ecological and chemical status in which
aquatic communities differ only marginally from
their natural state, and which are suitable for unrestricted use as bathing or fishing waters or for
the abstraction of drinking water, for example. This
made it necessary to supplement the government
regulations focusing on the discharge of wastewa-

Water Resource Management in Germany

99percent. The proportion of the population

connected to the public sewer system is similarly
high and in many cases has reached the limits of
financial viability more work is needed to optimise decentralised systems. Improved purification
techniques to remove organic substances and the
more extensive reduction of nutrients have been
introduced in many sewage treatment plants.

In the field of wastewater disposal, efforts will focus

on a trans-media approach to the further development of technologies. The challenge is to minimise
resource use and close substance cycles (this applies
particularly to nutrients in domestic wastewater).
Solutions will vary according to the relevant framework conditions, with due regard for trans-media
aspects, but growing significance will also be attached to decentralised techniques.

Water and sustainable urban development

for water resources. Such findings are intended

to facilitate the implementation of counteractive
measures at national level. The uncertainties surrounding regional changes in rainfall distribution
as a result of climate change remain considerable.
At present there is no reason to expect any fundamental changes in the water resources situation in
Germany, but there are foreseeable effects that will
impact different regions in different ways. In particular, these include a shift in precipitation from
summer to winter, and an increase in heavy rainfall. For this reason, it is vital to develop measures
now so that water resources management may be
adapted in line with changing conditions. To this
end, Germany is working on a national adaptation
strategy in which water plays the starring role.

Protection of the marine environment

The current use and pollution situation in the

North Sea and Baltic Sea far exceeds sustainable
levels. In many cases, this over-utilisation of our
seas and coastlines places an untenable burden on
the buffering and self-purifying capacity of the marine ecosystems. Alongside overfishing and discharges of nutrients and pollutants, current research is focusing in particular on the technical
uses of our seas and coastlines. Numerous oil and
gas pipelines, electrical and telecommunications
cables are being laid on or in the seabed, tourism
use is on the increase, and there are plans to erect
huge offshore wind farms with up to 600 turbines
per location. The impacts of many of these uses on
the natural balance are unknown due to a lack of
sufficient research data. There is a need for integrated coastal management focusing on sustainability, and cross-sectoral management must replace sector-specific planning. All this can and must
occur within the framework of implementing the
EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Ecological
guidelines on the use of the seas must be drafted.

We are still a long way from achieving the objective of the sustainable, environmentally sound
management of our marine bioresources, as called
for in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21. Many fish stocks
are in an alarming state, primarily as a result of
overfishing putting great pressure on dwindling
stocks. Bottom-trawling causes physical destruction
of the seabed, which in turn leads to ecological
damage. Sustainable use of marine bioresources
aims to maintain an equilibrium between fishing
catches and fish stocks. This must be ensured by
incorporating environmental concerns into fisheries policy and setting appropriate objectives, especially in a European context. Apart from reducing
fishing intensity and improving controls, technical
measures (e.g. more selective nets, designation of
protection and conservation zones) can also make
a contribution to sustainable, ecosystem-compatible resource management. Here too, implementa-

The minimum requirements described in Chapter

18 of Agenda 21 (40 litres of hygienically safe water
per inhabitant, per day, sanitation facilities for 75%
of the urban population, definition of standards for
municipal and industrial wastewater discharges,
minimum standard of waste management) are a
reality in Germany. However, many water supply
systems, and especially disposal systems, in urban
areas were constructed many years ago and require
substantial remediation and maintenance work.
Infrastructure systems must likewise be adapted in
line with changing population figures.

Water for sustainable food production and

rural development

In terms of water use, Germany is a country with

adequate summer rainfall, so the additional abstraction of water and irrigation for crop production has played only a minor role to date. At regional level, however, this may change due to the impacts of climate change.
Flooding can cause major damage. The influence of
man on the occurrence of flood events (as a result
of waterbody development, the sealing and compacting of land and the reduction of natural flood
plains) and on the damage caused by such events
(e.g. as a result of building in flood-prone areas) is
considerable. In order to reduce the frequency and
scale of flood damage, there is a need for coordination between a number of policy and planning areas. Such measures have been set in motion and are
gradually being implemented. There is in particular
a need to restore natural flood plains and modify
land use with a view to natural flooding events.

Impacts of climate change on water resources


One of the aims of Agenda 21 is to understand and

quantify the risks that climate change presents

Water Resource Management in Germany

tion of the EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive could make an important contribution towards
improving the situation.

1.4 Protocol on Water and Health to the

UNECE Water Convention

The Protocol on Water and Health was derived

from the Water Convention4 on the protection and
use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes. The Water Convention outlines provisions
for the sustainable protection of transboundary waters and envisages measures to prevent and tackle
transboundary pollution as well as bilateral and
multilateral cooperation in the catchment areas.

The Protocol on Water and Health entered into

force in 2005. Germany transposed this Protocol
into national law with an Act5, and has been a Contracting Party since April 2007. 24 countries from
the European Union, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region are currently Contracting Parties.

The Protocol supplements the Water Convention

with the aim of promoting the protection of human health from waterborne diseases, which can
arise e.g. as a result of inadequate drinking water
supply and sewage disposal, poor management and
quality of bathing and swimming pool waters, or
inappropriate use of sewage sludge in agriculture.
The Protocol obligates the Contracting Parties to
define concrete objectives and measures adapted to
the national framework conditions in order to prevent, tackle and reduce waterborne diseases more
effectively, within two years of becoming a Contracting Party. Article 6, paragraph (3) of the Protocol states that every country must establish and
publish such objectives and corresponding proposed deadlines for achieving them.

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
(BMU) has lead responsibility for implementation of
the Protocol. It is supported in this task by the Federal Ministry for Health (BMG). Because Germany
has already attained high standards in the areas of
drinking water supply and sewage disposal and has
implemented the relevant EC Directives, national
implementation of the Protocol will concentrate in
particular on selected supplementary objectives.

1.3 The human right to water

The sanitary revolution i.e. the supply of safe

drinking water and a functioning sewage system
is one of the most important medical achievements of modern times. While this revolution has
been very effective in our part of the world, on a
global scale, waterborne diseases, especially diarrhoeal infections, remain a huge problem. The
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that
they are responsible for around 84 % of global illness in children under the age of 14. As well as the
financial implications for the healthcare system,
this also incurs high indirect consequential costs to
those affected and their families. According to recent estimates by the WHO and UNICEF, there are
currently some 884 million people worldwide without access to safe drinking water.

Recognition of the human right to water is often

cited as a key pre-requisite for reducing waterborne
diseases and their consequences. The debate surrounding recognition of the human right to water
has been raging for around 15 years.

Above all, guaranteeing a human right to water

would mean protection from dehydration and
ensuring personal, household and food hygiene,
which in turn would afford a good level of protection against waterborne (infectious) diseases. It
would not extend to other forms of water use,
such as adequate water for food production, maintaining families and livelihoods, environmental
protection, recreation and relaxation, cultural and
religious practices, nor would it encourage free
access to water or distribution entitlements by
neighbouring states.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommends the acceptance of a human right to water. On 28 July 2010, the UN General Assembly declared the right to safe drinking water and sanitation to be a universal human right with a large majority. This is not binding in international law, nor
is it individually enforceable, but it will have a major influence on the policies of individual countries
and the UN.

4 Convention of the UNECE on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and
International Lakes of 17 March 1992
5 Act on the Protocol of 17 June 1999 on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the
Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes of 16 August
2006 (Federal Law Gazette II No. 22, p. 763 ff)

Water Resource Management in Germany



Water Resource Management in Germany

2 Conditions of Water Resources


Despite the density of population and the high

level of industrialisation, much of which is concentrated in particular geographical regions, over
four-fifths of the total area of the Federal Republic
of Germany is farmland and woodland. Agriculture
accounts for 52.5 %, and woodland for 30.1%.
13.2% of the area is used for settlements and traffic. Water accounts for only a small proportion of
land, at 2.4%.

2.1 General
Population and land use

The Federal Republic of Germany is a densely

populated country in the centre of Europe.
Almost 82million inhabitants live on an area
of 357,111km2. With a population density of
230people per square kilometre, Germany is
well above the European average of 116 people
per km2. Population figures vary widely between
the Lnder (States). Berlin has the highest population density, with 3,849 people per km2, while
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania has a density of just
72 people perkm2.

Climate and precipitation

Germany lies within the moderately humid climate

zone, which is characterised by frequent weather
changes and precipitation at all times of the year.
The average annual precipitation is 789 mm, although there are fluctuations in the volume and
frequency of precipitation within Germany and
between the seasons. More rain falls on the uplands and alpine regions than in the lowlands. In
the North German Lowlands, the annual averages
range between 500 and 700 mm, while the Cen-

Figure 1: Morphological classification of Germany








North German Lowlands



Central German Uplands






Alpine foothills





300 Kilometres

Source: Umweltbro Essen, modified by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Water Resource Management in Germany


tral Uplands receive 700 to 1,500 mm per annum,

and in the Alps, annual precipitation can exceed
2,000 mm. Also, rainfall tends to decline from west
to east. The summer months are wetter than the
winter months, with an average rainfall of 430 mm
versus 359 mm.

Landscapes and waterbodies

Geographically speaking, Germany is divided into

three parallel landscape types running from north
to south: the North German Lowlands, the Central
German Uplands and the Alpine region, which is
divided into the South German Alpine foothills and
the Bavarian High Alps.

Table 1: Natural lakes with a surface area of more than

20 km2

During the Ice Age, the level of the North German

Lowlands between the North and Baltic Sea coasts
and the Central German Uplands were characterised by hilly moraine landscapes with many lakes,
as well as lowlands and glacial meltwater channels.
Many areas of moorland and heath are found in
the northwest.
The hills of the Central Uplands separate North
Germany from South Germany. The uplands are
morphologically subdivided into mountainous regions and valleys, the mountains reaching altitudes
of between 700 and 1,500 m.
The landscape is characterised to a large extent
by overground waterbodies. The diverse landscape of the South German Alpine Foothills includes a number of large lakes, which merge into
the High Alps with their numerous mountain
lakes further south. Germanys largest lake, Lake
Constance, with an area of 535.9 km2, is located
in the Alpine region.

Large interconnected natural lake areas are also

found in the North German Lowlands. These include Lake Mritz, the second-largest lake in the
Federal Republic of Germany with an area of
109.2km2. There are 11 further lakes with an area
of more than 20 km2 (Table 1).


in km2

Maximum depth
in m

Lake Constance



Lake Mritz






Schweriner See



Starnberger See






Plauer See



Kummerower See



Steinhuder Meer


Groer Plner See






Selenter See






Source: Federal Statistical Office Germany (2005)

In Germanys ten river basins, rivers and streams

with a combined length of more than 400,000km
flow into the coastal regions. The Rhine, Elbe,
Weser, Ems and Eider river basins drain into the
North Sea; the Oder, Schlei/Trave and Warnow/
Peene river basins flow into the Baltic Sea; while
the Danube flows into the Black Sea.

Figure 2: Lake Constance Satellite picture.

Obersee with the north-west

finger of berlinger See.
In the west the smaller Untersee. In the bottom right,
the Alpine Rhine delta. At the
left-hand edge of the picture,
the Upper Rhine. Obersee and
Untersee are connected by
a 4 km stretch of the Rhine
known as Seerhein.
Source: Wikipedia


Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 3: River basin districts in the Federal Republic of Germany

Sections of international river basins that lie outside the borders of the Federal Republic of Germany have been labelled for illustrative purposes only; this does not in any way affect the
provisions of other countries and international regulations.
Map basis:
LAWA, Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy
Source: Federal Environmental Agency, 2004

Water Resource Management in Germany


Hydrological intervention for commercial or tourism purposes changes the hydrological, morphological and geochemical features of the waterbodies
and therefore alters their semi-natural ecological
status and/or coverage of surface waters (for further
details, refer to Water Resources Management in Germany
Part 2).

Man-made reservoirs have been part of the landscape in Germany for almost 100 years. They store
water for drinking water and energy supply, are
used for flood prevention, and often perform a
valuable recreational role as well.

The mining of raw materials such as lignite, sand

and gravel leaves a legacy of destroyed landscapes
and residual pits to begin with. However, since
2000, Germanys water area has increased by almost 400 km2 following the flooding of these disused pits. The water area currently totals 8,482 km2,
corresponding to 2.4 % of Germanys territory. Over
the next few years, further lakes will be created in
the lignite pits.

Germanys transport routes include around 7,300km

of canals, impounded and free-flowing rivers as national waterways. Natural habitats and contact with
water meadows are often lost as a result of development and impoundment. Where water is impounded, algal bloom, sludge accumulation and oxygen
deficiency can occur as a result of nutrient pollution
(for further details, refer to Chapter 6.7.2).

Most overground waterbodies are fed by groundwater inflows. Overall, Germany is rich in groundwater supplies. However, their availability and quality
varies widely according to regional geological,
hydrological and hydrochemical conditions. The
largest coherent region with plentiful groundwater reserves is the North German Lowlands. Large
groundwater reserves are also found in the alpine
foothills and in the Upper Rhine Rift.

level of plant and animal production (although it

only accounts for 0.002 % of the earths total ocean
area, and 4 % of the global fish catch).

2.2 Available water resources, water demand,

water footprint

With an available water supply of 188 billion m3,

Germany is a country rich in water resources. The
available water supply is a variable of the regional
water cycle, which is calculated from precipitation
and evaporation volumes as well as inflows and
outflows. This figure indicates the volume of water
that is potentially available for management.

Although the overall water supply is adequate, Germany also has some regions with limited volumes
of usable groundwater and surface water supplies,
which suffer from water shortages as a result of seasonal fluctuations in precipitation and evaporation
volumes, as well as variations in water demand.
However, the extraction and distribution systems
have been modified so that water demand can be
adequately met at any time for the various uses
within Germany.

In Germany, industry and private households connected to the public water supply use less than
20% of the available water resources. Over the past
20years, there has been a tangible reduction in the
volume of water abstraction in all areas.

In 2007, the total volume of water abstracted was

32.0 billion m3, the bulk of which was attributable
to thermal power stations, which used around 19.7
billion m3 equivalent to 10.4% of the total water
supply for cooling purposes when supplying energy to the public grid. Less than 3% of the available
water supply, or around 5.1 billion m3, is used to
supply households and small businesses with drinking water.

North and Baltic Seas


The North Sea is a shallow marginal or shelf sea of

the North-East Atlantic, covering an area of around
575,000 km2. The average depth is 93 m, with a
maximum depth of 725 m in the Norwegian Channel. Water exchange with the Atlantic occurs primarily via the open north side, and to a lesser extent via the English Channel as well. Depending on
the geographical situation, the average residence
time for North Sea water is one or more years. In
the coastal region, the water residence time is particularly long due to the existing flow conditions,
as a result of which coastal habitats are particularly
sensitive to damage. The North Sea is one of the
most biologically productive marine regions in the
world, with excessive concentrations of nutrient
salts in some areas and a correspondingly high

As an intracontinental marginal sea of the North

Sea, the Baltic Sea is almost completely enclosed
by land mass and has only a narrow, shallow connection to the North Sea (Sunde, Belte, Kattegat,
Skagerrak). It covers an area of approximately
413,000 km2, with an average depth of 52 m, and
maximum water depth of 459 m at Tief. As a result
of the minimal and irregular discharge of salt
water from the North Sea and the high input of
river water, the salt content rises from Bottnische
Meerbusen (almost freshwater) to Skagerrak (almost
seawater), making the Baltic Sea one of the largest
cohesive areas of brackish water in the world. The
water in the Baltic Sea has a residence time of approximately 2530 years, with slower rates in the
shallow western part, and longer rates in the deep
basins of the central Baltic Sea.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 4: Yield of groundwater resources in Germany

Significant groundwater resources


Possible abstraction
Individual wells
Water works

High yield

usually > 40 l/s

frequently > 5 hm3/a

Good yield usually 1540 l/s


15 hm3/a

Lower or
usually 515 l/s


0,21 hm3/a

Additional abstraction possibility

from bank filtrate

Less significant
groundwater resources
Yield of wells generally < 5 l/s,
high yields possible locally from wells
and springs; usage restricted for
technical and hygiene reasons

Less significant
groundwater resources
National border
Land border

Yield from wells generally < 2 l/s,

local resources may be important
for supply

Aquiferous rock
Sand, gravel, tufa
(porous aquifers)
Limestone, dolomite, gypsum
(karst aquifers)
Sandstone, quartzite, basalt,
(fissured aquifers)
Mining regions
Author: H. Vierhuff

Institut fr Lnderkunde (Institute for Regional Geography), Leipzig 2003

Bundesanstalt fr Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe
(Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources), Hannover

Source: Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources

Water Resource Management in Germany


water. Only 2.5% of the worlds water volume is

freshwater. In turn, less than 1% of this amount is
directly usable, and the bulk of freshwater supplies
are bound by ice and glaciers.

Figure 5: Available water resources and water use in

Germany, 2007

Potential water resources
188 bn. m3 = 100 %

Virtual water and water footprint

Thermal power stations

10.4 %

The term water footprint refers to the total volume

of water used by the inhabitants of a country or
region and includes both direct and indirect (or
virtual) use. This concept combines quantitative
data on the volume of water that is consumed,
evaporated and/or contaminated in order to produce a product with information on the region that
consumes and produces such products. It is also
possible to calculate the water footprint of a company or of a specific product.

The water used is broken down into different categories to facilitate subsequent evaluation of the water footprint. Green water is the naturally occurring groundwater and rainwater that is absorbed
and evaporated by plants and is relevant for agricultural products. Blue water is the groundwater
or surface water used in the manufacture of a product which is not returned to a body of water. In the
case of agricultural production, this is the water
absorbed and evaporated by plants that is supplied
by irrigation. Numerous calculations are available
to determine the demand for green and blue water
in agricultural use, but the consideration of grey
water demand is less common. Grey water refers
to the volume of water that is contaminated during
the manufacturing process.

Grey water is produced by both industrial and

agricultural production. In the case of the latter,
pollutants enter the soil and waterbodies due to
the use of fertilisers and pesticides. While various
process optimisation measures in industrial production and in agriculture have reduced the volume of
water used, these do not necessarily translate into
a reduced discharge of pollutants into waterbodies. In order to reduce the grey water footprint,
pollutant discharges into waterbodies must also be
reduced, as well as reducing the volume of fresh
water used.

Mining and
manufacturing industry
3.8 %
Public water supply
2.7 %
83.1 %

Source: Federal Environment Agency (UBA) using data supplied by the Federal
Statistical Office (2007) and the Bundesanstalt fr Gewsserkunde (Federal
Institute of Hydrology, BfG) (2006).

The available resources per capita are an initial

indicator of whether the available water volume
is adequate for the purposes of water supply. Germany has around 2,292 m3 of usable water available per person, per annum for its 82 million or
so inhabitants, corresponding to a potential water
volume of 6,279 litres per person, per day.

A look at the situation in other regions of the

world shows that adequate water supplies for industrial purposes and for personal use are far from
self-evident. Usable water resources are extremely
unevenly distributed throughout the world, leading to water shortages or deficiencies in the most
arid regions. Some countries of North Africa and
the Near East have between zero and a maximum
of 500m3 of water available per person, per year
this is known as water deficiency. By contrast,
countries such as Canada are comparatively welloff, with a supply of more than 100,000 m3 per
person, per year.

The total water supply on earth is estimated at

1.4bn km3, but 97.5% of this is salty or brackish

Table 2: Definition and examples of the three categories green, blue and grey water


Water type



Volume of rainwater that is stored in the soil and is absorbed by plants and evaporated during the course
of the growth process.


Volume of groundwater or water from rivers and lakes used in the manufacture of a product. With
agricultural crop production, this refers to the volume of additional irrigation used.


Volume of water that is contaminated during the manufacturing process or that would be needed to
dilute contaminated water to such an extent that it complies with valid quality standards.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Germanys total water footprint is approximately

160billionm3 per annum6, divided into 118billionm3 for agriculture, 37billionm3 for the manufacture of industrial products, and just 5billionm3
per annum for the public water supply. This volume
of water equates to more than three times the volume of Lake Constance, and corresponds to
5,288litres per inhabitant, per day (1,927m3 per
person, per annum). By way of comparison, the global average is 3,400litres per person, per day
(1,240m3 per person, per annum). Half of the water
used in the products and goods we consume originates from outside of Germany the volume of water needed for imported goods is known as our external water footprint. Germany imports most of its
water in the form of agricultural produce from Brazil, the Ivory Coast and France.
A comparison of virtual water volumes contained in
the merchandise traded by Germany (both imports
and exports) illustrates the dominance of water demand for agricultural produce. Whereas the virtual
volumes of water in imports and exports of industrial and animal products are relatively balanced,
the proportion of virtual water in imported plant
products is higher (cf. Figure 6).

The concept of the water footprint An instrument for

evaluating water consumption?

For reasons of international responsibility, it is advisable to identify those areas with water shortages
and evaluate excessive water consumption. The concept of the water footprint is intended to make the
concealed trade in water at the expense of countries with limited water resources more transparent. However, it is not a matter of reducing the volume of water used in general, but rather of devising actions for regions where the overuse of water
due to the export of virtual water has adverse ecological and social impacts, and moving towards the
sustainable use of renewable water resources.
In the past, communication of the water footprint
to the general public has been largely confined to
elucidating the dimension of water use associated
with everyday products. However, awareness of a
large (excessive?) water footprint must be followed
by action. One option is to selectively modify consumption behaviour. However, consumers must
have access to adequate product information in order to selectively forego those products with major
human and environmental consequences at the
point of production, due to their high level of water

6 Sonneburg A, Chapagain A, Geiger M, August D (2009): Der Wasser-Fuabdruck Deutschlands. WWF Deutschland, Frankfurt am Main.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 6: Germanys virtual water consumption in relation

to the International trade in crop plants, livestock and
industrial goods (19972001)
Traded virtual quantities of water (bn. m3/annum)

Germanys water footprint


Field crops






Data source: Hoekstra, Chapagain, 2008

2.3 Effects of climate change

It is an undisputed fact that our global climate has

begun to change as a result of rising global emissions of greenhouse gases, leading to a temperature
increase and altered rainfall patterns. This in turn
impacts the water regime, e.g. in the form of increased flooding. To this end, independently of the
global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
adaptation strategies are currently being developed
which reflect the modified climatic conditions for
water resources management as well.

Global climate change

There are many signs of climate change evident

around the world. Since the beginning of the 20th
century, the average annual temperature worldwide has increased by 0.74C. The twelve years between 1995 and 2006 included eleven of the
worlds twelve warmest years since temperature
records began in 1850. Scientists anticipate a further global temperature increase of between 2.3C
and 4.5C compared with pre-industrial levels, depending on the emissions scenario used.

In continental Europe, the temperature increase

is particularly high and exceeds the global average. Here, the average annual temperature has
increased by 1.2C compared with pre-industrial
levels. Projections for Europe predict a further
temperature increase of between 1.1 and 5.5C by
the end of the century. This temperature increase is
likely to be at its most pronounced in Eastern and


Northern Europe in winter and in the Mediterranean in summer.

Long-term observations of global precipitation indicate a significant increase of between 10 and 40%
in northern Europe between 1905 and 2005. In the
Mediterranean, on the other hand, dry periods
have become more pronounced, and precipitation
has decreased by up to 20%. In future, scientists
anticipate further extensive changes in precipitation. The trend for rising precipitation levels in
northern Europe and decreasing rainfall in southern Europe looks set to be exacerbated. An increase
in extreme precipitation is also possible.

Rising global temperatures are causing the glaciers

and ice shields to melt, leading to the thermal expansion of sea levels. This already led to a 17cm
rise in sea levels (12 to 22 cm) last century. It would
appear that the annual rate of increase in sea levels
over the period 1993 to 2003 was 3.1 mm/a faster
than in the period 1961 to 2003 (1.8 mm/a). Predictions on the future development of sea level rises
are uncertain and depend on feedback mechanisms
which have not yet been fully researched. Depending on the emission scenario used, model results
forecast a further rise in sea levels of between 18
and 38 cm or between 26 and 59 cm by the end of
the century. If the Greenland ice shield were to
melt, scientists fear that in the longer term, sea levels could rise by to 7 m.

The increase in the average water temperatures of

the oceans is another direct consequence of the
global temperature change. Temperature increases
have been recorded down to a depth of 3,000 m.
The oceans have also absorbed approximately onethird of man-made CO2 emissions, leading to acidification of the marine environment.

Climate change in Germany

Climate change is not just a future scenario it is

happening now. Studies indicate that average annual temperatures have risen by 0.9C in Germany
over the period 1901 to 2006. In order to be able to
make reliable statements on future climate change
in Germany, regionalisation models are used to
translate large-scale information from the global
climate models onto a regional scale. Temperatures
will continue to rise, depending on the development of greenhouse gas emissions over the forthcoming years. Based on various emission scenarios,
the climate models suggest an increase in average
annual temperatures within the range 1.5C to
3.5C by the end of this century in Germany, compared with the period 1961 to 1990.

The precipitation situation in Germany varies considerably according to region. In the west, an average rainfall of 6501,500 mm is common, while in
the east except in the Central German Uplands
(Mittelgebirge) the average is much lower, at just
450650 mm. These differences will be exacerbated
due to the regional impacts of climate change. For
example, the average annual rainfall in Germany
has increased by around 9% since the start of the
20th century. This increase is predominantly confined to the west of Germany. In eastern regions,
the approximately 20% increase in winter rainfall
has been largely cancelled out by decreased rainfall
during the summer months. The results of climate
modelling for Germany suggest that this development will continue. Nationwide, over the period
2071 to 2100, rainfall may decrease by up to 40%
in the summer months compared with 1961 to
1990. This deficit can only be balanced by an increase of up to 40% in winter rainfall, but only in
the west, not in the eastern regions of Germany.

Figure 7: Receding glaciers (Morteratsch/Switzerland) A comparison between 1911 and 2001

Photographs: Gesellschaft fr kologische Forschung/Sylvia Hamberger


Water Resource Management in Germany

As well as a shift in precipitation from summer to

winter, scientists expect more rain but less snow to
fall. It is highly probable that in future, dry periods
will be more pronounced in terms of both duration and intensity. The number of frosty days will
decrease. Particularly in winter, heavy precipitation will become more frequent and more intensive. Generally speaking, we need to prepare for
warmer, damper winters and hotter, drier summers in future.

flooding and low water level situations are likely to

change in individual cases as a result of the modified rainfall conditions will depend on the conditions in a given river basin area, and must therefore
be specifically examined for each river basin.

In-depth studies are being carried out in the Lnder

to investigate the regional impacts of climate
change on the water regime. For example, the results of these studies indicate that the frequency of
minor flooding in the winter months in the southern river basins of Baden-Wuerttemberg and parts
of Bavaria has been on the increase since the 1970s.
Initial studies into future changes in flooding probability indicate an increase in average flood runoff
by approximately 4050 % for the catchment area
of the Neckar by 2050. Flood runoff with a probability of occurring once in 100 years will increase
by approximately 15%.

Warming of the lower layers of the atmosphere will

lead to an increase in water and soil temperatures.
Particularly in low water situations this will lead to
changes in the chemical and biological condition
of waters, with corresponding impacts on the fauna
and flora that inhabit them. One possible effect is
the reduced solubility of oxygen in waterbodies at
higher temperatures, linked to possible damage to
the fauna. Longer-term temperature increases in
the water may also lead to shifts in the species spectrum. Furthermore, evaporation will increase as a
result of increased air temperatures. This may be
linked to reduced rainfall, particularly in the summer months, thereby impairing wetlands or causing them to dry out. Low water levels in rivers reduce the amount of retreat space available for creatures, causing stress to the aquatic biota and possible damage to the aquatic ecosystem as a whole.

As well as impacting precipitation, surface runoff,

discharges, water levels in waterbodies and water
quality, climate change will also affect groundwater.
In areas with highly permeable subsoils, the formation of new groundwater may increase as a result
of higher winter precipitation, possibly leading to
an increased supply of groundwater, despite lower
summer rainfall and greater potential evaporation.
On the other hand, in certain regions in Germany,
groundwater recharge may decline. Studies in small
river basins, for example in Saxony and Saxony Anhalt, forecast a decrease in groundwater recharge
until 2050.

Climate consequences in Germany

Germany has a humid climate, which means that

over the course of a year, more precipitation falls
than is able to evaporate. Generally speaking, Germany has sufficient water reserves. However, in
view of the wide variations in precipitation and in
geological and natural conditions between regions,
the distribution of these water resources varies considerably. The consequences of climate change will
likewise have differing regional effects.

Beside the population density, the demographic

structure and development of society, together with
land use and changing climatic conditions, also play
a key role in a regions water demand. In order to
calculate the climate consequences for waterbodies,
the results of regional climate modelling are fed
into water balance models which calculate future
scenarios, e.g. for floodwater outflow, the potential
extent of flooding, and groundwater recharge.

Altered volumes of precipitation, also in the form

of snow in the mountains, coupled with changes in
the distribution of precipitation, affect the surface
runoff and water levels in rivers with a characteristic
alpine discharge regime, such as parts of the Rhine,
Danube and Iller. If less snow is retained in the
mountains during winter months due to higher
winter temperatures, this will make it harder to
compensate for low water discharge in summer. A
reduced accumulation of snow in the mountains
will reduce the peak of spring melts, which often
lead to flooding. The spring melts will occur earlier
in the year due to higher temperatures, leading to
a shift in peak discharge levels. However, if increased discharge occurs in winter because less precipitation is stored as snow, with winter precipitation falling as rain due to higher temperatures,
these two factors may combined to increase the
threat of flooding.

Flooding caused by runoff over frozen soils and ice

blockages (e.g. River Elbe) is expected to become
less frequent due to the increased temperature in
Flooding associated with lengthy and intensive
precipitation and local flooding due to heavy rainfall are likely to increase. How the occurrence of

Water Resource Management in Germany

Adaptation measures

The debate about suitable measures for adapting to

climate change is raging, both nationally and internationally. The prevailing scientific uncertainties
concerning the extent and timing of climate
change effects and the specific local impacts of climate change make it difficult to assess the effective-


ness of such measures. Nevertheless, the majority

of scientists agree that steps need to be taken now
in order to adapt to climate change. This is important if various regionalisation models produce similar projections on the direction and range of changes, such as the extent to which precipitation in a
given region will increase or decrease. In view of
the existing uncertainties, the following fundamental requirements should also be taken into account
with regard to adaptation measures:

sibility of regional problems cannot be excluded,

particularly during longer periods of drought.

Measures which help to improve the landscape water balance are best suited to support the groundwater recharge, the most important drinking water
resource in Germany. Reduced levels of land sealing
and the decentralised infiltration of rainwater are
two areas particularly worth highlighting.

Flood risk management

They should be flexible. It must be possible to

supplement or readjust a measure.

They should be robust. If climate change does

not have the anticipated impacts, the measure
should take effect nevertheless (no regret).

They should be effective. The chosen measure

must be capable of stemming the adverse impacts of climate change as directly and effectively as possible.

In a best case scenario, they should be designed to address several objectives, such as
water resources management and nature conservation (win/win).

These general considerations on how to deal with

uncertainties are part of the German Strategy for
Adaptation to Climate Change, adopted by the German Government in December 2008. This strategy
outlines the German Governments contribution,
creates a framework for national adaptation to climate change, and offers guidance to other players.
The overarching objective of this adaptation strategy is to reduce Germanys vulnerability to the consequences of climate change. To this end, the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change
lists 14 priority action areas, including water resources management. Civil protection / disaster
control, as well as land use planning, regional planning and urban land use planning are named as
cross-sectional areas. In a next step, the Action Plan
for Adaptation, containing concrete proposed measures, is due to be published in the first half of 2011.

Examples of adaptation measures in

water resources management
Drinking water supply


Some areas are already unable to guarantee drinking water supplies entirely from their own resources due to quality problems. They supplement their
supplies with water from reservoirs (e.g. Saxony,
Thuringia) and long-distance pipelines. However,
because the rate of groundwater recharge has tended to exceed the quantity abstracted to date, Germany is unlikely to face any fundamental problems
with regard to drinking water supplies, even under
altered climatic conditions. Nevertheless, the pos-

Early adaptation measures are needed in order to

limit the damage caused by flooding, also with a
view to climatic change. The measures already
adopted and the strategies developed at both national and international level to improve flood risk
management, such as the provisions of the updated
Federal Water Act and the EC Flood Risk Management Directive, need to be implemented without
delay at river basin level. This legislation already
makes allowance for the potential impacts of climate change when assessing the flood risks. In future, special technical flood control measures, such
as dykes, should consider the impacts of climate
change, e.g. by incorporating a climate factor. However, as well as technical adaptation, more widespread social debate is needed in order to ascertain
which flood risks may be tolerated. Basis for this
discussion is the representation of extreme flood
risks in map format. In conjunction with cost/benefit considerations, it may be possible to agree on
differentiated levels of protection and explore further options for a flood risk management policy
that has been adapted to climate change (cf. Chapter 6.7.1 on flood risk management).

Dealing with low water levels

In future, conflicts of use may occur more frequently in the handling of low water situations as a result
of climate change. Watercourses are used for a
wide range of purposes, such as shipping, hydropower, and the supply of cooling water for energy
generation. In order to limit the adverse impacts on
watercourses and the aquatic biota, e.g. as a result
of rising water temperatures, usage restrictions may
become necessary. Overall, an improvement in the
morphological structures of watercourses to
strengthen the self-purification of rivers, coupled
with an improvement in wastewater purification,
will help to minimise the vulnerability of watercourses to low water levels (cf. Chapter 6.7.8 on cooling water use).

Water Resource Management in Germany

3 Structures and Cooperation in Water

Resources Management
3.1 International cooperation

Germany cooperates with other countries in numerous international organisations to protect waterbodies. Many environmental problems, such as the
greenhouse effect with its impacts on the global
climate (and hence on the water balance) climate
adaptation measures and certain aspects of protecting coastal waters, seas and oceans, can only be
solved through global cooperation. Consequently,
Germany is a Contracting Party to numerous international and regional environmental protection
conventions, including the various Conventions for
the protection of the marine environment (London
Convention, MARPOL, OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions; cf. Chapter 5.2.3) and the river basin commissions for the transboundary river catchment areas
Danube, Elbe, Oder, Rhine (IKSD, IKSE, IKSO, IKSR
cf. Chapter 5.3).

3.1.1 Cooperation between the European Union and its

Member States

3.1.2 Cooperation with Central and Eastern European


To an increasing extent, issues relating to environmental protection and hence also to water
resources management are being decided by the
European Union (EU) (for details of individual
mechanisms, cf. also Chapters 4.1 and 5.1). Cooperation between the Member States of the European
Union in the field of water protection is extremely
important, because water protection is by definition
a transboundary challenge, and differences in environmental standards make it difficult to enforce a
single European market.

As a Member State of the EU, Germany is both

involved in drafting EC legislation (especially Directives and Regulations) and bound by such legislation. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of
the Member States to actually enforce EC legislation
in practice, as the institutions of the EU do not possess any enforcement powers of their own.

EC Directives do not become valid law until they

have been transposed into national law. In so-called
breach of treaty cases, which can ultimately lead
to the imposition of fines by the European Court
of Justice, the EU Commission can compel Member
States to implement EC legislation. As EU regulations are often not comprehensive, Member States
are at liberty to adopt their own regulations to this
extent. Furthermore, the Member States are generally at liberty to enforce more stringent requirements at national level.

Water Resource Management in Germany

The importance of water is also reflected in Germanys environmental cooperation with Central and
Eastern European countries. As part of the BMUs
advisory assistance programme for environmental
protection in the countries of Central and Eastern
Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Federal
Environment Agency has supported more than
30 projects since 2000 in which German experts
advised their partner countries on water resources
management issues. The recipients of this advice
were distributed almost evenly amongst new EU
Member or Candidate States and non-EU countries.
German expertise was called for particularly on
issues relating to wastewater treatment, the implementation of EU legislation, particularly the EC Water Framework Directive (WFD), and industrial environmental protection. An overview of the projects
carried out to date can be found on the website
of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) (http://

Infrastructure upgrade requirements in new EU Member


With the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, the EU

has grown to include ten new Central and Eastern
European Member States. In adopting the acquis
communautaire, particularly in the area of water,
the new Member States face high investments associated with upgrading and modernising their often
outmoded and inefficient supply and disposal infrastructure. There is a need for concepts relating to
cost-effective drinking water supply and wastewater
disposal systems, including decentralised options,
as well as fee financing models. During the course
of transforming its own water resources management infrastructure in the new Lnder in the wake
of reunification, Germany has developed a level of
expertise which is now in demand among the new
Member States and other Eastern European and
Central Asian countries. There is also a keen interest in efficient technologies, making the Central
and Eastern European region an attractive market
for German companies. Germany also benefits from
improved wastewater treatment in Central and
Eastern European States, which in turn reduces the
pollution of transboundary waters and the Baltic

Transboundary implementation of EC law

Implementation of the WFD in river basins often

necessitates multilateral coordination and coop-


eration between several neighbouring countries.

These aspire to a shared goal to achieve a good
status of transboundary waterbodies by 2015 and
are responsible for achieving this goal. In this connection, Germany is actively involved in several
international river basin commissions and has supported five countries that neighbour the Danube in
developing their environmental administration projects and implementing the WFD via EU twinning
projects. The example of the Danube shows just
how important it is to also involve non-EU Member
States in the river basin who have no direct obligation to implement EC Directives, but whose support
is nevertheless essential in order to achieve this
common goal. The WFD also obligates Member
States to attempt to prepare management plans
for the entire river basin if the river basin also includes non-EU Member States. The transboundary
implementation of the WFD across the EU is a key
theme in projects supported by the BMUs advisory
assistance programme, and was the subject of a
Lithuanian-Russian project in the river basin of the
Neman (River) and Curonian Lagoon, for example.

Figure 8: Composition of the 278 members of German

Water Partnership e.V. (as at August 2010)
13 %
Chemical industry
34 %

23 %
Construction firms

Since 2008, German water resources management

has undergone reorganisation for the purposes
of international cooperation: The German Water
Partnership (GWP) is a joint initiative by the private
and public sectors, and now has some 280 members. Private-sector companies, government and
non-government organisations, academic institutions and specialist organisations have joined forces
to publicise German expertise throughout the
world. The German Water Partnership is supported
by five German Ministries:

3.2 National cooperation

Distribution of tasks between Federal Government and

According to the German constitution (so called

Basic Law), the Federal Republic of Germany is
based on a federal system. Government tasks are
distributed between the Federal Government and
the Lnder. The communities (towns, districts and
municipalities) are parts of the respective Federal
Land, but they also have a certain degree of discretion (right of self-government) in dealing with local
matters. These competences are guaranteed by
constitutional law.

A distinction must be made between legislative

powers, the competence to enforce regulations, and
financial responsibility. Expenditure incurred while
exercising their duties is borne separately by the
Federal Government and the Lnder.

Following the Federalism Reform of 2006, the

Federal Government now has concurrent legislative
competence with regard to the water regime. This
means that the Federal Government is authorised
to adopt more detailed regulations on water resources management. The Lnder may only adopt

Conservation and Nuclear Safety

ffFederal Ministry of Economics and Technology

ffFederal Ministry for Economic Cooperation
and Development.


The aim of the German Water Partnership is to

strengthen the competitive position of German water resources management and research in target
international markets. In the area of water supply
alone, the global investment demand exceeds 150
billion Euros. If the areas of wastewater treatment
and water efficiency technologies are taken into
account, the total is expected to reach 480 billion
Euros by 2020.
Particularly developing and newly industrialising countries, with their high levels of economic
growth, are reliant on efficient and innovative yet

Plant engineering

sustainable solutions and products in the water

sector. Here, the German water resources management industry is able to offer a broad range of
knowledge and expertise, both on a conceptual
level and on an organisational and technical level.

ffFederal Foreign Office

ffFederal Ministry for Education and Research
ffFederal Ministry for the Environment, Nature


Source: germanwaterpartnership

3.1.3 German Water Partnership


Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 9: Lnder of the Federal Republic of Germany


MecklenburgWest Pomerania

Lower Saxony
North Rhine Westphalia







Source: Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy

Water Resource Management in Germany


regulations for as long as and to the extent that the

Federal Government fails to make use of its legislative competence. The Lnder may adopt regulations
which deviate from these regulations, except in the
case of provisions relating to substances and installations. The Federal Government has made use of
its competence and updated the Federal Water Act,
which entered into force on 1 March 201077.

Environmental policy projects, programmes and

opinions, particularly legislative initiatives, must
be coordinated between the Federal Ministries concerned.

The following Federal ministries are the principal

partners of the BMU; to a certain extent, they also
perform independent tasks in the field of water
resources management:

By contrast, the Lnder are essentially responsible

for enforcing the provisions relating to water,
including the Federal laws, and hence the exercising of executive powers in water resources
management. An exception to this is the Federal
waterways, the maintenance and development of
which vis--vis traffic requirements falls under the
exclusive control and administration of the Federal
Government. The Federal Government is the owner
of the Federal waterways, but is required to safeguard the concerns of land improvement and water
resources management in agreement with the
Lnder. Further important functions are performed
by the Federal Government in the fields of research
and data collection.

ffThe Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and

Consumer Protection (BMELV) handles and
promotes water resource management projects
in the rural sector including flow regulation
and flood protection measures, as well as
coastal protection of the North and Baltic Seas.
It is also responsible for legislation relating to
water and soil boards and for fertiliser and
plant protection legislation.

ffThe Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) is responsible for matters of drinking water supply, with
a focus on problems with drinking water quality as part of a precautionary health policy,
and together with the Federal Ministry for
the Environment for matters relating to the
quality of bathing waters.

Progressive water conservation is reliant on permanent cooperation between the Federal Government and the Lnder. For example, monitoring of
groundwater and surface water quality is an important task of the administrative authorities for water
resources management in the Lnder. However,
as Member State, the Federal Government is the
competent point of contact for the European Union
on this matter, with responsibility for reporting
etc. For this reason, the Federal authorities collate
and aggregate the data from the Lnder and then
forward it in a uniform format to Brussels (EU Commission) and Copenhagen (European Environment

ffThe Federal Ministry for Transport, Construction and Urban Development (BMVBS) is responsible for the administration of Federal waterways and all matters relating to navigation
on maritime and inland waterways and the
carriage of dangerous goods. Together with
the coastal regions, it is responsible for combating pollution of coastal waters with oil and
other contaminants. It is in charge of the waterways and navigation administration.

ffThe Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) coordinates the Federal Governments research promotion efforts and controls
basic research, applied science, technological
development and innovation, including the
areas of water research and water technology.

Organisation of water resources management within

the Federal Government

ffThe Federal Ministry of Economics and Tech-

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
(BMU) addresses fundamental issues relating to
water resources management and transboundary
cooperation in water resources management.
Moreover, BMU is responsible, inter alia, for the
Federal Water Act, the Wastewater Charges Act, the
Detergents and Cleansing Agents Act, the Federal
Soil Act and the Federal Nature Conservation Act.
The BMU also follows European Union regulations
on water protection, protection of the marine
environment, and river basin conventions on transboundary waterbodies.

nology (BMWi) safeguards economic interests

in relation to all environmental measures.

ffThe Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is responsible for
basic issues and coordination of all bilateral
and multilateral German development cooperation.

In executing its tasks in the field of water resources

management, the BMU is assisted by the Federal
authorities and research institutions:

Subsidiary authorities to BMU are the following:

ffFederal Environmental Agency in Dessau (UBA)

7 Act on the Regulation of Matters Pertaining to Water (Federal Water Act, WHG) of 31 July
2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2585)


Water Resource Management in Germany

ffFederal Nature Conservation Agency in Bonn


ffFederal Office for Radiological Protection in

Salzgitter (BfS).

ffLower tier

Subsidiary authorities to BMVBS are the following:

ffFederal Institute of Hydrology in Koblenz

Lower water authorities (districts or towns not belonging to a district) as well as technical authorities
(e.g. water resources authorities, environmental
protection authorities); duties: procedures under
the water acts as well as technical advice, monitoring of waters and water use, especially wastewater

Exceptions exist in some smaller Lnder which have

a two-level administration, i.e. no intermediate-level
authority (e.g. city states).

In addition to water authorities or environmental

protection authorities, most Lnder possess central state entities with various designations (Land
authorities for environmental protection, water
resources management, water and waste etc.)
which are charged to deal with the extensive scientific aspects of water management. These entities
perform various functions in the fields of hydrology, monitoring of waterbodies, water resources
management planning, official technical advice,
preparation of technical guidelines, education and
training which vary from Land to Land. They are
subsidiary to the supreme authorities. In some
cases the Land authorities are also in charge of
enforcement functions (e.g. flood warning services,
monitoring of waters and discharges, wastewater

For the purpose of coordinating common problems

and handling legislative instruments under the
water acts, the Federal Government and the supreme Federal Land authorities working in the field
of water resources management have organized
themselves in the so-called Working Group of the
Federal States on Water Issues (LAWA).

(BfG)8 ,

ffFederal Board of Shipping and Hydrography in

Hamburg (BSH)

ffFederal Institute for Hydraulic Engineering in

Karlsruhe (BAW),

ffGerman Weather Service in Offenbach (DWD).

Subsidiary authorities to BMG are the following:

ffFederal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products in Bonn (BfArM).

Subsidiary authorities to BMELV are the following:

ffFederal Office of Consumer Protection and

Food Safety in Braunschweig (BVL),

ffJulius Khn Institute Federal Research Institute for Cultivated Plants in Quedlinburg (JKI),

ffFederal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin


Subsidiary authorities to BMWI are the following:

ffFederal Institute of Geosciences and Raw Materials in Hanover (BGR),

ffFederal Institute for Materials Research and

Testing in Berlin (BAM).

Subsidiary authorities to Federal Ministry of the

Interior (BMI) are the following:

ffFederal Institute for Population Protection and

Disaster Protection in Bonn (BBK).

Water resources management by the Lnder

The enforcement of water resources management

regulations is the sole responsibility of the Lnder
and the municipalities. In most Lnder, water
resources management follows the three- level
structure of general administration, although the
assignment of tasks varies from state to state:

Water resources management by the local authorities

By enforcing the environmental legislation of the

Federal Government and Lnder, and particularly
within the context of their constitutionally guaranteed self-administration, the local authorities
perform a number of important environmental
protection-related tasks. By this they shape the local
environment for residents.

Under the Water Acts of the individual Lnder, central water supply and sewage disposal are traditional responsibilities of the local authorities. In order
to meet the costs incurred in this respect, they levy
charges on users (contributions and fees). As the

ffSupreme authority

Ministry with a water resources department; predominantly ministry for the environment; duties:
water management control and superior administrative procedures

ffIntermediate tier

District government, offices of the district government presidents, Federal Land authorities; duties:
regional water resources management planning,
important procedures under the water acts.

8 Also partly assigned to the BMU

Water Resource Management in Germany


Table 3: Water resources management administration of the Lnder


Federal Land

Water resources management administration


Lower tier:
Landratsmter (administrative district offices), municipalities
Intermediate tier:
Regierungsprsidien (RP) (regional councils)
Supreme authority:
Ministry for Environment and Transport


Lower tier:
71 Landratsmter (administrative district offices) and 25 independent cities;
17 regional water authorities
Intermediate tier:
7 governments; Landesamt fr Umweltschutz (State Agency for Environmental Protection, LfU)
Supreme authority:
Bayerisches Staatsministerium fr Umwelt, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz
(Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment, Health and ConsumerProtection)


Lower and intermediate tier, supreme authority:

Senatsverwaltung fr Gesundheit, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz (Senate Administration for Health,
Environment and Consumer Protection)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Landesumweltamt (State Environment Agency)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Umwelt, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz (Ministry for the Environment, Health and
Consumer Protection)


Lower tier:
Senator fr Umwelt, Bau, Verkehr und Europa (Senator for the Environment, Construction, Transport and
Europe), Magistrat der Stadt Bremerhaven (Municipal Authority of the City of Bremerhaven), Hansestadt
Bremische Amt Bremerhaven (Bremian Agency for the City of Bremerhaven)
Supreme authority:
Senator fr Umwelt, Bau, Verkehr und Europa (Senator for the Environment, Construction, Transport and


Supreme authority:
Behrde fr Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt (Authority for Urban Development and the Environment)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
RP Kassel, Gieen, Darmstadt
Supreme authority:
Hessisches Ministerium fr Umwelt, lndlichen Raum und Verbraucherschutz
(Hessian Ministry for the Environment, Rural Regions and Consumer Protection)


Lower tier:
Staatliche mter fr Umwelt und Natur (State Agencies for the Environment and Nature), Landkreise
(rural districts), independent cities
Supreme authority:
Environment Ministry, Landesamt fr Umwelt, Naturschutz und Geology (State Agency for the
Environment, Nature Conservation and Geology)

Lower Saxony

Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Supreme authority:
Niederschsisches Ministerium fr Umwelt und Klimaschutz (Lower Saxony Ministry for the Environment
and Climate Protection)

North-Rhine Westphalia

Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Bezirksregierungen (district governments)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Umwelt- und Naturschutz, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz
(Ministry for Environmental and Nature Conservation, Agriculture and Consumer Protection)

Water Resource Management in Germany

Federal Land

Water resources management administration


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities, government environment agencies
Intermediate tier:
Struktur- und Genehmigungsdirektion (Structural and Approval Directorate)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Umwelt und Forsten (Ministry for the Environment and Forestry)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), cities
Intermediate tier:
Bezirksregierungen (district governments)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Umwelt (Ministry for the Environment)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Supreme authority:
Staatsministerium fr Umwelt und Landwirtschaft
(State Ministry for the Environment and Agriculture)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Landesverwaltungsamt (State Administrative Office)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Landwirtschaft und Umwelt (Ministry for Agriculture and Environment)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Landesamt fr Natur und Umwelt (State Office for Nature and Environment)
Supreme authority:
Ministerium fr Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und lndliche Rume (Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and
Rural Areas)


Lower tier:
Landkreise (rural districts), independent cities
Intermediate tier:
Supreme authority:
Staatsministerium fr Umwelt und Landwirtschaft (State Ministry for Environment and Agriculture)

Source: Wedewardt, M (2010), Sen GUV Berlin

ffOperator model: Transfer of plant operation to a

owners of small waterbodies, they are responsible

for the maintenance thereof.

In order to ensure the autonomous and effective

implementation of water supply and sewage disposal, the communities may have recourse to a variety
of operating forms (cf. also Chapters 6.2.1 and 6.4.2).
To some extent, the possible forms of institutional
operation are determined by regional law.

private contractor, whereby responsibility for

the completion of tasks remains with the community.

Town planning is another important task incumbent upon the local authorities. Within the context
of town planning, the local authorities can make
crucial contributions to flood prevention, for example.

ffPublicly owned enterprise: Operation by the community within the context of general community administration

ffMunicipal undertaking: Operated by the community as a special asset with separate book-keeping

ffCompany in its own right: Enterprise under private

law owned by the community

Water Resource Management in Germany


In Germany, a particular role is played by cooperation between local authorities usually on a

voluntary basis and to a certain extent instigated by
the Lnder in associations, in order to ensure the
efficient organisation of water supply, sewage treatment and waterbody maintenance, both from a
technical and financial viewpoint and also with re-


gard to waterbody conservation. These associations

vary in terms of the task assigned to them, regional
coverage and organisational form:

ffSpecial-purpose organisations as associations

under public law

ffWater and soil associations within the meaning of the Water Organisation Act

ffWater associations for river basins in the industrial region of Rhine/Westphalia on the
basis of special legislation.

The introduction of the WFD requires the competent authorities to encourage the active involvement of the general public in water resources management plans. As a minimum requirement, the
general public must be given the opportunity to
voice its opinion at three separate stages during the
formulation of management plans. This requires
the involvement, firstly, of the organised general
public, i.e. all environmental protection organisations as well as all other interest groups (e.g. from
the areas of industry, agriculture, shipping and
tourism), as well as of each and every individual,
i.e. the wider public.

Technical/scientific associations

The following technical/scientific associations,

which generally represent scientists, associations
and politicians (Federal, Lnder and/or local authorities), are dedicated to the purposes of water
resources management:

Support for environmental and nature conservation


The BMU and UBA support environmental and

nature conservation organisations with a view to
anchoring environmental policy concerns in society. The projects are intended to raise awareness of
and encourage commitment to environmental protection and nature conservation. Support is aimed
mainly at projects focusing on current priority
issues, childrens and young peoples projects with
wide-ranging effects, projects designed to promote
eco-awareness and nature-friendly conduct, and
measures aimed at environmental advice and education.

The BMU and UBA have supported around 20

projects in the area of water and waterbody conservation since 2002. On the German version of the
UBA website (
projektfoerderungen/uba-online/index.php), users
are able to search for project information according
to selected topic areas, key words or organisations.
Here are examples of two projects by organisations
in the area of water and waterbody conservation
supported by the BMU and UBA:

ffDeutsche Vereinigung fr Wasserwirtschaft,

Abwasser und Abfall (German Association for
Water Resources Management, Wastewater
and Waste, DWA)

ffBund der Ingenieure fr Wasserwirtschaft, Abfallwirtschaft und Kulturbau (Federation of

Engineers for Water Resources Management,
Waste Management and Agricultural Engineering, BWK)

ffDeutsche Gesellschaft fr Limnologie (German

Limnology Association, DGL)

ffDeutsches Institut fr Normung (German Institute for Standardisation), represented by the

Fachnormenausschuss Wasserwesen (Water
Sector Standards Committee, DIN/NAW)

ffDeutscher Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches

(German Association of Gas and Water Experts,

ffWasserchemische Gesellschaft in der Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker e.V. (Hydrochemical

Engineering Society in the Association of German Chemists, GDCh)

ffVereinigung Deutscher Gewsserschutz (Association for German Water Protection, VDG)

These technical organisations have prepared a

great number of technical guidelines, which are
largely recognised and applied as so-called generally accepted technical standards.

ffVereinigung Deutscher Gewsserschutz e.V.

(VDG): Mobile exhibition Water is the future
to sensitize the broader public to the issue of
water using comprehensive, visual and actionoriented information.

ffGrne Liga e.V.: Flyers on effective implementation of the WFD.

General public


Based on the provisions outlined in water legislation and administrative procedures, the general
public must be consulted and invited to submit its
opinion in written or verbal form on large projects
such as waterbody development projects.

Water Resource Management in Germany

4 Statutory Mechanisms

beyond the boundaries of the Lnder and the Member States. In order to implement these planning
requirements, there is a need to develop greater
cooperation between the administrative bodies and
different countries. The programmes of measures
and management plans for the individual river
basins must be complete by the end of 2009. Under
the ambitious timetable formulated by the Directive, the objective of a good status is to be achieved
by the end of 2015. Generally speaking, the Parties
may receive exemption from the objective of good
status in 2015 by obtaining an extension to the
deadlines or by setting less stringent objectives, but
only provided they meet certain restrictive requirements. Water resources management in Germany
therefore faces a major challenge over the next few

4.1 European legislation

EC Water Framework Directive (WFD)9

The Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/

EC) entered into force on 22 December 200010.
It marked the beginning of a new dimension in
European water conservation policy. In future,
waterbodies are to be managed across national and
regional borders, by means of a coordinated approach within the river basin areas.

The central objective of the WFD is to achieve a

good status of all waterbodies (watercourses,
lakes, coastal waters, groundwater) in the Community. The basic thinking behind good status is
that surface waters may be impaired or changed
by human use, but only insofar as the ecological
functions of the waterbody with its typical biotic
communities are not significantly impaired. The
requirements for good ecological water quality
are defined in detail for the various surface water
types. Additionally, EU-wide chemical environmental quality standards are defined for 33 priority substances11. Other key points of the Directive include
the combined approach of emission and immissionrelated measures to reduce pollutants, and the
obligation to prepare programmes of measures and
management plans, both linked to the participation of the wider public.

For groundwater, the aim is to maintain or achieve

a good quantitative status and a good chemical
status. The requirements governing the good status
of groundwater have since been specified in a separate Groundwater Directive12.

The material provisions of the WFD are embedded

in a comprehensive concept of river basin planning that is based on the natural classification of
river catchment areas and which therefore extends

9 Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October

2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, OJ L
327, p. 1 ff
10 Bundesministerium fr Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (Federal Ministry
for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, BMU): Die Wasserrahmenrichtlinie Neues Fundament fr den Gewsserschutz in Europa, synopsis,
Bonifatius, Paderborn, September 2004 and BMU: Die Wasserrahmenrichtlinie Neues
Fundament fr den Gewsserschutz in Europa, full-length version, Bonifatius, Paderborn, September 2004.
11 Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on
environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, amending and subsequently
repealing Council Directives 82/176/EEC, 83/513/EEC, 84/156/EEC, 84/491/EEC, 86/280/
EEC and amending Directive 2000/60/EC of the European and of the Council, OJ No. L
348, p. 84 ff.
12 Directive 2006/118/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December
2006 on the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration. OJ EC L 372,
p. 29 ff.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Further EC Directives on water conservation

The beginnings of an active European environmental policy date back to 1973. Since then, a number
of individual directives on water conservation
have been adopted. The WFD combines these approaches into a coherent overall concept and repeals a number of these Directives. However, other
water conservation directives remain valid in their
own right even after the adoption of the WFD and
remain in force, in some cases for a limited period.
The most important of these EC legal acts that remain in force are:

ffThe Protection of Waters Directive on dangerous substances discharged into waters

(2006/11/EC)13, which also obligates Member
States to define quality objectives for certain
dangerous substances and to draw up programmes for compliance with these objectives;
in a number of follow-on directives, emission
regulations will be adopted for selected substances in two lists. The Directive will continue
to apply until 2013.

ffDirective 2008/105/EC specifies environmental

quality standards with EU-wide validity, which
are intended to limit the occurrence of certain
chemical substances which pose a significant
risk to the environment in the surface waters
of the EU. This is a daughter directive of the
WFD on ascertaining the chemical status of
surface waters.

13 Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 March 2006 on pollution
caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the
Community, OJ L 64, p. 52 ff (formerly Directive 76/464/EEC)


ffThe Groundwater Directive (80/68/EEC)14, designed to protect groundwater from certain

hazardous substances. It will be repealed by
the WFD with effect from 21 December 2012.

ffThe new Groundwater Directive (2006/118/

EC)15, which is intended to prevent and alleviate pollution of the groundwater. It concretises
the provisions of the WFD on the chemical
and quantitative status of groundwater.

ffThe Directive concerning urban wastewater

treatment (Urban Wastewater Directive
91/271/EEC)16, which obligates Member States
to collect and purify wastewater from households and small businesses, and aims to reduce
organic pollution as well as nitrate and phosphorous discharges from these sources.

ffThe Directive concerning the protection of

waters against pollution caused by nitrates
from agricultural sources (Nitrate Directive
91/676/EEC)17, which serves to reduce nitrate
inputs from livestock farming (fertilising).

ffThe Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC)18,

which lays down provisions for the monitoring, assessment and management of bathing
water quality and the provision of information
on its quality.

ffThe Directive on the quality of water intended

for human consumption (Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC)1919, which lays down special quality requirements for water for human
consumption. The Drinking Water Directive
has at least an indirect effect on water protection, since the main concern of drinking water
suppliers (water utilities) is to be able to use
untreated water that is as natural as possible;
strict limit values, e.g. for the content of pesticides and nitrate in drinking water, therefore
represent important incentives to water conservation. An amendment to the Drinking Water Directive is currently in progress.

ffThe Marine Strategy Framework Directive obligates the Member States to develop strategies
to protect the marine environment. The aim of
this Directive is to define a good environmental status, specify environmental objectives,
and formulate monitoring programmes and
packages of measures.
14 Council Directive of 17 December 1979 on the protection of groundwater against pollution caused by certain dangerous substances, OJ L 20, p. 43 ff.
15 Council Directive 2006/118/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12
December 2006 on the protection of groundwater against pollution and deterioration,
OJ L20, p. 43 ff.
16 Council Directive of 21 May 1991, OJ L 135, p. 40 ff., most recently amended by Commission Directive 98/15/EC of 27 February 1998 in conjunction with a number of requirements laid down in Annex I, OJ L 67, page 29
17 Council Directive of 12 December 1991, OJ L 375, p. 1 ff
18 Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February 2006
concerning the management of bathing water quality, OJ L 64, p. 37 ff
19 Council Directive of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human
consumption, OJ L 330, page 32 ff.


In addition to the water protection directives described above, there are various other measures
under EC environmental law that are not specifically aimed at protecting the environmental medium
water, but are nevertheless significant in this connection. Examples include:

ffThe Flood Risk Management Directive

(2007/60/EC)20 is aimed at the assessment and
management of flood risks in order to minimise the flood-related consequences for man
and the environment.

ffThe new IE Directive (2010/75/EU)21 on integrated pollution prevention and control (former IPPC 2008/1/EC) sets out cross-media requirements for selected industrial sectors. The
IE Directive contains the IPPC and six other
important Directives. It also increases the significance of BAT (best available techniques) in
the European Union. The effects on air and
water and in the waste sector are weighed
against each other and considered in an integral way when licensing the plant (cf. Chapter
5.1.2 below).

ffThe Habitats (FFH) Directive (92/43/EC)22 is designed to permanently protect and preserve
biological diversity in the territory of the European Union by means of a system of protected
areas designated on the basis of uniform criteria.

ffThe Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)23 entered into

force in 1979. It calls for the establishment of
protected areas as a key measure for the preservation, restoration or creation of habitats for
wild bird species.

ffThe Regulation concerning the placing of

plant protection products on the market
(1107/2009)24 and the Directive (2009/128/EC)25
on the sustainable use of pesticides.

ffThe Biocide Directive (98/8/EC) on the marketing of biocide products26.

20 Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the
assessment and management of flood risks, OJ L 288, page 24 ff.
21 Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (Recast), OJ L 334, page 17
22 Council Directive of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild
fauna and flora, OJ L 206, page 7
23 Council Directive of 1 April 1979 on the conservation of wild bird species, OJ EC L 103
page 1
24 25 Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21
October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and
repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EE, OJ EC L 309, p. 1 ff
25 Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October
2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of
pesticides, OJ L 309, p. 71 ff.
26 Council Directive of 16 February 1998 on the placing of biocidal products on the market,
OJ EC L 123, p. 1 ff.

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffThe EIA Directive of 1985 (85/337/EEC)27 provides the basis for environmental impact assessment (EIA) under European Community
law. It prescribes the individual process stages
of EIA and the project types for which an EIA
must be carried out.

ffDirective 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the

effects of certain plans and programmes on
the environment (2001/42/EC) (SEA Directive)28
supplements the environmental impact assessment which has existed in Germany since the
early 1990s. Whereas EIA only comes into play
with the licensing of environmentally relevant
projects, the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) applies at planning level, since important environmentally-relevant foundations
are often laid within the context of upstream
plans and programmes. For example, plans
may determine the location, technical properties or selected operating conditions of projects. The SEA ensures that plans which determine the specifications for subsequent licensing conditions are made in an environmentally-compatible and transparent manner, with
the involvement of the general public. This
benefits planning quality, helps to avoid planning mistakes, and reinforces the acceptance
of planning decisions.

4.2 Federal legislation

Federal Water Act

The new Act on the Regulation of Matters Relating

to Water (Federal Water Act WHG)31, which entered into force on 1 March 2010, recodifies Germanys water legislation on the basis of the extended
legislative powers granted to Federal Government
under the Federalism Reform. The previously valid
framework law of Federal Government has been
partially replaced by full regulations. Firstly, areas
of water resources management previously standardised under Land law are transferred into Federal
law, insofar as there is a need for standardised
nationwide regulation. Secondly, the new WHG
also implements binding provisions under EC law.
Above and beyond this, the new WHG also systematises and unifies water legislation with the aim of
improving the intelligibility and practicability of
Germanys complex water legislation. In terms of
structure and classification, it is similar to the old

The WHG lays down basic provisions relating to water resources management (management of water
quantity and quality). It states that waterbodies, as
a component of the ecosystem and as a habitat for
fauna and flora, must be protected and managed
in such as way as to serve the general public interest and, in harmony with this, must benefit the
individual, in a manner which refrains from any
avoidable impairments to its ecological function
(precautionary principle). A high level of protection
for the environment as a whole must be ensured
(integrated environmental protection).

As a general principle, waterbodies (inland surface

waterbodies, coastal waters and groundwater) are
subject to Government control. All uses of water
(e.g. discharge of substances or abstraction of
water) are, in principle, subject to official authorisation, apart from a few significant exceptions. This
is intended to prevent impairments to the water
regime and enforce a precautionary approach to
water protection.

Generally speaking, permits are issued at the discretion of the responsible water authority (management discretion). In certain cases, this discretion
is restricted to the protection of waterbodies. For
example, a permit to discharge sewage may only be
granted provided certain minimum requirements
are adhered to. These minimum requirements,
which reflect the best available technology and
which are differentiated according to industry and
trade sectors, are outlined in greater detail in the

ffIn the field of facilities for handling substances

dangerous to water, an important role is also
played by the EC Directive on the control of
major-accident hazards involving dangerous
substances (96/82/EEC)29, the Construction
Products Directive (89/106/EEC)3130 and the
standardisation procedure under CEN (Comit
Europen de Normalisation).

27 Council Directive of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and
private projects on the environment, OJ L 175, page 4 ff., amended by Directive 97/11/EC
of 3 March 1997, OJ L 73, page 5 ff., most recently amended by Directive 2003/35/EC of
26 May 2003, OJ L 156, page 17 ff.
28 Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, OJ L 197, page
30 ff.
29 Council Directive of 9 December 1996 on the control of major-accident hazards involving
dangerous substances, OJ L 10, page 13 ff., amended by Directive 2003/105/EC of 16
December 2003, OJ 345, page 97 ff.
30 Council Directive of 22 December 1988 on the approximation of laws, regulations and
administrative provisions of the Member States relating to construction products, OJ L
40, page 12 ff., amended by Directive 93/68/EEC of 22 July 1993, OJ L 220, page 1 ff.

Water Resource Management in Germany

31 Federal Law Gazette 2009 Part I No. 51, p. 2585 ff


Federal Governments Wastewater Ordinance32 (for

further details, cf. Chapters 6.4.1 and

More stringent requirements, including bans on

discharges, may be imposed by water authorities in
individual cases in the light of immission considerations, in order to achieve the aspired water quality
or facilitate specific water uses, for example.

Special provisions apply to installations for handling substances that are potentially hazardous to
water. Graduated according to the volume and
degree of hazard posed by such substances, these
are intended to ensure that the installations are
constructed and operated in an eco-friendly manner. In future, the Government plans to adopt a
uniform nationwide Ordinance on the handling of
substances potentially hazardous to water which
will specify the requirements placed on such installations and the classification of such substances.

Important regulations in the WHG also include the

provisions governing the construction and operation of wastewater treatment plants, water conservation officers, the development of waters and preventive flood mitigation, as well as the designation
of water conservation areas in the interests of water
Following the 7th amendment of 2002, the provisions of the WFD have been transposed into
national law. It sets out management objectives for
all waterbodies which must be achieved by 2015
in accordance with the provisions of the Directive,
which have now been transposed into national law.
For surface and coastal waters, this means a good
chemical and ecological status, while for bodies of
groundwater, the requirement is a good quantitative and chemical status. The review submitted to
the European Commission in March 200533 was an
important interim stage in determining the gap
between the current status and the objectives of
the WFD.

In addition to the requirements of the WFD, in

future, under the new WHG, the provisions of the
Groundwater Directive, the Priority Substances
Directive and the Flood Risk Management Directive
will be uniformly transposed into national law in
the Federal Republic of Germany.

In future, the Federal Government may comprehensively regulate the protection of surface waters and
groundwater by means of a statutory ordinance.
Such a groundwater ordinance would make it
possible to transpose the provisions of EC law into
national law. In this way, the negligibility threshold
concept developed on the basis of Article 34 of the
WHG (old version) would be transposed into law.
This concept will make it possible to expediently
combine the requirements of soil conservation and
groundwater protection. The same applies analogously to a future Federal Government Ordinance
implementing Annexes II and V of the WFD and
Directive 2008/105/EC (quality requirements for
surface waters).

The framework provisions on flood alleviation already significantly extended by the Flood Control
Act34 will be expanded into full regulations by the
new WHG. For example, implementing the Flood
Risk Management Directive includes the introduction of a new category of risk areas. This category
comprises areas at risk from both inland flooding
and coastal flooding, including the identification of
flood plains. An extensive catalogue of obligations
continues to apply to flood plains, including the
conservation and recovery of retention areas, the
avoidance of any intervention which may encourage erosion, and restrictions on construction. The
competent authorities are also required to prepare
flood hazard maps and flood risk maps for the risk

Anyone who pollutes a waterbody without authority is liable to prosecution under the Criminal Code

The monitoring programmes for every river basin

were prepared by 2006, while programmes of
measures and management plans were completed
by the end of 2009, outlining the measures required in order to realise the management objectives. Surface waters that have been artificially
modified or whose hydromorphology has been
significantly altered may be designated artificial

32 Ordinance concerning requirements for the discharging of wastewater into waters

(Wastewater Ordinance - AbwV) in the version promulgated on 17 June 2004 (Federal
Law Gazette [BGBl.] I, page 1108), most recently amended on 31 July 2009 (BGBl. I page
33 Bundesministerium fr Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (Federal Ministry
for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, BMU): Die Wasserrahmenrichtlinie Ergebnisse der Bestandsaufnahme 2004 in Deutschland, 2nd edition,
Bonifatius, Paderborn, August 2005


or heavily modified if measures to achieve a good

status would significantly adversely affect the uses
for which the waterbodies were hydromorphologically modified. In such cases, they must achieve the
equally ambitious objective of a good ecological
potential, which refers to the best possible improvement in hydromorphology without significantly
adversely impairing uses. Exemptions from target
achievement may be granted under certain stringent requirements. For example, the deadlines may
be extended, or less stringent objectives formulated.
The same applies in the event of major incidents or
disasters, and in the case of new modifications to
the waterbody structure.

34 Act to Improve Preventive Flood Control of 3 May 2005, (Federal Law Gazette I, page

Water Resource Management in Germany

(StGB). Civil compensation obligations are regulated

in the WHG and in the Environmental Liability Act

the toxicity of wastewater according to the relevant

numbers in the Annex Analysis and measurement
techniques to the Wastewater Ordinance in the
version promulgated on 17 June 2004 (Federal Law
Gazette I, p. 1108, 2625).

Wastewater Charges Act

The Wastewater Charges Act (AbwAG)36 regulates

the levying of charges for the direct discharge of
wastewater into a waterbody. The charge is the first
eco-tax to be levied at Federal level as a steering
instrument. It ensures that the polluter-pays principle is applied in practice, since it requires direct
dischargers to bear at least some of the costs associated with their use of the environmental medium
of water. The charge is determined on the basis of
the quantity and harmfulness of certain specific
constituents discharged into the water (Annex to
Article 3 of the AbwAG).

GEI is the dilution factor at which wastewater is no

longer toxic in the fish egg test. The data in this
table is based on the procedures for determining

The Wastewater Charges Act meets the requirements of the WFD, which states that environmental
and resource costs must be internalised in order to
recover costs.

The charge per unit of noxiousness has increased

several times from DM 12 initially in 1981 to DM 70
in 1997 (now 35.79). The charge is designed to offer an economic incentive to avoid wastewater discharges as far as possible. The AbwAG provides for
rate reductions if certain minimum requirements
are met. In addition, certain types of investment
designed to improve wastewater treatment may be
offset against the charge.

The wastewater charge is payable to the Lnder.

The revenue generated must be used for water pollution control measures.

35 Environmental Liability Act, in the version of 10 December 1990 (Federal Law Gazette I,
page 2634), most recently amended on 23 November 2007 (Federal Law Gazette I, page
36 Act Pertaining to Charges Levied for Discharging Wastewater into Waters (Wastewater
Ordinance AbwV) in the version promulgated on 18 January 2005 (Federal Legal
Gazette I, page 114), amended on 31 July 2009 (BGBl. I page 2585).

Table 4: Annex to Article 3 of the AbwAG Pollutants and units of noxiousness pursuant to the Wastewater Charges
Evaluated pollutants and
groups of pollutants


The following units of measurement

correspond to one unit of noxiousness

Threshold values according to

concentration and annual quantity

Oxidizable substances in
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)

50 kilograms
of oxygen

20 milligrams per litre and

250 kilograms annual quantity


3 kilograms

0.1 milligrams per litre and

15 kilograms annual quantity

25 kilograms

5 milligrams per litre and

125 kilograms annual quantity


as the sum total of individual amounts

of nitrate nitrogen, nitrite oxygen
and ammonia nitrogen

Organohalogen compounds
as adsorbable organic
xed halogens (AOX)

2 kilograms of halogen,
calculated as organic
xed chlorine

100 micrograms per litre

and 10 kilograms annual quantity

Metals and their compounds




20 grams

1 microgram

100 grams



100 grams

5 microgram

500 grams



500 grams

50 microgram

2.5 kilograms



500 grams

50 microgram

2.5 kilograms



500 grams

50 microgram

2.5 kilograms



1000 grams
of metal

100 microgram
per litre

5 kilograms
annual quantity

Fish toxicity

6,000 cubic metres

wastewater divided by GEI

GEI = 2

G EI is the dilution factor at which wastewater is no longer toxic in the fish egg test. The data in this table is based on the procedures for determining the toxicity
of wastewater according to the relevant numbers in the Annex Analysis and measurement techniques to the Wastewater Ordinance in the version promulgated on
17June 2004 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1108, 2625).

Water Resource Management in Germany


Wastewater Ordinance

Cf. in this respect Chapter 6.4.1.

Federal Soil Protection Act and Federal Ordinance on

Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites

Significant discharges into groundwater are the

result of harmful soil changes and residual contamination. The Federal Soil Protection Act39 of 1998
specifies that polluters and their legal successors,
land owners, former owners, parties who have renounced ownership and other liable parties under
commercial law may be compelled by the authorities to remediate any groundwater damage caused
as a result of harmful soil changes or residual contamination.

If the test values in the Soil Protection Ordinance40

are exceeded, the party liable for remediation
is generally required to conduct more extensive
analyses. If these suspicions are confirmed, he may
be required to make reasonable efforts towards
remediation. The requirements pertaining to remediation are derived from water legislation.

Groundwater Ordinance37

In October 2010 a new German Groundwater regulation was adopted. It implements the Groundwater Daughter Directive 2006/116/EC (GWD) and
replaces the old Groundwater regulation of 18th
March, 1997. The new regulation establishes criteria
for the characterization, assessment, classification
and monitoring of the groundwater status and for
the identification and reversal of significant and
sustained upward trends in pollutant concentrations in groundwater bodies. Measures must also be
taken to prevent and limit the input of pollutants
into groundwater and to prevent the deterioration
of groundwater status. The aim of the regulation
is to achieve or to maintain good quantitative and
good qualitative groundwater status as demanded
by WFD and GWD and to reverse significant pollution trends. Concerning good quantitative status
the regulation implements the requirements of the
WFD to ensure a balance between abstraction and
recharge of groundwater. Good chemical groundwater status is determined by quality standards
established by the EC for nitrate (50 mg/L) and for
pesticides (=plant protecting agents and biocides)
(0,1 g/L for single substance, 0,5 g/L for the sum)
and nationally established threshold values for
arsenic (10 g/L), cadmium (0,5 g/L), lead (10 g/L),
mercury (0,2 g/L), ammonium (0,5 g/L), chloride
(250 g/L), sulphate (240 g/L) and tri- and tetrachlorethylene (sum :10 g/L).

Act on the Environmental Compatibility of Washing and

Cleansing Agents (Washing and Cleansing Agents Act)

The Washing and Cleansing Agents Act (WRMG)41

regulates the manufacture, labelling and distribution of detergents and cleansing agents. It also lays
down requirements governing the environmental
compatibility of detergents and cleansing agents.
Accordingly, the use of substances harmful to water
may be prohibited or restricted. In addition, the
principal ingredients and correct dosage must be
shown on the packaging. The WRMG applies in
addition to Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004 on detergents42.

The Detergents Regulation outlines provisions on

the biodegradability of tensides, among other
things. These must be readily biodegradable, i.e.
they must have degraded by more than 60 % into
CO2 and water within 28 days.

In 1993, the Eco-Label Jury awarded the Blue

Environment Angel for the first time to a modular
detergent system on the basis of stringent criteria
vis--vis complete biodegradability and toxicity to
aquatic organisms, with the aim of encouraging
environmentally friendly housekeeping practices

Pipeline Ordinance

The Ordinance on Pipeline Installations (Pipeline

Ordinance)38 sets out requirements for long-distance
pipelines requiring plan approval or planning
permission under the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, for example. These requirements are designed to protect man and the environment, and in
particular waterbodies, from any harmful impacts.

37 Ordinance on the protection of groundwater (Groundwater Ordinance - GrwV) of 9

October 2010 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 1513).
38 Ordinance on Pipeline Installations (Pipeline Ordinance) of 27 September 2002 (Federal
Law Gazette I, page 3777, 3809), most recently amended by Article 23 of the Act of 31
July 2009 (BGBl. I page 2585).


39 Act for protection against harmful soil changes and for remediation of contaminated
sites (Federal Soil Protection Act BBodSchG) of 17 March 1998 (Federal Law Gazette I
p. 502), most recently amended on 9 December 2004 by Article 3 of the Act Amending
the Provisions on the Statute of Limitations in line with the Act to Modernise the Law of
Obligations (Federal Law Gazette I page 3214).
40 Federal Ordinance on Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites (BBodSchV) of 12 July 1999
(Federal Law Gazette I, no. 36, page 1554), most recently amended on 31 July 2009
(Federal Law Gazette I, page 2585).
41 Act on the Environmental Compatibility of Washing and Cleansing Agents (WRMG) in the
version promulgated on 29 April 2007 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 600).
42 Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31
March 2004 on detergents, OJ L 104, page 1, most recently amended on 25 June 2009,
OJ L 164, page 3).

Water Resource Management in Germany

among consumers. In 1995, the criteria for a European eco-label for detergents (Euro-flower) formulated under Germanys leadership were adopted, and
replaced the Blue Environmental Angel for detergents. The Euro-flower has since been extended to
include eco-friendly washing-up liquid, dishwasher
detergents, all-purpose cleansers and sanitizers.

metals, nitrate, organic compounds) and pathogens, as well as the scope and frequency of analysis.
The limit values for these substances correspond to
those in the EC Drinking Water Directive and are
set at a level where no harmful effects are expected
to result from lifelong intake. For organo-chemical
pesticides and insecticides, for example, the maximum concentration is 0.1 g/l. The sum total of
such active ingredients is limited to 0.5 g/l. The
limit for nitrate in drinking water is 50 mg/l.

Infection Protection Act (IfSG)

As a result of the Act concerning the Reorganisation of Legislation on Epidemics (Epidemic Law
Reorganisation Act SeuchRNeuG43), the former
Federal Epidemics Act was superseded by the new
Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious
Diseases in Humans (Infection Protection Act
IfSG). This contains provisions governing the quality
of water for human consumption, water for swimming and bathing pools, and wastewater.

The main requirement governing the quality of

drinking water is that no harm to human health is
to be feared from its consumption or use, especially
as a result of pathogens.

The Act also outlines hygiene requirements governing the disposal of municipal wastewater. Under
these provisions, those responsible for wastewater
disposal, usually local authorities or local authority associations, must take action to ensure that
wastewater is disposed of in such a way that no risk
arises to human health as a result of pathogens.

Drinking Water Ordinance

The Drinking Water Ordinance44 , which also serves

to implement the EC Drinking Water Directive (cf.
Chapter 4.1), was enacted on the basis of the IfSG
and the old Food and Utility Articles Act (LMBG)45.
The Drinking Water Ordinance lays down specific
requirements governing the quality of drinking
water and of water for food factories and drinking
water treatment. The Drinking Water Ordinance
contains provisions governing the properties of
drinking water, the obligations incumbent upon
the operator of a water supply plant, and hygienerelated monitoring of the operator by the health
authorities. The Ordinance also specifies limits for
substances harmful to human health (such as heavy

43 Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases in Humans (IfSG) dated 20
June 2000 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 1045), most recently amended by Article 2a of
the Act of 17 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I page 2091).
44 Ordinance on the Quality of Water for Human Consumption (Drinking Water Ordinance,
TrinkwV) of 21 May 2001 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 959), most recently amended on
31 October 2006 (Federal Law Gazette I page 2407, 2455).
45 Act Concerning the Trade in Foods, Tobacco Products, Cosmetics and Other Utility Articles in the version dated 9 September 1997 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 2296), most
recently amended by the Act to Reform Food and Feedingstuffs Law of 1 September
2005 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 2618), currently: Food and Feedstuffs Code in the
version promulgated on 24 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette) I, page 2205), amended by
the Ordinance of 3 August 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 2630).

Water Resource Management in Germany

Fertilizer Ordinance

The Fertilizer Ordinance46 was adopted on the basis

of the old Fertilizers Act (DMG)47 and is intended
to ensure more effective protection of waterbodies
from (diffuse) contamination, particularly nitrate,
from agricultural sources. The Fertilizer Ordinance
also serves to implement the EC Nitrate Directive.
The Fertilizers Act itself was replaced by the Fertilization Act (DG)48 in early 2009. Fertilizers may only
be used on the basis of good agricultural practice,
which means, inter alia, that the use of fertilizers
in terms of nature, quantity and timing must be
geared to the needs of the plants and the soil, having regard to the nutrients and organic substances
available in the soil and the local and growing conditions.

4.3 Water resources legislation of the Lnder

Despite the Federalism Reform and the new extended Federal Water Act (WHG), the water legislation
of the Lnder (Land water acts, Land wastewater
acts and various legal ordinances) still retains its
importance, because it transposes and supplements
Federal Government legislation. It is currently
impossible to conclusively gauge the extent to
which the Lnder make use of the deviation rights
granted to them under Article 72, para. 3 of the
Basic Law (GG)49 and supersede Federal legislation
with Land law.

The local authorities, within the context of their

powers to adopt by-laws, may also adopt binding
regulations, particularly provisions regulating
connection to municipal water supply and sewage
disposal plants, discharges into their sewage plants
(indirect discharges) and the levying of cost-covering fees.

46 Ordinance on the Principles of Good Agricultural Practice in Fertilization of 26 January

1996 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 118), most recently amended by Article 12 of the
DngeVO of 10 January 2006 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 20).
47 48 Fertilizers Act of 15 November 1977 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 2134).
48 Fertilization Act of 9 January 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 54)
49 Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany of 23 May 1949 (Federal Law Gazette,
page 1), most recently amended by Article 1 of the Act of 29 July 2009 (Federal Law
Gazette I, page 2248)



Under current law in 11 Lnder, a charge is made

for the abstraction of water. The charge is payable
by the party that abstracts the water (groundwater,
and in some cases surface water as well); in the
case of public water supplies this is the supply
utility, which passes the costs on to the consumer.
The purpose of the water abstraction charge is to
reduce water extraction and thereby conserve the
water resources used for this purpose. The water
abstraction charges collected are often used for
water conservation measures. In some Lnder, the
legislation explicitly states that the water abstraction charges must be earmarked for such purposes.
The new Federal Water Act does not contain any
provisions on the water abstraction charge.

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffGroundwater quality is assessed according to

5 Integrated Planning and Management

of Water Resources

qualitative and quantitative criteria.

ffEconomic aspects must be taken into account.

For example, Member States aim to introduce
cost-recovering prices for all water services
(water supply and wastewater disposal), which
incorporate environmental and resource costs,
and must develop effective, cost-efficient measures. In cases where the Member States are
hoping to invoke the exemption clauses provided for in the WFD e.g. to extend the deadlines or to lower the objective, economic considerations likewise play a major role. One
such reason for an exemption would be if it
were possible to prove that achieving the objectives within the envisaged timescale by 2015
would entail disproportionately high costs. To
this end, a State would have to present affordabilty criteria and prepare cost/benefit analyses.

5.1 Conceptual framework, political concepts

Legal structuring was and still is required at various

different levels. The EU plays a leading role in this
respect, by aiming to achieve integrated political
concepts relating to water with a series of directives
(such as the WFD, IPPC Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive).

5.1.1 EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) The concept behind the WFD

In the mid-1990s, the Member States of the EU realized that there was no point in simply amending
and updating the existing EC water directives, most
of which dated back to the 1970s. These directives
were based on individual uses for example, they
formulated requirements governing the protection of shellfish waters, fishing waters, drinking
water extraction and bathing waters, and were not
coordinated with one another. They varied in their
ambitiousness and only ever covered selected subaspects of water protection. Monitoring and reporting requirements were not harmonized with one
another. The EU WFD replaces some of the existing
EC Directives completely, and creates a framework
for others, encompassing new management and
planning elements which are designed to increase
the effectiveness and acceptance of both new and
old regulations.

ffProgrammes of measures and management

plans must be prepared which contain or build
on all the aforementioned elements, and must
be updated at regular intervals (every six
years). This took place for the first time on 22
March 2010 (cf. Chapter

ffThe general public is consulted on the drafting

of the plans.

As such, the WFDs holistic approach is fundamentally different from the integrative approach
adopted by the IE Directive (former IPPC). The IE
Directive aims to achieve cross-media protection of
the environmental media soil, water and air, and
therefore also demands a cross-media assessment
of the environmental impacts of the relevant facilities. By contrast, the WFDs holistic approach, apart
from a few exceptions, refers solely to the environmental medium of water, which is considered in its
entirety, hence the reason for the preferred term
holistic water protection.

For the purposes of German water legislation, a

crucial new feature concerns the detailed management provisions of the WFD, whereby all uses
which affect groundwater and surface waters are
to be aligned with the management objectives.
This also restricts the managerial discretion of the
water authorities, and also entails comprehensive
monitoring duties. Additionally, spatial (regional
planning and zoning) and technical planning (e.g.
with regard to federal water courses and agriculture) must be prepared and interlinked in such a
way that it corresponds to the management plans
based on river basins. The WFDs requirement for
the joint transboundary preparation of the management plan with other riparian countries in the
river basin poses a particular challenge.

The integrative approach of the WFD is expressed

in the following aspects:

ffThe WFD applies to all types of waterbody

within the Community, i.e. rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater.

ffThe WFD also includes conservation of the marine environment, inter alia by aiming to gradually phase out the discharge of priority hazardous substances into marine waters.

ffWaterbodies are to be managed on the basis

of river basins, i.e. from the source to the
mouth with all tributaries, whereby the WFD
puts special emphasis on the transboundary

ffThe waterbody ecology, particularly its biology,

is just as relevant for the quality of surface waters as its chemical and physical properties.
Hydromorphological aspects are likewise taken
into account.

Water Resource Management in Germany

39 Findings from management planning

Following a time-consuming but laudable planning process involving the general public, the
management plans for the 10 river basins relevant
for Germany were duly completed on time by the
competent authorities on 22 December 2009. These
are published on the Internet and accessible to everyone. The status and pollution of German waters
may be summarised as follows:

Most waterbodies today indicate a good chemical

quality. Degradable substances from sewage treatment plant discharges only rarely pose a problem.
In terms of pollutants, the main problems are diffuse sources, substances with poor degradability
even in sewage treatment plants, and pollution
originating from earlier emissions.

It has now become clear that the WFD sets an

ambitious ecological target for surface waters:
The species composition and frequency of occurrence of organisms should deviate only slightly
from the type-specific communities of aquatic life.
At present, only 10 % of surface waters meet this
objective. The principal reasons for failing to meet
this target are the existing structural degradations,
coupled with material contamination with nutrients and pesticides. The aim of achieving a good
balance between groundwater abstraction and
groundwater recharge has been achieved almost
everywhere. By contrast, 37 % of groundwater bodies indicate problems with substances. Nitrate is the
culprit almost everywhere, and in some cases pesticides are also a problem. (More detailed information on waterbody status may be found in Chapters
5.2.1, 5.2.2 and

Throughout all 10 river basins, the main water

management issues that have emerged are as follows:

Member States may deviate from the original

environmental objectives (good ecological status/
potential, good chemical status, good quantitative
status). Most of the exemptions utilised by Germany
are deadline extensions (until 2021 / 2027). Less
stringent environmental objectives are cited as
exceptional circumstances if waterbodies are so
heavily polluted or so extensively morphologically
transformed that an improvement in the status
cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future with
reasonable measures. This exemption applies to
groundwater in mining regions of the Rhine, Maas,
Elbe and Oder river basins, and also for surface
waters in the Weser river basin, where heavy metals have been discharged into smaller waterbodies
from slag heaps, mine pits and abandoned industrial sites.

ffExemptions have been utilised for 82 % of all

bodies of surface water. In other words, only
18 % of surface waterbodies in Germany will
have met the environmental objectives by
2015; to date the figure is 10 %.

ffExemptions have been utilised for 36 % of all

bodies of groundwater. However, 62 % of all
waterbodies already indicate a good status. A
further 2 % of groundwater bodies will achieve
a good status by 2015.

In many cases, natural conditions were cited as the

justification for utilising exemptions. This means
that measures often take a long time to develop
their full effect in waterbodies and biotic communities until success becomes measurable. The water
residence time in porous groundwater aquifers is
relatively long, and as a result, measures to reduce
nutrient concentrations will only take effect with a

Figure 10: Achievement of objectives by 2015 and

utilisation of exemptions in Germany

ffReducing discharges of nutrients and selected

Groundwater bodies

pollutants from diffuse and a few remaining

point sources into surface waters and groundwater.

36 %

ffImproving the hydromorphology (e.g. the

quality of the waterbed, bank reinforcement,
water balance) in surface waters and recreating passability for fish fauna in particular.

A number of other specific regional water management issues have also been identified in selected
river basins, for example pollution associated with

62 %


Objective achievement now

Environmental objectives and exemptions


The environmental objectives for waterbodies are

set out in Article 4 of the WFD. In justified cases,

Objective achievement scheduled for 2015

Exemption under Article 4

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany

considerable delay. The same applies to the recolonisation and colonisation of waterbodies that have
undergone renaturation. Lack of technical feasibility is another reason cited with similar frequency.
A third reason is the disproportionately high costs,
but this is only cited comparatively rarely in the
case of river basins.

Figure 12: Coordination areas with measures for


Measures and funding



Measures are planned for every waterbody. In view

of the large number of waterbodies, these have
been combined into larger units: Surface waters
into 225 planning units, and groundwater into 41
coordination areas.

In the case of groundwater, measures to reduce

substance discharges from agriculture are planned
in almost all coordination areas. The conceptual
measures here include the preparation of subsidy
programmes and advice for farmers.

Measures to minimise pollution cannot be implemented unless there are adequate financial resources available. In Germany, the costs tend to be
met primarily from taxes, fees and levies. The main

No. of coordination areas with measures

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

other sources of finance are the European Union,

Federal Government, Lnder and local authorities
with various funds and subsidies, such as the EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and the GAK (Joint Task for the Improvement
of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection).

On the basis of the UN-ECE PRTR Protocol signed

on 21 May 2003, Germany undertook to establish
and operate a national Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. EU Regulation (EC) No. 166/2006 of 18
January 2006 concerning the establishment of a
European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register
was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4 February 2006. The EU Regulation
regulates the reporting requirements and supply
of data to the EU for a European Pollutant Register.
According to the EU Regulation, 2007 was the first
reporting year for operators. The national legislation comprises an Act implementing the aforementioned PRTR Protocol and Regulation (EC) No.
166/2006, abbreviated to the SchadRegProtAG.
This Act was published on 12 June 2007.

The aim of the PRTR is to provide the general

public, industry, academia, non-government organisations and other decision-makers with access to
environmental information, and to ensure greater
transparency of environmental information.

Surface waters








No. of planning units with measures

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany


industrial sites


Fisheries management

Mixed and
precipitation sewage


Local authorities/



Morphology and other


No. of planning units

To date, the cost of implementing the measures

in Germany during the first management period,
2009 to 2015, have been estimated at 9.4 billion
Euros, corresponding to 20 per inhabitant, per
year, to protect our waters.

5.1.2 Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR)

Figure 11: Planning units with measures for surface waters



No. of coordination areas




According to the pressures and significant water

management issues, measures in the areas of local
authorities/households, hydromorphology, agriculture and passability (Figure 11) are planned
for virtually all surface water planning units. Conceptual measures of an administrative, economic or
informative nature are also often included (advising
farmers etc.). Measures relating to industry and
mining (both also include the remediation of
residual pollution and abandoned industrial sites)
and fisheries management, on the other hand,
tend to have only regional significance.

Residual pollution


The E-PRTR Regulation stipulates that the PRTR

should contain information on releases into the
air, water and land and on off-site transfers of pollutants in wastewater and the off-site transfers of
hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Operators
of facilities in which one or more of the activities
listed in Annex I of the E-PRTR Regulation are performed and which exceed the capacity thresholds
listed in Annex I of the E-PRTR Regulation are
subject to reporting requirements. The operators
report annually to the competent authorities on the
relevant releases into air, water and land and on
off-site transfers of pollutants in wastewater and of

Reporting occurs on an annual basis. 16 months

after the end of the reporting year, the data is
published on the Internet (
European-wide PRTR may be found in the European
PRTR Register at

For the first PRTR data collection in Germany in

2007, information was collated from more than
4,295 facilities whose industrial activities exceed
certain annual loads. Figure 13 illustrates the distribution of PRTR facilities among the various compartments.

In more than 1,280 cases, for example, the threshold limits for air pollutants were exceeded. The
bulk of reports originated from intensive livestock
production (installations for the intensive farming
or rearing of poultry, pigs or sows), with just under
300 PRTR facilities, where predominantly excess
levels of NH3 emissions (ammonia) were recorded.

Figure 13: Distribution of PRTR facilities among the

various compartments

For the first PRTR report (reference year 2007), a

total of 399 PRTR facilities reported releases into
water. The majority of PRTR facilities (207) originated from the Waste and wastewater management
sector. A total of 422 PRTR facilities reported the
off-site transfer of pollutants contained in wastewater into external wastewater treatment plants.
The majority of reports originated from the chemical industry.

The PRTR also provides information on the hazardous and non-hazardous waste disposed of by the
facilities. Here, a distinction is made between the
disposal and recovery of waste. If > 2t/a of hazardous waste is transported to other countries, the
operator must give details on name and address
of the recoverer/disposer of the waste, and the address of actual disposal/recovery site receiving the
transfer abroad.

A total of 3,079 PRTR facilities reported the off-site

transfer of hazardous waste, the largest number
being from the metals industry (910); the waste and
wastewater management sector accounted for a
similar volume, with reports from 810 PRTR facilities.

The off-site transfer of non-hazardous waste was

reported by a significantly smaller number of PRTR
facilities (a total of 1,555). The waste and wastewater management sector (729) accounted for the
bulk of these.

Figure 14: Distribution of PRTR facilities among the

various industries


No. of PRTR facilities


Waste and wastewater



Metal industry
Chemical industry



Intensive animal husbandry

and aquaculture
Other sectors of industry


Energy sector



Food and drinks sector

Mineral processing industry

into air

into water

Transfers of Transfers of Transfers of

wastewater hazardous non-hazardous

Source: Federal Environment Agency, 2010


Paper and wood industry

0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Source: Federal Environment Agency, 2010

No. of facilities

Water Resource Management in Germany

5.1.3 European marine environmental policy

Within the context of implementing the 6th Environmental Action Programme, on 24 October 2005
the European Commission presented a Thematic
Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the
Marine Environment. This Strategy is designed to
advance the integrated approach to the protection
of the marine environment at European level and
rectify deficits in the European marine environmental policy. The strategy is aimed at a comprehensive, targeted and consistent European-wide marine
environmental policy based on the ecosystem
approach, which aims to integrate all policy areas.
At the heart of the strategy is the Marine Strategy
Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC of the
European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June
2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy),
which entered into force on 15 July 200851.
The thematic strategy and the Marine Strategy
Framework Directive (MSFD) represent the environmental pillar of the integrated European maritime
policy. The overarching objective of the Directive
is to achieve or maintain a good environmental
status throughout all European seas by 2020. This is
defined as the the environmental status of marine
waters where these provide ecologically diverse and
dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy
and productive within their intrinsic conditions,
and the use of the marine environment is at a level
that is sustainable, thus safeguarding the potential
for uses and activities by current and future generations. This is to be achieved on the basis of the
ecosystem approach, i.e. all the principal elements
of marine ecosystems are to be evaluated and
protected in their entirety and in their reciprocal
interactions. As such, an holistic approach is being
applied for the first time which also includes the
cumulative effects of human impacts on the seas.
The management units for application of the MSFD
are the North-East Atlantic (including the North
Sea), Baltic Sea, Mediterranean and Black Sea.
Europes littoral states are required to develop regional marine strategies and national action plans
for their marine waters within the marine regions
in active cooperation with the other Member States
in these regions and third countries (neighbouring
countries who are not members of the EU but who
border the marine region or lie within its catchment area), in order to achieve the environmental
objectives and the overall objective of a good environmental status by means of suitable programmes
of measures. Figure 15 shows the implementation
timetable for the MSFD.

51 Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008
establishing a framework for Community action in the field of marine environmental
policy, OJ No. L 164, page 19 ff

Water Resource Management in Germany

05 WaWi_Teil01_Integrierte Planung_engl_RZ.indd 43

Figure 15: Timescale for implementing the MSFD

of measures

2020 status
Guter Zustand
erreicht ? !

of monitoring

2010 2010
in nationales


Richtlinie tritt in
Kraft enters into

Bewertung des
of environmental
(updated every 6 years)

(Aktualisierung alle 6 Jahre)

Erstellung von
Drafting of programmes
Manahmeof measures
Initial assessment guten Umweltzustands
& Festlegung
von Umweltzielen
of good

and definition of environmental objectives

and indicators

Source: Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Elements of the required regional marine strategies

already exist within the context of the existing marine conventions. Another new feature at European
level is the explicit requirement to cooperate on a
transboundary basis and to utilise existing institutional structures, i.e. existing regional cooperation
arrangements. Work on this aspect is currently
underway at OSPAR and HELCOM.

One important aspect of the Directive is the setting of environmental objectives. Environmental
objectives are qualitative or quantitative statements
on the desired status of the various components,
and on admissible impacts and impairments of the
marine waters in a marine region. Taken together,
these should serve the overarching objective of
achieving good environmental status. Whilst the
WFD contains extensive and detailed provisions
governing the quality components to be measured
and the assessment thereof, the MSFD gives Member States considerably more freedom. It prescribes
11 so-called descriptors which must be used to define and assess a good environmental status. It also
lists features and pressures/impacts to flesh out the

One possible weakness of the MSFD is that the

Member States have little influence over major pressures on the marine ecosystems originating from
fishing (overfishing) and agriculture (nutrients from
over-fertilisation, hazardous substances from the
application of pesticides and animal pharmaceuticals). These sectors are Community tasks, and can
only be influenced by the Member States by means
of initiatives to the Commission by one or more
Member States. Added to this is the fact that both
of these policy areas are highly controversial in
the EU, and are seen by certain individual Member
States as a top political priority, ultimately to the
detriment of marine conservation. This makes it

03.03.11 16:32

difficult to coordinate measures in the EU to reduce

adverse impacts e.g. from fishing.

ffdue to the absence of sunlight, there is no

At European level, the EU Commission has presented a decision that determines criteria and indicators for the 11 descriptors, designed to provide
Member States with a framework for defining good
environmental status (Commission Decision of 1
September 2010 on criteria and methodological
standards on good environmental status of marine
waters (2010/477/EU)). In Germany, the Federal Government and coastal Lnder are currently working
together to draft the foundations for an initial assessment, including an analysis of the current environmental status and identification of key pressures
and their impacts. An economic and social analysis
of the use of waters and the costs of potential deterioration are also needed. In implementing the
WFD, it has been found that the main foundations
for standardization are laid in an international context and not prescribed by the Directive itself.

ffthere is generally a severe shortage of nutri-

photosynthesis, i.e. organic matter and oxygen

are brought in almost exclusively from outside

ffthe covering layers of soil provide a buffer

against climatic influences, so that the temperature remains constant at approximately
811 C.

Only a few highly specialized groups of organisms

colonize the upper layers of groundwater. As the
depth increases, life declines. Due to the large spec-

Figure 16: The microbial community in groundwater

ecosystems: (a, b) Bacteria (0.53 m), (c) heterotrophic
nanoflagellate (5 m), (d) amoeba (30 m),
(4) peritrichous ciliate (25 m) grazing on an aggregate
of bacteria (a, d phase contrast images; b, c, e fluorescence microscopy images; e graphically reworked)

A number of trends are currently apparent at European level with regard to the definition of a good
environmental status. While some Member States
are keen to set very ambitious objectives for this
status, others are content to equate a good environmental status with the status quo. As the MSFD
allows broad interpretative scope in this regard, the
debate remains unresolved.

5.2 Protecting water resources and aquatic

5.2.1 Groundwater An important habitat and part of the
hydrological cycle

Groundwater resources close to the surface supply

plants with water and create valuable wetland biotopes. Groundwater comes to the surface in springs,
and feeds streams and rivers. The quality and quantity of groundwater therefore influences the surface
waters as well. Around 70 % of our drinking water
comes from groundwater, making it Germanys
most important drinking water resource.

However, groundwater is also a habitat in its own

right with extensive biological diversity. Living conditions are determined by a number of abiotic factors which make groundwater a unique ecosystem:

ffonly very small organisms live within the spatial confines of the interstitial system of
groundwater aquifers,


Photographs: C. Griebler and K. Euringer, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Institut fr

Grundwasserkologie (Institute of Groundwater Ecology)

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffBy providing purification and storage services,

Figure 17: Microscopic, translucent groundwater fauna:

the woodlouse (Caecospheroma burgundum)

they safeguard our drinking water and service

water supply and facilitate the technical uses
of groundwater e.g. by geothermal installations.

ffMicrobiological degradation and conversion

processes enrich the water with salts and trace
elements, which we then use as mineral water
or curative waters.

ffThe quality and volume of groundwater influences the status of land ecosystems and watercourses that rely on groundwater, through to
coastal and marine regions and the fertility of
agricultural and forestry sites.

ffOrganisms in groundwater stabilise the water

balance during periods of both drought and
flood by emitting water to surrounding systems and absorbing surplus moisture.

Photograph: Karsten Grabow, PH Karlsruhe and Andreas Fuchs, Landau University

ffAs a habitat for specialised organisms and

trum of species within these groups, however, the

biological diversity is astonishing. Apart from multicellular groundwater animals (metazoa), microorganisms (bacteria, aquatic fungi and monocellular
organisms) make up the bulk of the biomass.

The organisms have adapted to the extreme conditions in a variety of ways. Microorganisms may be
independently mobile or attached to microscopic
solid particles. They have adapted to low nutrient
concentrations with low growth and metabolic
rates. They are characterized by their ability to
react quickly to changes in the system, such as an
increased supply of nutrients. Groundwater quality

Groundwater animals also tend to be microscopically small and elongated to enable them to live in
the cavities in the groundwater aquifers. Eyeless,
with no body pigments and equipped with plenty
of sensory organs, they are adapted to darkness and
a lack of nutrients as well as to a reduced metabolism and slower life and reproductive cycles.

Hydrological, physical and geochemical influences

control the sensitive equilibrium of the biosphere.
The activities and functions of individual organisms
are also closely coordinated with one another. They
influence the substance and energy flows and permeability of the interstitial systems, and contribute
to the quality of the groundwater via the degradation of pollutants and purification services. In this
way, groundwater organisms contribute a significant portion of the so-called ecosystem services of
groundwater systems. The term ecosystem services
covers all the natural processes occurring in a system without any human intervention. The broad
spectrum of services in groundwater ecosystems
creates the foundations for many areas of life:

Water Resource Management in Germany

home to a broad spectrum of species, it makes

an important contribution to the biological
diversity of waterbodies.

If the sensitive groundwater environment is disturbed, this will adversely affect the performance
of groundwater organisms, and ultimately also the
quality of underground waterbodies. In order to
permanently preserve the services and functions of
groundwater organisms, we must protect groundwater from adverse anthropogenic influences.

Apart from regional exceptions, there are no

problems in terms of the volume of groundwater
in Germany. However, the quality of groundwater
is a different matter. In the past, groundwater was
regarded as well-protected from anthropogenic pollution compared with surface waters. However, this
assumption overestimates the cleansing and retention capacity of the overlying soil layers. The systematic monitoring of groundwater quality by the
Lnder reveals that the good status of our groundwater is under threat in many locations. A substantial number of groundwater monitoring sites have
recorded anthropogenic substance discharges and
significant degrees of contamination in some cases.
In addition to point sources such as legacy sites, old
deposits, accidents involving substances hazardous
to water or leaks in sewers, groundwater is polluted
or at risk primarily from diffuse inputs from agriculture, industry, and transport.

Groundwater monitoring

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the monitoring

of groundwater quality is the responsibility of the
Lnder. The aims of groundwater monitoring are:


ffTo promptly detect any adverse changes in


ffTo develop targeted remediation and minimisation strategies depending on the causes of
pollution, and

ffTo assess the effectiveness of such protective


To this end, in recent decades, the Lnder have developed various groundwater monitoring networks.

Groundwater monitoring networks to implement the Water

Framework Directive:

A surveillance monitoring network and an operational monitoring network have been established in
order to assess the chemical status of groundwater. Surveillance monitoring similar to that used
for surface waters must take place at least once
per management cycle, whereas for operational
monitoring, measurements are carried out once a
Additionally, a monitoring network has been set
up to monitor the quantitative status of groundwater with the aim of identifying short-term and
long-term fluctuations caused by groundwater
recharge, groundwater abstraction or discharges.
The monitoring network should also be designed in
such a way that it is capable of identifying natural
changes in water volume (e.g. as a result of climate

The majority of monitoring sites were designed to

measure the quantitative status of groundwater
(volume measurement network 6,800), followed by
the surveillance monitoring network (5,500) and
the operational monitoring network (4,000). Some
of these monitoring sites are multi-functional, i.e.
they serve as both surveillance, operational and/or
quantitative monitoring sites. For the quantitative
monitoring network, the average density of monitoring sites in Germany is 25 measuring sites per
1,000 km2.

Groundwater monitoring networks for reporting to the EU

In addition to the various monitoring networks

devised for the requirements of specific Lnder, two
national networks have now also been created (Figure 19). As a rule, these draw on existing monitoring
sites in the Lnder networks.

Both networks supply the data basis for reports by

the Federal Republic of Germany to the European
Union (EU) and the European Environment Agency

The EEA monitoring network (red)

This monitoring network supplies the essential data for
Germanys reporting to the EEA in Copenhagen.
It is intended to be a representative monitoring
network providing an overview of groundwater
quality throughout the whole of Germany, and was
compiled using the following criteria:

Figure 18: Groundwater monitoring sites in Germany

ffThe Lnder have stipulated that it should be

comprised of approximately 800 monitoring

ffThese monitoring sites should be evenly distributed throughout the entire territory of the
Federal Republic of Germany, and

ffShould be located primarily in the uppermost

main groundwater aquifers.

The Lnder supply the Federal Environment Agency

with the monitoring results from this network on
an annual basis. At the end of each year, the Federal Environment Agency compiles the data from
the Lnder in accordance with the requirements of
the EEA and submits it to Copenhagen.

The EU nitrate monitoring network (blue)

Surveillance monitoring
Operational monitoring
Investigative monitoring

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010


This monitoring network was devised by the Lnder

with the sole purpose of fulfilling the specific monitoring requirements of the EC Nitrate Directive. Under the 1991 Nitrate Directive, Member States are
required to carry out action programs to minimise
water pollution caused by nitrate from agricultural
sources. The monitoring data is intended to demonstrate how the action programmes have affected

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 19: Monitoring sites in the EEA monitoring network (red) and the EU nitrate monitoring network (blue)

Source: Federal Environment Agency

groundwater quality. Reports must be prepared

every four years and submitted to the European
Commission. The following criteria apply to the
selection of monitoring sites:

area, i.e. they should demonstrate the impacts

of diffuse substance inputs.

ffThe monitoring sites should be in the groundwater aquifer close to the surface. Analysis focuses primarily on the uppermost aquifer.

ffThe monitoring sites should indicate significantly elevated nitrate levels (>50 mg/l, but at
least >25 mg/l NO3).

ffThe elevated nitrate levels must be clearly

traceable to agricultural sources.

ffThe selected monitoring sites should be representative of the largest possible catchment

Water Resource Management in Germany

The monitoring network comprises around 180

sites from which samples are generally taken two
to four times each year. The nitrate monitoring
network selectively records groundwater pollution
in contaminated areas, and unlike the EEA monitoring network, is not representative of groundwater
pollution in Germany.

Status of groundwater

Damage to the groundwater is not usually immediately apparent. Remediation is, if at all, only
possible at great expense in terms of financial
and technical resources, and is a lengthy process.


Rigorous application of the precautionary principle is therefore of paramount importance. This

also necessitates systematic, regular monitoring of
groundwater, which facilitates early identification
of threats to the groundwater, allowing suitable
action to be taken in good time. In view of its important ecological functions, nationwide protection
of the groundwater is essential, as laid down in the
Federal Water Act (WHG). Additionally, the Lnder
may designate water protection areas, and in these
areas may impose additional conditions to protect
the groundwater. In addition to the WHG, the EC
WFD and the Groundwater Directive (2006/118/
EC) are also decisive for groundwater protection.
The WFD requires Member States to achieve a
good quantitative status and a good chemical status in all bodies of groundwater by 2015. A good
quantitative status means that there is a balance
between groundwater abstraction and groundwater
recharge. The term good chemical status is defined
in the Groundwater Directive in the form of quality objectives and threshold values. The Directive
specifies uniform European-wide quality standards
for nitrate (50 mg/l) and pesticides (0.1 g/l). Additionally, the Member States must specify threshold
values for the parameters/substances which have
led to the groundwater bodys risk classification
following analysis in accordance with Article 4 of
the WFD. However, a minimum set of parameters
has already been prescribed. In addition to classifying the groundwater bodys status, the Directive
also outlines provisions for the identification, assessment and treatment of rising pollution trends and
for limiting and preventing the entry of pollutants
into groundwater.


The first assessment of groundwater status in accordance with the provisions of the WFD occurred
within the context of an analysis in 2004. Over the
years that followed, further selective studies and
evaluations of the quantitative and chemical status
of groundwater were carried out. This has recently
revealed that around 96 % of all assessed bodies of
groundwater now exhibit a good quantitative status. The situation with regard to chemical status is
rather different: Around 63 % of assessed bodies of
water currently exhibit a good chemical status (Figure 20). Overall, 62 % of groundwater bodies achieve
a good status
Quantitative problems can arise, for example, in
conjunction with mining activities, particularly
open-cast lignite mines and salt mines. In such
regions, the groundwater level has often been lowered significantly over a period of several decades.
Even after mining has been discontinued, it will
take several decades for the groundwater to return
to its natural level. In regions where salt is mined
on a large scale, there is an increased occurrence
of man-made salt intrusions, which will lead to the
affected body of groundwater being classified as

Figure 20: Quantitative and chemical status of

groundwater in Germany

100 %

80 %

60 %

40 %

20 %

Quantitative status

Chemical status

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

having a poor status. Here too, it is likely to take a

long time for the body of groundwater to return to
its natural condition and achieve a good status.

A poor chemical status of groundwater bodies

(Figure 22) is primarily attributable to increased discharges of nitrate on intensively farmed land. Nitrate enters the ground water via seepage through
the soil, leading to high concentrations of nitrogen
above the quality standard of 50 mg/l specified in
the EC Groundwater Directive.

Nitrate levels in groundwater

For decades, there have been reports on the contamination of groundwater with nitrate. This observation is of particular importance because drinking
water in Germany is extracted predominantly from
groundwater, and drinking water is subject to a
nitrate limit of 50 mg/l. Groundwater with higher
nitrate levels must be processed in a time-consuming, costly operation before it may be used as drinking water. Elevated nitrate levels in groundwater
are also critical for surface waters, and particularly
for the North and Baltic Seas. A surplus supply of
this nutrient leads to eutrophication, because part
of the nitrogen enters the rivers as nitrate from

Based on the new EEA groundwater monitoring

network, the following picture has emerged regarding the pollution of groundwater with nitrate in

Half of all monitoring sites indicate nitrate concentrations of between 0 and 10 mg/l and are
therefore not polluted at all, or only minimally.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 21: Quantitative status of groundwater bodies in Germany

Land capital

Groundwater body

Federal capital


River basin


Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany


Figure 22: Chemical status of groundwater bodies in Germany

Land capital

Groundwater body

Federal capital


River basin


Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010


Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 23: Overview of nitrate levels in groundwater in

the Federal Republic of Germany, 2008

Figure 24: Frequency distributions of pesticide findings

in monitoring sites close to the surface in Germanys
groundwater, 1990 to 1995, 1996 to 2000, 2001 to 2005
and 2006 to 2008


82.6 %


78.6 %

80 %

72.4 %


rel. frequency [%] (monitoring sites)

Share in %


90 %

No. of monitoring sites








> 110

> 1025

> 2550

> 5090

> 90

60 %
50 %
40 %
30 %

19.0 % 18.5 %

20 %

16.1 %

Nitrate classes in mg/l nitrate

The causes of the much-debated pesticide findings

in groundwater include intensive land use by farmers, particularly the cultivation of special cultivars
with a comparatively high level of pesticide use, the
use of herbicides on uncultivated land, and inputs
from surface watercourses.

At irregular intervals, LAWA, in collaboration with

the UBA, publishes a summarising report on the
pollution of groundwater with pesticides. The 3rd
LAWA Pesticide Report is currently under preparation, and is due for publication at the end of 2010.
According to the latest data from the Lnder, the
number of monitoring sites where the pesticide
limit of 0.1 ug/l is exceeded was reduced significantly during the period from 1990 to 2008 (Figure
24). However, it was also found that the decrease in
groundwater pollution is primarily attributable to
reduced findings of atrazine, desethylatrazine and
several other active ingredients and metabolites,
the use of which has already been banned for years
or even decades.

Water Resource Management in Germany

1.1 %

4.5 %

0.7 %

3.8 %


Pesticide findings in groundwater

8.6 %
7.9 %

12.8 %

10 %
Source: Federal Environment Agency

In around 36 % of monitoring sites, the nitrate

level is between 10 and 50 mg/l. In such cases, the
groundwater is significantly to heavily polluted
with nitrate. Just under 15 % of monitoring sites
are so heavily polluted with nitrate that the water
cannot be used for drinking water abstraction
without further treatment, because the limit under
the Drinking Water Ordinance of 50 mg/l would be
exceeded, in some cases significantly. For details of
the causes of discharges, please refer to Chapter 6.6.1
Water pollution from agriculture.

71.7 %

70 %

0.8 %
0.8 %

< = 0.1 g/l

> 0.1 1.0 g/l

> 1.0 g/l

1996 1995
2006 2005

Source: Data from the Lnder

Whereas in the period 1990 to 1995, some 9.7 % of

all analysed monitoring sites in groundwater close
to the surface still exceeded the limit of 0.1 ug/l,
this figure had fallen to 4.6 % in the period 2006 to

The reasons for the overall reduction in the frequency of pesticide findings in groundwater are attributable to the fact that certain active ingredients
and their metabolites (e.g. atrazine and desethylatrazine) are no longer licensed. The licensing procedures for pesticides, and in particular, bans and
restrictions on the use of critical active ingredients,
have been successful in achieving a substantial
reduction in the overall pollution of groundwater
with pesticides over the past 20 years.

In order to ascertain which active ingredients

and degradation products of pesticides are most
frequently responsible for the contamination of
groundwater, each year the Federal Environment
Agency evaluates the measurement results supplied
by the Lnder. The results of the current evaluation
for 2008 are shown in Table 5.

More detailed information on the status of groundwater bodies in Germany, particularly chemical
status, can be found in Chapter 4, in Water resources
management in Germany - Part 2.


Table 5: Overview of pesticide active substances and pesticide degradation products (metabolites) most frequently
responsible for the contamination of groundwater; analysis results 2008
No. of monitoring sites

Active substance/metabolite

No. of
Federal Lnder52

Max. measurement per monitoring site



Of which
> 0.1 g/l

As a %

Desethylatrazine *






Atrazine *






Bromacil *
















1,2-Dichloropropane *






Diuron *










Simazine *

















Ethidimuron *





Hexazinone *











Propazine *








Prometryn *




















* Active substance which was not licensed in the year in question, or metabolites thereof; cursive: metabolites.
Source: Federal Environment Agency, 2010


Inland waters52

Inland surface waters are likewise affected by multiple uses such as sewage discharges, inputs from
agriculture or as a result of morphological alterations to the banks and riverbed. Surface waters are
regularly analysed to check for pressure and assess
the impacts. The purpose of this water quality
monitoring is to

Under the WFD, monitoring has now been completely
redesigned. For surface waters, the WFD distinguishes between three different types of monitoring:

ffSurveillance monitoring
ffOperational monitoring and
ffInvestigative monitoring.

ffidentify the impacts of anthropogenic influences on aquatic ecosystems,

ffdocument the current status of pressure on

water quality,

ffdetermine the effectiveness of water protection measures on the basis of quality data,

ffprevent potential danger to human health.

52 The column No. of Lnder indicates the number of Lnder that performed tests for
the relevant active ingredient/metabolite in the groundwater.


Surveillance monitoring ensures an evaluation

of the overall status in any catchment area or
sub-catchment area of a river basin district and
provides an insight into long-term changes. The
Lnder in Germany have defined just under 400
monitoring sites for this form of monitoring. The
monitoring network is relatively wide-meshed, but
the catchment area per monitoring site must not
exceed 2,500 square kilometres. Most of the monitoring sites have been set up in the main flows of

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 25: Monitoring sites in surface waters in Germany

toring site every 20 kilometres. Strategic monitoring analyses those quality elements which respond
most sensitively to pressures in the waterbodies
under evaluation. In Germany, the operational
monitoring sites are analysed at least once a year;
21% are sampled and evaluated monthly, and 2 %

Investigative monitoring becomes necessary if

the reasons for a high level of water pollution are
unknown, or in order to determine the scale and
impacts of unintentional contamination. It is also
used in the event of incidents with unforeseen pollutant discharges or sudden fish mortality in waterbodies. There are currently a relatively low number
of monitoring sites (375) in river basins.

Ecological status

The WFD provides for a comparable European-wide

method for determining the ecological and chemical quality of surface waters. In the case of surface
waters, it distinguishes between ecological and
chemical status. The overall status of surface waters
is determined from the worst of these two values
in other words, in order for a surface waterbody to
be classified as good, both the ecological status
and the chemical must be at least good.

Ecological water quality is defined primarily via the

biology, since the composition of the aquatic community in a given water type reflects the entirety
of all influencing factors and disturbance variables.
The biological assessment is supplemented by environmental quality standards for river basin-specific
synthetic and non-synthetic pollutants, where these
are not already on the valid European-wide list
of priority and priority hazardous substances for
the evaluation of chemical status (Annex X), and
by general physico-chemical parameters such as
temperature, oxygen and nutrients. When assessing
a very good ecological status, the so-called hydromorphological quality elements should additionally
be taken into account. The results of the ecological
assessment are graded in a 5-stage classification

Surveillance monitoring
Operational monitoring
Investigative monitoring

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

the major rivers and the mouths of major tributaries.

Overview monitoring sites usually measure all

quality elements, i.e. biological, hydromorphological and physico-chemical elements. The latter
also includes river basin-specific pollutants and
substances for classifying the chemical waterbody
status if discharged into the respective waterbody.

Operational monitoring serves to monitor the status of those waterbodies that do not or might not
meet the environmental objectives. Hence it is also
a tool for monitoring the success of any measures
implemented. To this end, the Lnder in Germany
have specified a total of 7,855 monitoring sites in
surface waters, and operational monitoring therefore constitutes the main focus of surface water
monitoring. On average, watercourses have a moni-

Table 6: Overview of the number of monitoring sites for the various monitoring types and waterbody categories
among surface waters in Germany
Monitoring type



Transitional waters

Coastal waters

Surveillance monitoring




Operational monitoring






Investigative monitoring

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 January 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany


The WFD imposes much farther-reaching requirements on biological status classification compared
with current practices. By describing the status of
species communities of fauna and flora in rivers,
lakes, transitional and coastal waterbodies, it aims
to characterize the ecological status of a waterbody in the totality of all anthropogenic pressures.
Waterbody type-specific reference conditions were
defined as the reference scale for assessment, which
are derived from the biological, physico-chemical
and hydromorphological properties of the respective waterbody type. Based on the degree of deviation from these reference conditions, the ecological
status class is assessed.

If watercourses in Germany fail to achieve a good

ecological status, this is generally due to a radical change in the hydromorphology and excessive
nutrient loads. In the case of lakes, transitional and
coastal waters, increased nutrient discharges are
usually the main reason for failing to meet the objective.

Below, we outline the development in the nutrient

loads of our major rivers:

Figure 26: Ecological and chemical status of surface

waters in Germany

Assessment procedures are now available for all the

biological quality elements required by the WFD
(macrozoobenthos, macrophytes/phytobenthos, fish
fauna, phytoplankton, macroalgae/angiosperm).
As the organism groups prescribed for assessment
purposes have different habitat requirements and
indication properties, it can be assumed that the
effects of individual pressures, which may be highly
complex, will be determined far more effectively in
future via the biology.
Heavily modified and artificial waters are distinguished from natural waterbodies. These were
either created artificially (e.g. a canal), or else
their structure has been modified so extensively
that a good ecological status can no longer be
achieved without significantly impairing a longterm, economically significant water use that cannot be achieved by other means. For such waters,
an equally ambitious environmental objective of
a good ecological potential has been defined,
which requires improvements to be made to the
hydromorphological pressures without impairing
water uses. However, chemical status applies in exactly the same way as for natural waterbodies. The
status of artificial or heavily modified waterbodies
is considered good if the ecological potential and
chemical status are both rated good.

100 %

80 %

60 %



Not good

20 %

Very good

Ecological status/potential

Chemical status

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010

Throughout all major rivers, total phosphorous concentrations have decreased significantly over the
period 1982-2008. A small decrease has also been
observed for nitrate nitrogen concentrations. The
biggest problem for lakes continues to be the excessive inputs of nutrients and the resulting eutrophication. As nutrients are stored in the sediment
of standing water and may be re-released under
certain conditions, lakes only respond very slowly
to a reduction in nutrient inputs. One example of
successful nutrient reduction is Lake Constance,
whose eutrophication in the 1950s to 1980s has
been halted, and for the most part reversed, thanks
to international efforts.

53 This summary does not distinguish between ecological status and potencial; for simplification purposes, both are referred to as ecological status



40 %

The following diagram illustrates the ecological

status of surface waters (rivers, lakes, transitional
and coastal waters) in Germany in 2009:53

There are some 9,900 bodies of surface water. 37% of them

have been designated heavily modified, and 15 % as artificial. 10 % of all waterbodies achieve a very good or good
ecological status53. 87 % of surface waters are assessed as
moderate (30%), unsatisfactory (34%) and poor (23%). A
small proportion of surface waterbodies (3%) have not yet
been evaluated (unclear).


The assessment of oxygen conditions in watercourses in Germany now occurs within the
framework of ecological status monitoring. In the
past, organic pressures were determined according to the Saprobic System, the results of which
have been published every five years since 1975
by LAWA in the form of a biological water quality
map. The Saprobic System uses macrozoobenthos (=
invertebrates visible to the naked eye which live on
or in the river bed) to describe the oxygen balance
of a watercourse. This is decisively affected by organic pollutants that can be biodegraded, causing

Water Resource Management in Germany

Table 7: Biological quality classication Proportion of river kilometres in the waterbody network approx. 30,000 km
Quality class



unpolluted to slightly polluted



slightly polluted



moderately polluted



critically polluted



heavily polluted




very heavily polluted




excessively polluted




Degree of pollution

Source: Compiled by the Federal Environmental Agency from data supplied by LAWA

Observations of the biotic communities and oxygen

balance in waterbodies have been recorded since
at least the beginning of the last century. Figure 29
illustrates the conditions in the German sections
of the Rhine and Elbe rivers. According to species
lists from various authors, in the early 20th century
the Rhine was inhabited by some 165 species of
macrozoobenthos, while in around 1930 the Elbe
was inhabited by around 120 species. As wastewater
pollution increased and oxygen levels fell, the numbers of species have declined dramatically since
the mid-1950s. The aquatic insect species (mayflies,
stoneflies and caddis flies) have been particularly
hard-hit by this development. By 1971, only 5
species out of a total of more than 100 remained
in the Rhine, and in the Elbe only a few more.
Improved oxygen conditions associated with the
construction of industrial and municipal sewage
treatment plants in the Rhine led to a turnaround
from the mid-1970s onwards, while in the Elbe the
situation did not improve until after German reunification in the early 1990s. Some of the characteristic river species that had been considered extinct or
heavily decimated have now returned, but a large
number of typical species remain absent, no doubt
partly due to the fact that their habitats no longer
exist due to structural impoverishment. Additionally, large numbers of non-native and ubiquitous
species (species with a high degree of adaptability)
which are better able to withstand anthropogenic

Water Resource Management in Germany

The morphological changes of watercourses are recorded directly for an assessment of structural waterbody quality. The reference (class 1) represents
the potential natural status, i.e. the status which
would occur if current uses and obstructions were
to be reversed. Under these conditions, the typespecific biota would be present in their entirety
(reference status). The further stages from slightly
modified (class 2) to completely modified (class 7)
characterize the degree of anthropogenic structural
changes. Under these conditions, different biotic
communities from the reference status will emerge.
As shown by the 2001 morphological water structure map prepared by LAWA in collaboration with

Figure 27: Total phosphorous concentration in Lake

Constance (Upper Lake) during the intermixing period
Lake Constance

Total P (g/l)

influences such as increased water temperatures,

structural measures and water constituents, have
now become established54.




oxygen depletion. A comparison of the biological

water quality maps for 1975 to 2000 shows that
the measures taken since the 1970s to improve and
extend wastewater treatment are now reflected in
a marked improvement in the oxygen balance. The
proportion of mapped watercourses with quality
class II or above has increased from 47 % in 1995
to 65 % in 2000. The overall length of the mapped
rivers is approximately 30,000 km (Table 7).

Source: International Commission for the Protection of the Waters of Lake

54 Schll, F. (2009a): Rhein-Messprogramm Biologie 2006/2007, Teil II-D, Das Makrozoobenthos des Rheins 2006/2007, Bericht 172, 39 p. Publisher: IKSR
Schll, F. (2009b): Elbe, Macroinvertebrates (Chapter in: Tockner, T. Uelinger, U.
& Robinson, C.T. (publishers): Rivers of Europe. 700 p. Elsevier


Figure 28: Ecological status of surface waters in Germany

Land capital

Groundwater body

Lakes, transitional waters, coastal waters

Federal capital

Very good

Very good

River basin










No assessment of
ecological status required

Data source: Berichtsportal WasserBLIcK/BfG, as at 22 March 2010


Water Resource Management in Germany












Freshwater sponges
Moss animals








Oxygen level












Oxygen level mg/l


No. of species


Oxygen level mg/l


No. of species

Figure 29: Historical development of the biotic community (selected species groups) and average oxygen levels of the
Rhine near Emmerich (left) and the German Elbe near Magdeburg (right)



Large mussels
Oxygen level

Source: According to Schll 2009a, 2009b

Figure 30: Structural quality classification

River kilometres as a percentage of the water network
(approx. 33,000 km)

and chemical water classification have traditionally

provided the basis for assessing the pollution load
of inland surface waters. 2001 saw the introduction
of legally binding quality objectives with the Quality Objective Ordinance implementing EC Directive
76/464/EEC on protection of the aquatic environment. Further legally binding environmental quality standards have now been introduced with the
WFD. The Directive distinguishes three different
groups of chemical and physio-chemical quality
elements. The first comprises environmental quality
standards for 33 priority substances that are regulated on an EU-wide basis, as well as certain other
pollutants which determine the chemical status of
waterbodies throughout Europe. The second group
contains environmental quality standards for river
basin-specific synthetic and non-synthetic pollutants
for classifying ecological status. The third group
comprises threshold values for the general physico-chemical quality elements which are designed to
ensure the proper functioning of type-specific ecology and compliance with the values for biological
quality component in the good ecological status

Percentage of river kilometers

Waterbody structure 2001




Structural classes

Source: LAWA

the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), morphological deficits with structure class 4 or below exist
in around 79 % of cases (Figure 30). Only 21 % of
Germanys rivers and streams predominantly in
less populated regions are still in a semi-natural
state, i.e. with little to moderate modification by
humans (structure classes 1 to 3).

Chemical status

Chemical water quality is influenced, for example,

by sewage discharges and diffuse inputs from the
land, e.g. from agriculture. Therefore, the derivation of environmental quality standards for problem pollutants such as organic micro-contaminants
and the regular monitoring thereof represents an
important water protection instrument. It helps to
identify pollution hotspots and monitor the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce the pollution
load of our waterbodies. In Germany, objectives

Water Resource Management in Germany

Consequently, the chemical status of waters is

determined via compliance with environmental
quality standards for pollutants with European-wide

88 % of surface waters in Germany have achieved

a good chemical status under valid national
law. This classification will be less positive when
implementation of the new Daughter Directive on
Environmental Quality Standards (2008/105/EC)
becomes mandatory from mid-2010, with new and
extended requirements governing the analysis of
chemical status in future management cycles.

With application of the Priority Substances Directive, isolated cases of exceeding the environmental


Figure 31: Total phosphorous concentration Danube

(Jochenstein), Oder (Hohenwutzen), Weser (Bremen),
Rhine (Kleve-Bimmen) and Elbe (Schnackenburg).

Figure 33: Mercury concentration Danube/Jochenstein

(maximum), Rhine/Kleve-Bimmen (50-percentile), Weser/
Bremen (50-percentile), Oder/Schwedt (mean) and Elbe/
Schnackenburg (50-percentile).

Total phosphorous in mg/l - Annual series (50-percentile)

Mercury in mg/kg as suspended particles


19 2
19 3
19 4
19 6
19 7
19 8
19 9
19 0
19 2
19 3
19 4
19 6
19 7
19 8
20 0
20 1
20 2
20 3
20 4
20 5
20 6
20 7



Figure 32: Nitrate nitrogen concentration Danube

(Jochenstein), Oder (Hohenwutzen), Weser (Bremen),
Rhine (Kleve-Bimmen) and Elbe (Schnackenburg).
Nitrate nitrogen in mg/l - Annual series (50-percentile)










Source: Federal Environment Agency, data from LAWA
















Source: Federal Environment Agency from data supplied by LAWA, ARGE Elbe and

Figure 34: Copper concentration Danube/Jochenstein

(maximum), Rhine/Kleve-Bimmen (50-percentile), Weser/
Bremen (50-percentile), Oder/Schwedt (mean) and Elbe/
Schnackenburg (50-percentile).


Copper in mg/kg as suspended particles


19 0
20 0
20 1
20 2
20 3
20 4
20 5
20 6
20 7














Source: Federal Environment Agency, data from LAWA




quality standards for DDT, DEHP, diuron and

hexachlorocyclohexane have been recorded. The
environmental quality standard is exceeded more
frequently in the case of benzo[g,h,i]perylene and
indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, polybrominated biphenylethers, cadmium, hexachlorobenzene and tributyl
tin. The maximum permissible concentrations of
cadmium, chlorpyrifos, diuron, endosulfan and
hexachlorocyclohexane are exceeded occasionally,
and more frequently in the case of tributyl tin.
Initial measurements in biota suggest that despite a














Source: Federal Environment Agency from data supplied by LAWA, ARGE Elbe and

substantial reduction in mercury emissions over the

past 20 years, the environmental quality standards
for mercury in biota of 20 g/kg of fresh weight is
exceeded by fish in Germany nationwide, and by
mussels at polluted locations.

Below, we illustrate some of the results of heavy

metal pollution in Germanys rivers.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Over the period 1990 2008, mercury concentration in the Elbe decreased by 90 %. In the case of
copper, the decreases have been less dramatic, but
nevertheless reached 70 % in the Elbe.

to protect the marine environment applies comprehensively to all seas.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)57

5.2.3 Coastal and marine waters

Seas and oceans cover four-fifths of the earths

surface; they know no boundaries and are globespanning. For this reason, efforts to protect the
marine ecosystems will only be successful within
the context of international agreements and cooperation, because the worlds seas are also utilised
on a transboundary basis. For regional seas, such as
the North and Baltic Seas, cooperation between the
affected states is additionally necessary.

The Convention on Biological Diversity of 5 June

1992, which was signed within the context of the
Rio Conference, has been in force since 29 December 1993. It also has universal validity. The Convention represents the central, most comprehensive
internationally binding regulation on the protection and sustainable use of biological diversity.

The aim of the Convention is, firstly, to protect all

components of biological diversity such as the conservation of genetic resources and the preservation
of biotopes and entire ecosystems. Secondly, however, it also approves the sustainable use of such
biodiversity elements. Accordingly, one of the main
aims of the Convention is to achieve a balance
between the conservation and use of biological

The Convention applies initially to all areas within

the territorial sovereignty of the Contracting Parties, which includes exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
Furthermore, the Convention applies to all actions
by citizens of a Contracting Party country and
includes actions which result in impacts affecting
areas outside of the Parties territorial sovereignty,
i.e. on the high seas. As such, the Convention also
applies to the ocean habitats.

There have since been ten meetings of the Conferences of the Parties, which have repeatedly addressed issues relating to the protection of marine

The Convention also obligates the parties to set

up protected areas, including protected areas for
marine and other aquatic ecosystems. At the 9th
meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Bonn,
scientific and ecological criteria were adopted for
this purpose. The outcomes of the 10th meeting in
Nagoya, Japan, in 2010 can be considered a great
success for international biodiversity policy. Participants agreed on a new global biodiversity target
and an ambitious strategy on the global conservation of biological diversity from 2011 to 2020, also
setting binding financial targets for its implementation. As part of the strategy, biodiversity loss should
be brought to zero where feasible, but should be at
least halved. Furthermore, a target protection level
of 10 percent of the coastal and marine habitats
(including the high seas) was supported (at present,
less than 1 percent of marine areas is protected).
In addition, it has finally been possible to reach a
binding agreement on fair and equitable sharing of Global marine protection

At global level, the following international conventions are relevant for the marine sector:

ffUnited Nations Convention on the Law of the


ffConvention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

ffConvention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol

ffConvention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter
(London Convention)

Additionally, in 1995, a Global Programme of Action (GPA)55 was agreed in Washington.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea56

The most important legal foundation is the 1982

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS) of 1982, which entered into force in 1994.
UNCLOS, also known as the constitution of the
seas, obligates the Contracting Parties to protect
the marine environment, and therefore provides
the basis for international action relating to the
protection and sustainable development of the
marine and coastal environment and its resources.
UNCLOS states that the Contracting Parties must
cooperate on a national, sub-regional, regional and
global level in order to achieve effective protection
of the marine environment. The cooperative concepts must be integrative in content and preventive
and precautionary in effect. UNCLOS applies both
to the sovereign marine areas of the Contracting
Parties (territorial seas and exclusive economic
zones) and on the high seas. As such, the obligation

55 Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Landbased Activities (Washington, 1995)
56 Act on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982,
Federal Law Gazette II 1994, page 1798

Water Resource Management in Germany

57 Federal Law Gazette 1993 II, page 1741


the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic

resources. This very successful meeting was also the
culmination of the German CBD Presidency from
2008 to 2010. Germany has been successful in raising the profile of biodiversity policy in the international arena and also paved the way for a successful
outcome of the 10th meeting.

These exceptions are:

ffDredged material
ffSewage sludge
ffFishing waste
ffWaste from vessels, platforms and other manmade structures at sea

ffInert, inorganic, geological materials

ffOrganic materials of natural origin.
ffBulky items primarily comprising steel, iron,

Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations Framework Convention on

Climate Change of 9 May 1992, which was signed
at the Rio Conference, and the Kyoto Protocol of
11 December 1997, are of key significance for the
coastal and marine region. The Framework Convention on Climate Change aims to stabilise the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
at a level which will prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It is also
hoped that this will help to counteract the feared
impacts of climate change on the marine environment. The Convention calls on the Parties both to
reduce emissions of climate-relevant greenhouse
gases in order to reduce climate changes, and to
prepare measures to adapt to the adverse impacts
of climate change, such as the development of integrated management plans for coastal regions and
the strengthening of coastal protection. The principal objective of the Framework Convention on
Climate Change was defined by the Kyoto Protocol.
By virtue of the precautionary principle anchored
in the Framework Convention on Climate Change,
all activities in coastal and marine regions must be
considered from the aspect of preventive climate
At the Copenhagen Conference of 2009, the Contracting Parties adopted the 2 degrees target in
their closing statement. Further commitments will
be discussed at the next conference in Cancun,
Mexico, at the end of November 2010.

Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by

Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention58)

The London Convention of 29 December 1972

was supplemented in 1996 by an ambitious Protocol, which since its entry into force in 2007 has
replaced the Convention for all signatory parties. While the London Convention of 1972 only
provides for bans on the dumping of certain substances (black list), a general ban is anchored in the
Protocol of 1996. Exceptions to this ban are only
admissible for certain waste categories.

concrete or similar materials for which the

concern is physical impact (only applies to locations with no other options for disposal,
such as islands), and

ffCO2 streams, where these are sequestered in

sub-seabed geological formations.

The exemption for CO2 streams was incorporated

into Annex I to the London Protocol in 2007, with
the aim of facilitating measures for the separation and storage of CO2 streams in the sub-seabed.
However, the storage of CO2 streams in the water
column is prohibited (see Chapter 6.7 for further details).

The Convention also includes a general worldwide

ban on the incineration of waste at sea, a practice
which had already been discontinued in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1989.

One important item currently under negotiation is

the regulation of measures on ocean fertilisation.
In October 2008, the Parties to both the London
Convention and the London Protocol agreed a
resolution which was legally non-binding but nevertheless of great political significance, which states
that in future, only research activities in the field
of marine fertilisation will be admissible. All other
activities, particularly those of a commercial nature, are prohibited. Additionally, the research activities should be reviewed in advance to determine
whether the research is actually necessary and
whether the project could result in negative environmental impacts. In October, 2010, the Contracting parties adopted the Assessment framework for
scientific research involving ocean fertilisation in
October 2010 which should be applied to the assessment of scientific projects on a case-by-case basis.
Furthermore, there are ongoing efforts to develop
a legally-binding regulation for ocean fertilisation
activities under the London Convention and the
London Protocol (see Chapter 6.7 for further details).

58 Federal Law Gazette 1977 II, page 165, 180; most recently amended by the Act of 11
February 1987, Federal Law Gazette 1987 II, p. 118


Water Resource Management in Germany

Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the

Marine Environment from Land-based Sources

The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based
Activities is aimed at preventing any deterioration
in the status of the marine environment as a result
of land-based activities. The Parties recognise their
obligation to preserve and protect the marine
environment. The following areas of international
cooperation play a particular role in this respect:
Sewage treatment, persistent organic pollutants
(POPs), radioactive substances, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, nutrients, the mobilisation of sediments,
(municipal) waste, and the alteration and destruction of habitats. Regional marine protection

At regional level, marine protection is advanced by

the following international conventions:

Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention) of 1992.

The OSPAR Convention has been in force since 25

March 199859. The OSPAR Convention replaced the
following earlier conventions:

and where possible, restore impaired marine zones.

In doing so, they must apply the precautionary and
polluter-pays principles, as well as best available
technology and best environmental practice.

In this connection, in 1989/99 the OSPAR Commission adopted five strategies which are decisive for
the Commissions long-term work, covering the following areas:

ffHazardous substances
ffRadioactive substances
ffBiological diversity and ecosystems
ffOffshore oil and gas industry.

In 2003, the Commission added a strategy for a

joint evaluation and monitoring program.

Under the OSPAR Convention, furthermore, the

storage of CO2 flows in the sub-seabed has been admissible since 2007, while the storage of CO2 flows
in the water column is prohibited. Several marine
protected areas in the high seas were established
at the ministerial meeting 2011 in Bergen. This
marked an important step forward, because it was
the first time that marine protected areas had been
established in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

ffConvention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land-Based Sources (Paris Convention) of 6 April 197460, covering the North Sea
and North-East Atlantic;

ffConvention for the Prevention of Marine Pollu-

1992 Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention62)

tion by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft (Oslo

Convention) of 15 February 197261, covering
the North Sea and North-East Atlantic.

The OSPAR Convention was extended in 1998 with

an Annex V concerning the protection and conservation of the ecosystems and biological diversity of
the marine environment and a corresponding annex of criteria.
The Contracting Parties (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden,
Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland, the European Union)
will take every action possible to prevent and eliminate pollution. Furthermore, they will take all steps
necessary to protect the marine environment from
the adverse effects of human activities in order to
protect human health, preserve marine ecosystems,

59 Federal Law Gazette 1994 II, p. 1360, most recently amended by the Act of 18 June 2001,
Federal Law Gazette 2001 II, p. 646 ff.
60 Federal Law Gazette 1981 II, p. 871
61 Federal Law Gazette 1977 II, p. 165; most recently amended on 5 December 1989, Federal
Law Gazette 1994 II, p. 1356

Water Resource Management in Germany

The Helsinki Convention entered into force at international level on 17 January 2000 and replaced
the original Helsinki Convention of 9 April 197463.
The Contracting Parties undertake, individually or
collectively, to take all suitable measures to prevent
and eliminate pollution in order to promote ecological recovery and the preservation of ecological
balance. The Convention covers every possible
source of pollution:

ffPollution from land-based sources

ffPollution from ships
ffDumping and waste incineration at sea
ffPollution from offshore activities, and
ffMarine pollution caused by accidents.

The Convention also incorporates marine nature

conservation and biological diversity measures. The
key principles are the precautionary principle and
the polluter-pays principle, as well as the application of best available technologies for all point

62 Federal Law Gazette 1994 II, p. 1397

63 Federal Law Gazette 1979 II, p. 1229; most recently amended on 22 April 1991, Federal
Law Gazette 1992 II, p. 502


sources and best environmental practice for all

pollution sources.

olutions and recommendations made under these

Conventions. In addition to the aforementioned EUDirectives and international conventions, marine
protection is also promoted via implementation of
the EC Habitats and Birds Directives. Protection of
the marine ecosystems from the adverse impacts
of human uses such as fishing, shipping, energy
industry etc. is also regulated via the expansion of
the Federal Regional Planning Act to include the
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the licensing
procedures for installations in the EEZ pursuant to
Article 2a of the Offshore Installations Ordinance.
The Act on the Dumping of Waste into the High
Seas prohibits the disposal of waste at sea (exceptions: dredged material and urns for sea burials).

Agreement for Cooperation in Dealing with Pollution

of the North Sea by Oil and other Harmful Substances
(Bonn Agreement64 of 1983)

The protection of the North Sea is the subject of

the Bonn Agreement for Cooperation in Dealing
with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil and other
Harmful Substances. The Contracting Parties to this
Convention are the European Union, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway,
Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland.

The Convention applies Maritime regional planning


If the pollution or potential pollution of the

sea by oil or other harmful substances in the
North Sea territory presents a serious and
immediate threat to the coast or associated
interests of individual or several Parties, and


To monitoring conducted in the North Sea

territory, which is used to identify and tackle
pollution and prevent violations of provisions.

In Germany, the Federal Regional Planning Act

(ROG) and the planning laws of the Lnder provide
the statutory foundations for regional planning.
The ROG defines the basic principles of regional
planning (e.g. water-related principles in Article
2, paragraph (2), no. 6), which must then be
concretised in the form of regional development
plans. It also defines in greater detail the regional
planning tools used by the Lnder and Federal
Government, primarily in the form of regional
development plans. With the amendment to the
Regional Planning Act of 2004, the scope of application of regional planning was extended to
include the EEZ (beyond the 12 nautical mile zone
up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles). This confers upon Federal Government the task of defining
the goals and principles of regional planning with
regard to commercial and scientific use, ensuring
the safety and ease of shipping, and protecting the
marine environment. Further to a resolution by the
Ministerial Conference for Regional Planning in
2001, Germanys coastal Lnder extended the scope
of validity of their regional development plans to
include the coastal sea (12 nautical mile zone).

The regional planning ordinances in the German

EEZ of the North and Baltic Seas entered into force
in late 2009. They contain the respective regional
development plan with a text and map section,
together with the environmental report. The following action areas are addressed:

EC Directives affecting marine protection

The decisive directive for future marine environmental protection is the Marine Strategy
Framework Directive (MSFD) of 2008 (2008/56/EC).
Together with the EUs Thematic Strategy on the
Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment of 2005, this forms the so-called environmental pillar of the integrated European maritime
policy. (Further details of the MSFD may be found
in Chapter 5.1.3).

There are numerous EC Directives aimed at the

protection of the waterbodies, whose scope extends
to the territorial seas and covers at least direct
impacts on the marine environment (including the
WFD (2000/60/EC), Nitrate Directive (91/676/EEC),
Bathing Waters Directive (2006/7/EC), Directive concerning urban wastewater treatment (91/271/EEC),
Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EEC), and Priority
Substances Directive (2008/105/EC). National marine protection

At national level, marine protection is being advanced via implementation of the WFD, the MSFD,
and laws implementing the OSPAR and Helsinki
Conventions, together with enforcement of the res-

64 Federal Law Gazette 1990 II, p. 71; most recently amended on 22 September 1989,
Federal Law Gazette 1995 II, p. 180


ffExtraction of raw materials
ffPipelines and submarine cables
ffScientific marine research
ffEnergy extraction, particularly windpower
ffFishing and marine aquaculture
ffMarine environment.

Water Resource Management in Germany

The map section defines priority areas for wind

power and target corridors for submarine cables
that deliver energy generated in the EEZ at the
transition to the coastal sea and for crossing the sea
transport corridors. The most recent update to the
ROG of 2008 now allows the Federal Government
the opportunity to set out certain principles of national regional planning in a regional development

effects of which on the marine ecological balance

are sometimes entirely unresearched. Similarly, the
effects on the marine ecosystem of constructing
large offshore wind farms are impossible to predict
as yet. The pollution factors may individually or
collectively pose a variety of risks. In addition to
the well-known dangers, the increasing underwater noise due to ships engines, drilling platforms,
seismic tests, military manoeuvres, dredging and
construction all cause stress to marine species, particularly marine mammals, the details of which are
largely unknown. Pressures on protected marine assets

The current use and pollution situation in the

North and Baltic Seas far exceeds sustainable levels.
In many cases, this overuse of the seas and coasts
places an excessive burden on the buffering and
self-purification capacity of the marine ecosystems.

Marine nature conservation

Red Lists for registering causes of dangers

The condition of an ecosystem can be outlined with

the aid of Red Lists which document the potential
degree of hazard for selected species and habitats,
and often also cite the underlying risk factors, so
that measures can be planned and executed on this

However, it is only since the Rio Summit of 1992

(Earth Summit) that various regional, national and
international Red Lists for species and habitats of
the seas and coasts of the North and Baltic Seas
have been published. The first nationwide Red List
for habitats published in 1994 explicitly included
marine biotopes for the first time. This was followed in 1995 by the first regional Red List relating
specifically to the marine and coastal area for the
German Wadden Sea and the German North Sea.
With the participation of numerous scientists and
experts, it provided a comprehensive overview of
the current population and endangered situation
of macroalgae, vascular plants, various groups of
benthic invertebrates, freshwater molluscs, spiders,
grasshoppers, beetles, cyclostomata, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, marine mammals and the marine and coastal biotopes. The lists form Germanys
contribution to the Trilateral Red Lists for the
Wadden Sea, which were compiled by the three
coastal states Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in 1995 in accordance with the resolutions of
the 6th Trilateral Governmental Conference for the
Protection of the Wadden Sea (Esbjerg 1991).

Regional Red Lists and species lists of the fauna and

flora in the German marine and coastal region of
the Baltic Sea were published in 1996. A revision
of the Red List for coastal and marine biotopes in
the Baltic Sea was undertaken in 1998 with the
publication of a Red List for the marine and coastal
biotopes and biotope complexes of the entire Baltic
Sea region by the Helsinki Commission for the
Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic

The following list of selected pollution factors

presupposes that as a result of economic and/
or social developments some factors will lose
significance while others will gain in significance.
Important sources of risk include:

ffStructural measures (in connection with industrial settlements and infrastructure such as
harbour construction and development, navigation channels, dredging)

ffEutrophication (excessive nutrient discharge

from point or diffuse sources via watercourses,
both directly and from the air, and the resultant effects such as exceptional algal bloom,
oxygen deficiency and turbidity)

ffFishing (direct impacts from the catch, indirect

impacts from the bycatch, beam trawls etc.)

ffCoastal protection (technical flood prevention


ffNeo-industrialisation of the seas (pipelines,

electricity and telecommunications cables and
wind farms)

ffRaw materials extraction (including oil and

gas exploitation and extraction of sand and

ffPollutant discharges (from point or diffuse

sources via watercourses, directly and from the

ffTourism (mass tourism and marine leisure activities)

ffTransport (ships, cars, planes), and

ffHydraulic engineering and maintenance measures (e.g. dredging).

The neo-industrialisation of the seas and coasts

is currently going ahead at a rapid rate. Numerous
oil and gas pipelines, electrical and telecommunications cables are being laid on or in the seabed, the

Water Resource Management in Germany


Marine conservation areas

The designation of NATURA 2000 protected areas

at sea was originally only possible in German sovereign waters but not in the Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ), which extends seawards from the sovereign
boundaries up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles.
With the revision of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) in April 2002, the legal foundation was created for implementation of the EC
Habitats Directive6565 in the marine regions of the
German EEZ. At the same time, the task of identifying NATURA 2000 protected areas in the EEZ and
notifying these to the EU Commission was transferred to the Federal Office for Nature Conservation
(BfN) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU).
In Germany, the Lnder are responsible for the
actual implementation of Natura 2000 on land and
in coastal waters (i.e. within the 12 nautical mile
zone). The Natura 2000 system of protected areas is
comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
and European Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under
the EC Birds Directive. The aim of this network is
to conserve and restore biological diversity on land
and at sea.

As national protected areas, the nature conservation area Eastern German Bight in the North Sea
and the nature conservation area Pomeranian
Bay in the Baltic Sea are therefore part of the
NATURA 2000 European network of protected
areas. As such, they are equivalent in legal terms
to the national protected areas in the sovereign
waters already reported to the EU Commission as
bird sanctuaries by the coastal Lnder. The recent
protected area ordinances have created legal certainty for nature conservation (in relation to birds
as a protected asset) as well as for the economic
use of the regions. The general rule is that any
activities which impair areas in terms of their value
for the protected species are prohibited under the
protected area ordinances. Wind turbines, underwater cables or the extraction of mineral resources,
for example, are only admissible following a special
impact assessment under the Habitats Directive.
When it comes to other uses in the EEZ, such as
shipping, however, the coastal state has only restricted regulatory powers.

The marine NATURA 2000 areas of those EU Member States which are also Parties to the OSPAR and
Helsinki Conventions for the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and the
Baltic Sea will also be important elements in a comprehensive joint network of marine protected areas
within the scope of validity of the two Conventions,
according to a resolution by the Environment
Ministers of the Contracting Parties to both Conventions in Bremen 2003 at their first joint commission meeting. Whereas in the case of the Baltic
Sea, the Conventions objective of protecting 10 %
of the eco-region in order to conserve biodiversity
has already been met (February 2010: 11 %), some
eco-regions in the North-East Atlantic have yet to be
placed under protection. Where marine protected
areas already exist, there is often a lack of effective
protection from human impacts (particularly fishing) and of management plans.

Protection of the marine environment from substance


Both the North and Baltic Seas are polluted by

discharges of nutrients and hazardous substances
(heavy metals, organic pollutants, oil and radioactive substances). Substance discharges from inland
areas including those from non-littoral states
enter the seas via the major river systems and
via the atmosphere. Some river catchment areas
are densely populated, highly industrialised and
intensively farmed. The vast majority of elevated
nitrogen discharges originate from diffuse sources,
primarily from the fertilisation of agricultural land
and the rearing of farm animals. On the other
hand, elevated phosphorous discharges tend to
originate from point sources, such as the input of
municipal and industrial wastewater. For nitrogen

Existing knowledge of the existence and prevalence

of species and habitats considered relevant under
the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive was
initially broadened with an extensive scientific
research program. This applied research focused on
logging the distribution and populations of marine
mammals, fish and sea birds, and identifying and
defining the locations of the NATURA 2000 habitat
types sandbanks and reefs with their typical
characteristic biotic communities. The results of
this project, together with data already available,
formed the decision-making basis for the identification and delimitation of ecologically valuable areas
within the meaning of NATURA 2000.

The final selection of areas was reported to the

European Commission in May 2004 as Germanys
national contribution to the NATURA 2000 system
of protected areas. This concerned eight sites of
Community importance under the Habitats Directive (Table 8 and Figures 35 and 36) which are subject
to a further EU selection procedure, as well as one
Special Protection Area each in the North and
Baltic Seas which have since been declared nature
conservation areas by the BMU in September 2005
by way of a statutory ordinance. This means that
the Natura 2000 network currently comprises approximately 1,038,958 ha or 31 % of Germanys
EEZ. In this way, Germany is making an important
contribution to the international networks of marine conservation areas in the North-East Atlantic
and the Baltic Sea.

65 Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and
of wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, p. 7 ff


Water Resource Management in Germany

Table 8: NATURA 2000 area reports to the EU Commission (SPA/SCI)

Name of area

Main reasons for designation

(species and habitat types under
the Habitats and Birds Directives)

Size of area (ha)

Area status

Eastern German Bight


SPA* (NSG**)

Red-throated diver, black-throated diver,

resting birds

Sylt Outer Reef



Porpoises, sandbanks, reefs

North Sea

Borkum Reef Ground


Baltic Sea



Sandbanks, reefs




Fehmarn Belt



Porpoises, sandbanks, reefs

Kadet Trench




Western Rnne Bank




Adler Ground



Sandbanks, reefs

Pomeranian Bay with Odra Bank



Porpoises, sandbanks


Red-throated diver, black-throated diver,

resting birds

SPA Pomeranian Bay


* Special Protection Area

** Nature conservation area under the Federal Nature Conservation Act
*** Site of Community Importance (habitat protected area report to the EU)
Source: Federal Office for Nature Conservation

in particular, atmospheric discharges from ship

and industrial waste gases and ammonia emissions
from agriculture likewise play a role. Hazardous
substances enter marine systems from industrial
wastewater, ships paints and the ocean dumping
of waste. In relation to the marine environment,
hazardous substances refer to those which are
slow to degrade (persistent), accumulate in marine
organisms (bio-accumulative) and are toxic (PBT

In view of the high levels of inputs and discharges

via rivers, at the International North Sea Conferences (INSC) in 1987 (London) and 1990 (The Hague),
the Environment Ministers of all states bordering
the North Sea adopted measures to reduce the
discharges of nutrients and harmful substances by
50 %, and of the most hazardous substances (such
as Cd, Hg) by 70 %, in the period from 1985 to
1995. For those substances which failed to meet the
reduction targets for discharges by 1995 (4th INSC
in Esbjerg), the deadline was extended to 2000. Additionally, in the Ministerial Declaration at the 4th
INSC, Ministers also resolved to prevent pollution of
the North Sea by continuously reducing discharges,
emissions and losses of hazardous substances, with
the aim of eliminating all such inputs in the course
of a generation. The ultimate goal is to achieve
concentration levels close to background concentrations for naturally occurring substances, and
near-zero concentrations for industrially produced/
synthetic substances, in the marine environment
by 2020. The WFD adopted in 2000 also takes into

Water Resource Management in Germany

account the INSC targets and the hazardous substances identified in the conventions for the protection of the marine environment. The MSFD, which
entered into force in 2008, addresses eutrophication and hazardous substances, including pollutant
levels in marine organisms that are placed on the
market. For these descriptors, as well as for the
other eight cited therein, a good environmental
standard must be achieved or maintained by 2020.

North Sea

In the North Sea, the eutrophication problem is

concentrated in the continental coastal region, a
strip of water approximately 50 to 100 km wide
with a reduced salt content due to freshwater
inflows. This was the finding of the harmonised
eutrophication assessment for the OSPAR Convention area (North-East Atlantic), the results of which
were presented in summer 2003 at the OSPAR
Ministerial Conference in Bremen6666. The second
eutrophication assessment in 2008 revealed that
the strategic objective of a healthy marine environment with no eutrophication by 2010 will only be
partially met6767. Of the 204 areas evaluated in the
North-East Atlantic, OSPAR classified 106, mainly
coastal areas, as problem areas. Experts estimate
that approximately 50 % of nutrient concentrations

66 OSPAR integrated report 2003 on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR Maritime Area
based upon the first application of the Comprehensive Procedure. Ospar Commission
67 Second OSPAR Integrated Report on the Eutrophication Status of the OSPAR Maritime
Area. OSPAR Commission 2008.
p00372 Second%20integrated%20report.pdf


Figure 35: Natura 2000 protected areas in the German North Sea

Natura 2000 sites under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive in the sovereign waters
and in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the German North Sea
Prepared by: BfN, Marine and Coastal Nature Conservation section, as at 23 November 2007




Map basis:
Nautical chart 2921 Deutsche Nordseekste und angrenzende Gewsser
(German North Sea coast and adjacent
waters) published by BSH
Chart grid:
World Geodetic System (datum WGS 84)

Coastal sea/deep water anchorage site

Special Protected Areas (SPA)

according to the Birds Directive
in Germanys coastal sea
(12 nm zone) (as at: May 2007)

Depth lines

SPA in Germanys EEZ

(12200 nm zone)
(as at: May 2007)

Sea area

Special Protected Areas (SPA)

according to the Birds Directive
in Germanys coastal sea
(12 nm zone) (as at: May 2007)
SPA in Germanys EEZ
(12200 nm zone)
(as at: May 2007)

Neighbouring states
Land area of Germany

Source: BfN

occurring in continental coastal waters are due to

anthropogenic influences. Inputs in the North Sea
originate primarily from rivers, in Germanys case
the Eider, Ems, Weser and in particular the Elbe. In
2004, a total of 1,264,000 tonnes of nitrogen were
discharged into the North Sea, 64 % via water and
36 % via the atmosphere. Eutrophication in the
North Sea is not a regional problem, as currents
distribute the nutrients along the entire coastline.
The southern North Sea, Kattegat and Skagerrak
are the most heavily eutrophied areas. In the German North Sea, the entire German Bight region is
affected, particularly the shallow Wadden Sea and
the estuaries.


At the 5th International North Sea Conference

(INSC) 2002 in Oslo (Norway), the parties reviewed
the progress made towards achieving the objective
of halving nutrient discharges. During the period
1983 to 2005, on average, emissions into surface
waters in the German North Sea catchment area
were reduced from approximately 804,038 t/a of
nitrogen and approximately 67,164 t/a of phosphorous to approximately 418,016 t/a of nitrogen
and approximately 18,135 t/a of phosphorous.
Consequently, the reduction target for phosphorous in Germany has been met, at around 73 %.
For nitrogen, the reduction is around 48 %, falling
slightly short of the agreed reduction objective. The

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 36: Natura 2000 protected areas in the German Baltic Sea

Natura 2000 sites under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive in the sovereign waters and
in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the German Baltic Sea
Prepared by: BfN, Marine and Coastal Nature Protection section, as at 23 November 2007



Map basis:
Nautical chart 2921 Deutsche Nordseekste und angrenzende Gewsser
(German North Sea coast and adjacent
waters) published by BSH
Chart grid:

Coastal sea/deep water anchorage site

World Geodetic System (datum WGS 84)

Neighbouring states

Special Protected Areas (SPA)

according to the Birds Directive
in Germanys coastal sea
(12 nm zone) (as at: May 2007)

Depth lines

SPA in Germanys EEZ

(12200 nm zone)
(as at: May 2007)

Sea area

Special Protected Areas (SPA)

according to the Birds Directive
in Germanys coastal sea
(12 nm zone) (as at: May 2007)
SPA in Germanys EEZ
(12200 nm zone)
(as at: May 2007)

Land area of Germany


Source: BfN

significant reductions for phosphorous, as well as

for nitrogen, were achieved primarily via targeted
measures in municipal sewage treatment plants
and industrial effluent discharge. There is still room
for improvement in reducing agricultural emissions, which remain excessively high.

Emissions of heavy metals into the North Sea were

likewise significantly reduced during the period
1985-2005. For all the heavy metals analysed, the
50 % (Cr, Cu, Ni, Zn) and 70 % (Cd, Hg, Pb) reduction targets set by the INSC were met by 2005. The
lowest reduction in discharges was for nickel (51 %),
where the geogenic portion that cannot be influ-

Water Resource Management in Germany

enced is comparatively high. The greatest reduction in discharges was for mercury (92 %), followed
by cadmium (86 %). These results are attributable
primarily to the dramatic reduction in direct industrial discharges (point source).

Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea was originally a low-nutrient sea

and has evolved into a eutrophic sea over the past
100 years as a result of human activities. Since
1988, Contracting Parties to the Baltic Marine
Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM)
have stepped up their efforts to reduce nutrient


discharges into the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) identified eutrophication as the
greatest challenge in more than 90 % of the areas
monitored. In its most recent assessment (period
2001-2006) of the status of eutrophication of the
Baltic Sea, of the 189 areas examined, only 13 were
classified by HELCOM as non-eutrophied68.

In the period 2001-2006 alone, some 641,000

tonnes of nitrogen and 30,200 tonnes of phosphorous entered the Baltic Sea via the rivers each
year, while a further 196,000 to 224,000 tonnes
of nitrogen per annum were discharged via the
atmosphere. In the period 1985 to 2005, Germany
reduced its phosphorous discharges into the Baltic
Sea by 76 % and its nitrogen discharges by 50 %. In
2006, Germanys Baltic Sea tributaries discharged
474 tonnes of phosphorous and 16,273 tonnes of
nitrogen into the Baltic Sea. The reductions are due
primarily to the introduction of phosphate-free detergents and improvements in wastewater purification in municipal and industrial sewage treatment
plants. Discharges from agriculture have likewise
been reduced, although the reduction potential
here has not yet been exhausted. In order to move
closer to the vision of a healthy Baltic Sea without
eutrophication, national programmes to reduce nutrient discharges are to be developed by 2010 and
their effectiveness assessed by 2013. The Baltic Sea
Action Plan of 2007 sets initial reduction targets
of 240 tonnes of phosphorous and 5,620 tonnes
of nitrogen for Germany. Measures include the
reduced use of fertilisers and slurry in agriculture,
the cultivation of intercrops to prevent soil erosion,
the establishment of wetlands and buffer zones to
collect nutrients, improved wastewater treatment,
and the minimisation of emissions from shipping.
Between 1985 and 2005, discharges of heavy metals into the surface waters of Germanys Baltic Sea
catchment area declined significantly. The halving
of discharges into the Baltic Sea required by the
Helsinki Commission has been achieved for all
heavy metals (cadmium (95 %), lead (84 %), mercury (82 %) and chromium (80 %), copper (54 %),
nickel (51 %) and zinc (50 %)). These achievements
are primarily attributable to the dramatic reduction
in discharges from industry. Measures in industry
prompted by a tightening of statutory requirements
have made a decisive contribution to reducing
these pressures on the marine environment, but
the reduction in industrial activities since 1990 has
also played a part.

Status of the marine environment

Apart from a few exceptions, the chemical status in

the North and Baltic Seas is good. The same cannot
be said of the ecological status of transitional and
coastal waters.

In 2008, Germanys coastal and transitional waters

underwent an ecological status evaluation69, which
revealed that the vast majority of coastal waterbodies are in a moderate to poor condition, with
the Baltic Sea receiving a much poorer evaluation
than the North Sea. The main reasons for failing to
achieve good ecological status are changes in the
composition, occurrence and abundance of phytoplankton (tiny algae suspended in the water) and
macrophytes (large algae, seagrass), attributable to

The regional conventions on the protection of the

marine environment of the North-East Atlantic
(OSPAR Convention) and the Baltic Sea (Helsinki
Convention) have long been concerned with the
issue of assessing environmental status, and in
recent years have also addressed the holistic overall assessment of their respective territory. These
overall evaluations indicate that both seas continue
to suffer severe impairments as a result of human
pressures. While efforts to reduce nutrients and pollutants have been particularly successful, intensive
fishing continues to significantly impact fish stocks
and habitats. Eutrophication remains one of the
main pressures in both the North and Baltic Seas.

In the North Sea, there are additional problems

associated with large quantities of marine litter.
These problems will intensify in the future as the
pressures from human uses (from shipping, offshore
windpower) increase. Furthermore, increasing effects will be felt from climate change.

5.3 International cooperation on the

management of waters

Integrated management of transboundary waters

takes place within the framework of international
commissions as far as entire river basins and lakes
are concerned, or bilaterally for waters at the border to another country.

Germany is a member of the:

ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

the Rhine against Pollution (IKSR),

68 Eutrophication in the Baltic Sea - An integrated thematic assessment of nutrient enrichment in the Baltic Sea region.
Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings No.115
library/get file?p l id=79889&folderId=377779&name=DLFE-36818.pdf


69 Vo, J.; Knaack, J.; Von Weber, M.: kologische Zustandsbewertung der deutschen
bergangs- und Kstengewsser. Indikatorbericht. Meeresumwelt aktuell Nord- und
Ostsee 2010/2. Bund-Lnder Messprogramm. 2010.

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffInternational Commissions for the Protection

sustainable development of the Rhine, adopted in

2001, entitled Rhine 2020.

of the Moselle and the Saar against Pollution


ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

The International Management Plan for the Rhine

clearly shows that thanks to successful remediation
measures, the water quality of the Rhine and its
tributaries has undergone a significant improvement. The alpine Rhine, Lake Constance and other
sections of the Rhine already indicate good water
quality, although diffusely discharged substances,
particularly nitrate, remain a regional problem.
These deficits and increased requirements e.g.
regarding the structure and ecological functioning
of the waterbodies necessitate farther-reaching
measures in collaboration with water users such as
agriculture, industry, and local authorities, as well
as shipping, the use of hydropower and flood protection.

The Commissions for the Protection of the

Moselle and the Saar (IKSMS) address pertinent
challenges in this sub-catchment area of the Rhine,
such as the expansion of the Moselle and the Saar
into navigation channels, the persistently high
levels of pollution associated with discharges from
sewage treatment plants, diffuse pollution, and pollution with heavy metals.

The International Commission for the Protection of

the Elbe (IKSE) founded in 1990, just a few days
after Germanys reunification has likewise already
achieved significant success. The Federal Republic
of Germany and the Czech Republic are members,
but since implementation of the WFD, it has also
collaborated with Austria and Poland.

In 1989 the Elbe was one of the most heavily polluted rivers in Europe, and there was a need for
urgent action. Between 1990 and 2000, some 237
large municipal sewage plants were completed
within the Elbe basin, and sewage system connections created for an additional 2.78 million people.
The substantial reductions in wastewater loads
from the municipal and industrial sectors led to a
positive trend in the water quality of the Elbe and
its principal tributaries. The long-term Elbe Action
Plan of 1995 covering the period 1996 to 2010
contains a wide range of measures to improve the
quality of waters, protect the biotope structures
of the watercourses and their riparian zones, and
minimise the risk of shipping accidents.

The 2009 International Management Plan for the

Elbe river basin unit provides for measures in three
complex areas:

the Elbe (IKSE),

ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

the Danube River (IKSDR),

ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

the Oder against Pollution (IKSO),

ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

the Maas (IMK, founded in 2003)

ffInternational Commission for the Protection of

Lake Constance,

and maintains close relations with the neighbouring states in respect of boundary waters.

Germany continues to play an active part in

ffthe Central Commission for Rhine Navigation


ffthe Danube Commission (Navigation),

ffthe Commission for the Hydrology of the
Rhine Basin,

ffthe International Hydrological Programme

(IHP) with special focus on the Danube countries and the Central and East European countries.

ffthe UNECE Convention on the Protection and

Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, and

ffthe UNECE on the Transboundary Effects of

Industrial Accidents.

All international commissions coordinate the implementation of the WFD within their river basins.
Flooding of the Rhine, Oder, Danube and Elbe
during the past decade prompted the Commissions
of the aforementioned river basins to develop and
adopt action plans on flood prevention (see Chapter

The International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine against Pollution (IKSR), whose
members Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland have been cooperating for
over 60 years (the European Community joined in
1976), is a prime example of successful international water resources protection policy. The milestones
in the work of the IKSR in recent years include the
Rhine Action Programme (1987), symbolised by
the return of the salmon to the Rhine; the Flood
Action Plan (1998), which is to be implemented by
2020; the new Rhine Convention (1999), which has
superseded the international treaty dating from
1963; and the new fundamental program for the

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffMorphology and passability: 150 transverse

structures are to be made passable for fish by
2015, which will increase the length of passable interconnected sections of the Elbe and its
tributaries from 300 km to approx. 1800 km.


ffNutrient load: In order to limit eutrophication

river basin, with 17 countries sharing ownership of

the catchment area. The aforementioned 14 states
who are members of the IKSDR each own a share
of more than 0.2% of the catchment area. Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Albania have smaller shares.
Thanks to the dedication of those involved, the
close collaboration in water resources conservation
on the Danube has since become a model for other
river basin commissions, in which old and new EU
Member States, candidate states and non-EU members work together to implement the objectives of
the WFD. Their cooperation was recognised in 2007
with the award of the international Thiess Riverprize in Brisbane, Australia.

of the coastal waters, the loads of phosphorous

and nitrogen are each to be reduced by approx. 24 %.

ffPollutant load: A sediment management concept, rehabilitation of contaminated sites and

further measures for pollutants of supra-regional importance with reduction targets
should all help to achieve a good status.

Priority areas in future will include implementing

the Elbe Flood Protection Action Plan (2003) and
improving the ecological condition of the Elbe and
its river meadows by creating further conservation

The Agreement on the International Commission for the Protection of the Oder (IKSO), signed
in 1996, entered into force on 28 April 1999. The
Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Poland and the Czech Republic are members of this
Commission. During the period 1997 2002, the
Emergency Programme for Protection of the Oder
from Pollution was implemented. The programme
included the construction or modernisation of 86
municipal and 52 industrial sewage plants, as well
as the establishment of an international warning
and alarm plan. The flood protection action plan
sets action objectives designed to minimize flooding, pollution and potential threats, raise awareness
of flooding, and improve the quality of bulletins
and forecasts as well as the statutory provisions.
The Commission refrained from formulating a new
action plan to improve water quality, because the
WFD already includes plans in this respect up to
the year 2009.


In June 1994, the Danube littoral states Germany,

Austria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia,
Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia and
the Ukraine and the European Community signed
the Convention for the Protection of the Danube,
which provides for the establishment of an International Commission for the Protection of the
Danube River (IKSDR). The Convention entered
into force on 22 October 1998. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia have since acceded to
it. The Danube is the worlds most international

The international management plan resolved in

December 2009 and accepted in February 2010 by
the Ministerial Conference of the Danube States
identifies four key management issues for the Danube river basin:

ffContamination with organic pollutants

ffContamination with increased nutrient discharges, resulting in heavy eutrophication particularly in the north-west coastal region of the
Black Sea

ffContamination with hazardous substances

ffHydromorphological changes.

The measures resolved in the management plan,

such as the large-scale expansion of municipal
wastewater disposal particularly in the new EU
States, suggest a substantial improvement in waterbody status by 2015, but the objective of a good
ecological and chemical status will not be achieved
throughout as in the other major river basins.

The flooding disaster of 2002 prompted the adoption of a flood action programme for the entire
Danube region. In view of the size of the river basin
and its regionally varied hydrological circumstances, the programme confines itself to shared principles, action objectives and requirements which are
to be fleshed out with regional action programmes
for sub-basins. The next aims include a flood prediction system and joint methods for risk mapping.

Water Resource Management in Germany

6 Water Uses
6.1 Water abstraction and water supply

Industry, agriculture and private households meet

their water demands in a variety of ways, and from
a range of different resources.

Industry, the manufacturing sector and agriculture

obtain more than 95% of their water from their
own abstraction plants. Only around 1.4% is taken
from the public grid, while the remainder is taken
from other businesses. Whereas industry uses more
than 90% surface water, agriculture meets 85% of
its demand from groundwater and springs.

the various purposes, and the remainder is usually

discharged unused.

Figure 37: Sector-specific shares of the total water used by


Mining and
extraction of
stones and earth

Almost all households are connected to the distribution system of a public water utility: 99% of the
population is supplied with drinking water in this
way. A private supply, for example from a domestic
well, is quite rare in the private sector. More than
70% of drinking water supply in Germany is met
from groundwater and springs.
Thanks to effective and economical water use,
water abstractions in all sectors have shown a tangible decrease in the past 20 years. Technological
developments, multi-use and circulatory systems
have led to reductions of more than 30% in water
abstraction compared with 1991. In 2007, some 32
billion m3 of water in total were abstracted, which
equates to less than 20% of Germanys available
water resources calculated at 188 billion m3.

Within the industrial sector, energy supply is by far

the greatest water user. Power plants for the generation of electricity and heat abstracted 19.7 billion
m3 of water almost exclusively from surface waters.
The water is primarily used for cooling purposes,
and after use is returned almost in its entirety directly to the waterbodies (cf. Chapter 6.7.8).

Energy supply

Total fresh
water used

10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

Source: Federal Statistical Office 2007

In other sectors, too, water use is dominated by

cooling water. Viewed across all industrial segments, its share accounts for more than 90%. The
remaining 10% is used directly in production, to
meet the needs of the workforce, or for sprinkling.

Industry and agriculture

At less than 1% of total water consumption, water

abstraction by agriculture is minimal. Irrigation
farming plays a subordinate role in Germany. Only
560,000 ha of agricultural land are fitted with irrigation systems, which translates into less than
3.3% of all agricultural land. Germany is located
in a moderate climate zone, which is characterised
by year-round precipitation. As a result, German
farmers enjoy a relative advantage, as indicated by
comparison with other regions. In Europe, water
abstractions by the agricultural sector account for
35%, while globally the figure is around 70%.
Almost 40% of foodstuffs are produced from irrigation farming, and nearly 20% of all cultivated land
is irrigated for this purpose.
The manufacturing and processing sectors and
the mining industry are the largest water users in
Germany. In 2007, industrial demand accounted for
84% of total water abstractions, corresponding to
27.2 billion m3 of water per annum. Of the water
abstracted, however, only 26.5 billion m3 is used for

Water Resource Management in Germany

Public water supply

The 6,211 companies involved in public water supply primarily provide drinking water for private
households, local authority institutions such as
schools, authorities and hospitals, and small commercial enterprises. In 2007, over 81.6 million
residents were supplied with drinking water, corresponding to around 99% of the population who
are connected to the public water supply.

A survey carried out by the Federal Statistical Office

for the year 2007 estimated the volume of water
delivered to households and small businesses at
around 3.6 billion cubic metres. The remaining 1.5
billion cubic metres are distributed between commercial enterprises, public institutions, consumption by the water works themselves, and pipeline

According to the survey, per capita consumption of

drinking water totalled around 122 litres per day in


ing and location, with an adequate water quality

and quantity. This enables them to supply areas
with water shortages and limited usable groundwater supplies. Such areas do exist in Germany,
despite adequate water resources overall. Especially
in urban agglomerations, water demand exceeds
the local supply. A long-distance supply system creates a balance between areas of water shortage and
those with a surplus of water. Long-distance water
supply systems exist in particular in Bavaria, BadenWuerttemberg, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, the Ruhr region and the Frankfurt/
Main region. There are also some 311 reservoirs
whose water resources are available both for drinking water supply and flood mitigation or raising
low water levels, as well as for energy supply.

Figure 38: Water consumption according to Lnder (2007)

Specific water consumption in households and small businesses according to

Federal Lnder, 2007

National average 122 l/(inhabitant*d)













Lower Saxony




North-Rhine Westphalia

6.2 Drinking water supply

6.2.1 Statutory framework and organisation of drinking water supply in Germany

Source: Federal Statistical Office 2007

2007. This means that daily water consumption in

the private sector decreased by 25 litres per person
between 1990 and 2007, primarily due to modified
consumer behaviour and the use of water-saving
household appliances and fittings. There were, however, sizeable differences in average household consumption between individual Lnder, with figures
varying from 135 litres in North Rhine-Westphalia
to 85 litres in Saxony.

The suppliers technical infrastructure ensures a

high level of supply reliability in terms of both tim-

The organisation of drinking water supply in Germany has essentially been in place for more than
100 years, but is continually updated in line with
technical and hygiene requirements. The aim of
public water supply is to ensure that the population
has access to an adequate volume of drinking water
at all times which satisfies the high quality requirements stipulated by law. Water protection areas
are designated in Germany in order to protect the
drinking water supply. In 2010, there were

Figure 39: Durchschnittlicher Wasserverbrauch und Wasserverwendung in Haushalten und Kleingewerbe

Specific water consumption in households and small businesses


Small business share


Eating, drinking
car washing,



134 133

130 130 129 130 129

Washing up
127 126



12 %


Total 122 l/(inhabitant*d)

[Private households:
111 l/(inhabitant*d)
Small businesses:
11 l/(inhabitant*d)]

Personal hygiene
(bathing, showering)
36 %

Toilet flushing
27 %

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2004 2007

Sources: Federal Statistical Office (2009) and Bundesverband der deutschen Gas- und Wasserwirtschaft e. V., personal communication


Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 40: Drinking water protection area, zone I

Building regulations ensure that no residential

buildings may be constructed without a proper
drinking water supply. The qualitative requirements
for drinking water are laid down in the Drinking
Water Ordinance (TrinkwV 20017171) (see Chapter
4.2). As in-house installations are also considered
water supply facilities under the TrinkwV, home
owners are subject to the same regulations as all
other companies and other owners of a water supply installation. With regard to quality assurance
in the construction, operation and maintenance of
water supply systems, parallel and supplementary
to the administrative regulations relating to construction and drinking water, an important role is
also played by the technical regulations of privatelaw associations or federations such as the German
Association of Gas and Water Experts DVGW or
the German Institute for Standardisation DIN,
which outline the technical specifications and document the current best available technology. These
regulations also stipulate the minimum required
qualifications for employees in water works, the
requirements for pipelines including the materials
of which they are made, the conditions for pipelaying, and the required qualifications for pipe
installation enterprises.

The monitoring of drinking water quality by government bodies is also laid down in the TrinkwV.
Monitoring is the responsibility of the Federal
Lnder and, at local authority level, the public
health departments. The public health departments
supervise the internal control and quality assurance
measures taken by the water utilities, including
the prescribed documentation, and also carry out
their own checks. The public health authorities
also monitor trends in water quality, as the water
utilities are required to notify the competent public
health department immediately of any cases of
non-compliance with the prescribed parameter
values (limits). As a precaution, the water utilities
are required to prepare plans of measures in case
of temporary non-compliance with the requirements and limits. Furthermore, they have a duty
to guarantee adequate water supplies and to make
drinking water available in adequate quantity and
quality by other means in the rare event of a failure
in the drinking water supply system (for technical
or hygienic reasons), for example by importing
water from a different water works or by means of
mobile water supply facilities (e.g. water trucks).

The required levels of supply reliability and drinking water quality also apply to small facilities. The
definition of small facilities in the Drinking Water
Ordinance makes no distinction between installations for personal use and installations for supplying third parties, e.g. guests in an isolated wood-

Photograph: Jrg Rechenberg

13,232 water protection areas covering a total area

of around 50,000 km2, equivalent to 13.9% of the
total territory of the Federal Republic of Germany70.

In accordance with the constitutions and/or water

legislation of the Lnder, drinking water supplies
are essentially the responsibility of local government, within the context of its public service mandate pursuant to Article 28, paragraph (2) of Germanys Basic Law (GG). The municipalities and local
authorities may exercise this duty in a sovereign
capacity or else appoint private companies to do so
on their behalf. In many cases, smaller towns and
communities in rural areas form special-purpose
organisations which often cooperate with similar
organisations for both water supply and sewage
disposal. The basic aim of these special-purpose
associations is to join forces and thus create more
favourable business conditions combined with the
necessary technical expertise in the management
and execution of their work. These associations
formulate targets for the water supply companies
in their area and operate as supervisory bodies.
Responsibility under public law therefore remains
with local government.

In order to ensure a reliable water supply and adequate drinking water hygiene, there is essentially a
system of compulsory connection and use regulated
in the relevant local authority statutes. This means
that each individual citizen and commercial company is obliged to connect to and utilise the public
drinking water supply and sewers of the local government or responsible special-purpose association.
In selected cases of exceptional hardship, the local
by-laws provide for exceptions.

70 This data was collected within the context of the 2009 management plan under the
Water Framework Directive (WFD). As there was no special consideration of protected
areas, some protected areas may exist which have no significance in respect of the
WFD. As such, the area mentioned may be considered a minimum. Source: Internet
portal WasserBlick/BfG, 24 October 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany

71 Ordinance on the quality of water for human consumption (Drinking Water Ordinance
TrinkwV 2001) of 21 May 2001, Federal Legal Gazette 2001 I, p. 959)


land restaurant or holiday home tenants. Small

facilities and under certain circumstances inhouse installations and installations for the use of
rainwater are subject to monitoring by the public
health authorities as provided for in the TrinkwV.

In the field of health protection, a distinction must

be made between microbiological pathogens and
toxic chemical substances. Infections caused by microbiological impurities in the untreated water are
prevented firstly by means of appropriate selection
and protection of the raw water, then if necessary
by appropriate treatment, and finally by disinfection, which may if required be carried out in the
distribution network.

From an aesthetic point of view, the issues here

are improving acceptance of drinking water and
its suitability for consumption. Impairments to the
smell, taste and appearance of drinking water,
even if they are immaterial from a health point of
view, are always a deficit that must be remedied
by means of appropriate treatment technology in
conjunction with resource protection or, ultimately,
by switching to a different source of raw water.

The composition of drinking water changes to a

greater or lesser extent as a result of distribution in
fixed pipelines to the consumer. Such changes in
water composition after treatment are caused by interaction with surfaces that come into contact with
water, e.g. pipeline materials, both in public distribution networks (problems: iron, asbestos cement,
biofilms) and in domestic installations (problems:
lead, copper, nickel, plastics). The interior surfaces
of drinking water tanks in the water supply system
or of water heaters in the household may also be
sources of adverse changes in water composition.
The following Tables 9 and 10 list the main objectives
of treatment and the techniques used.

The generally accepted best available technology

offers a large number of technical options for
achieving these treatment objectives. The methods
are distinguished primarily by their action:

6.2.2 Water treatment

The requirements governing drinking water quality must be based on the guiding principles of DIN
2000. Groundwater must be obtained from a sufficient depth in the natural hydrological cycle after
passage through adequate filtering strata and must
not be impaired in any way. Drinking water should
be appetising and inviting to drink. It must be colourless, clear, cool, and perfect in taste and smell.
Drinking water must be low in bacteria.
Untreated water that does not meet the requirements for drinking water must be purified such
that life-long consumption of it will not have any
harmful effects on human health. It may also be
necessary to treat the drinking water in such a way
that it will not suffer any adverse changes during
transport from the water works to the consumer.
Such changes relate not only to the quality of the
drinking water itself, but also to possible changes
as a result of the materials with which it comes
into contact in the supply companys distribution
network and the consumers home installation.
Present knowledge indicates that a central public
drinking water supply system offers the greatest
safety and reliability for the supply of perfect drinking water in adequate quantities and with the
pressure required for technical purposes. Over time,
the requirements placed on water treatment technology have adapted in line with changing conditions. Higher standards are necessary in view of the
increasing size of distribution systems and hence
the longer time taken by the treated drinking water
to travel from the water works to the consumer. As
such, the treatment of raw water to produce drinking water is based primarily on health, aesthetic
and technical considerations.

ffFiltration or separation methods

ffPrecipitation and flocculation methods
ffBiological methods
ffSubstance exchange at interfaces

Table 9: Treatment objectives and focal areas for specific action

Treatment objective

Focal areas for specific action

Removal of geogenic substances

Iron, manganese, turbidity, smell, taste, arsenic, nickel, fluoride

Removal of anthropogenic substances

Nitrate, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), microbiology, pesticides

Protection of distribution network

Inhibiting corrosion; preventing deposits; preventing bacterial growth

Technical usability

Softening; miscibility of water from different sources; hardening after

application of membrane technologies

Source: Federal Environment Agency


Water Resource Management in Germany

ffMetered admixture of additives

ffIrradiation methods.

6.2.3 Water distribution

When processing raw water into drinking water,

the addition of treatment chemicals (which are
never entirely free of contaminants) may effect
an increase in pollutants in the drinking water, in
addition to the desired treatment objective. The
Drinking Water Ordinance states that only those
treatment substances and disinfection techniques
contained in a positive list held by the Federal
Environment Agency may be used. This positive list
helps to ensure that during drinking water treatment, any additional increase in pollutants that
may occur is less than 10% of the drinking water
limit of a health-relevant parameter, which in turn
means that the quality standards achieved are exemplary by European comparison.72

The water distribution system refers to the totality

of technical installations for the transportation of
drinking water, from the time it leaves the water
treatment facility (e.g. waterworks) until it reaches
the consumers tap.

During its journey, the drinking water comes into

contact with a wide range of different materials
and components. The intensity of this contact depends in particular on the relationship between the
wetted surface of the component in relation to the
water volume it encloses, and on the duration of
contact between the drinking water and the respective material surface. Whether and to what extent
the water quality is altered in the distribution
system also depends on the water quality itself (e.g.
salt, oxygen and nutrient content), the respective
material properties (e.g. corrosion behaviour) and a
range of other influencing factors such as temperature.

The Drinking Water Ordinance makes a distinction

between large, centralized water supply installations on the one hand, and small and domestic
installations on the other. Article 17, paragraph (1)
requires that when constructing or maintaining
water supply installations, the materials used must
meet the following requirements: in contact with
water, concentrations of any substances emitted

Table 10: Summary of methods used and treatment objectives



Suitable targets

Ion exchange

Calcium, magnesium, nitrate, heavy metals


DOC, organic substances

A, D

Corrosion inhibition



Iron, manganese, nitrate


UV irradiation



Oxygen concentration, pH


DOC, microbiology


Excess of chlorine


Scale deposits (lime scale)


Phosphate, arsenic


Turbidity, microbiology





Reverse osmosis

All targets


Methane, hydrogen sulphide, volatile halogenated hydrocarbons

S, B

Slow sand ltration

DOC, microbiology

S, D



Source: Federal Environment Agency

72 A = Exchange at interfaces; F = Precipitation/flocculation; S = Separation; B = Biological methods; D = Metered admixture of additives; BS = Irradiation

Water Resource Management in Germany


must not exceed what is considered unavoidable

in accordance with generally recognised technical
rules, and must not directly or indirectly reduce
the level of protection of human health envisaged
by this Ordinance, or alter the smell or taste of the

This requirement shall be considered to have been

met if the generally recognized technical rules are
observed during the planning, construction and
operation of plant, as a minimum requirement.

An extensive collection of technical rules comprised

of worksheets and test regulations from the DVGW
and DIN standards, and to an increasing extent
harmonised European standards (DIN EN), forms
the basis for the high standard of drinking water
supply that has been achieved. Minimal water
losses (Figure 41), rare incidences of pipe fractures
and interruptions to operation, coupled with a high
degree of hygiene safety, are the characteristic features of water supply in Germany.

ing to health protection. The guidelines have the

character of recommendations and are applied voluntarily by the manufacturers and water suppliers.

The domestic installation is the most sensitive part

of the water distribution system from a hygiene
viewpoint. The high surface-to-volume ratio of the
small-scale pipelines, frequent and lengthy stagnation periods of drinking water in buildings, coupled
with higher ambient temperatures, support corrosion processes and microbial growth. As a result,
samples taken from the tap more frequently exceed
selected parameters under the TrinkwV than is
the case for samples taken from the waterworks or
central water supply installations. The growth of
Legionella in building installations and elevated
lead concentrations in drinking water in old buildings are the most difficult problems facing water
distribution in Germany. For this reason, increased
attention is devoted to building installations. In this
sector of the water distribution system, it is particularly important that the requirements of the technical regulations are met.

Figure 41: Comparison of water losses

6.2.4 Drinking water prices


As a percentage (%)



The calculation of water prices in Germany is based

on the actual costs incurred to companies in connection with every aspect of water supply. This
concerns all costs associated with water abstraction, treatment, storage and distribution, as well
as investments in maintenance and in water conservation. As such, the cost recovery principle has
already been widely introduced in Germany; under
the WFD this principle was adopted with Europeanwide validity in the year 2000. Under the cost recovery principle, in addition to on-going operating
costs, the water rates must also cover all the capital
costs incurred.

However, the existing structural and natural framework conditions for water extraction and supply,
such as settlement density, geographical location
and hydrology, vary widely from one location to
the next. This leads to different cost levels for the
companies, which must be covered by locally valid
water rates.

The public water supply is seen as a public service

(Article 50, paragraph (1) of the Federal Water Act),
which is organised by the local authority within the
context of their constitutionally guaranteed selfadministration. Depending on whether the supply
companies are publicly or privately organized, their
fees are subject to price supervision by local government law or cartel law. In the case of public water
utilities, water prices are based on the principles
of local government fee legislation (cost coverage,
equal treatment, equivalence).









27 26.4











England & Wales

Great Britain






Czech Republic





Source: Branchenbild der deutschen Wasserwirtschaft 2008

The Plastic Drinking Water Recommendations

(KTW recommendations) of the former Federal
Health Office from 1975 are largely responsible
for the predominantly perfect water quality which
comes out of German consumers taps. Voluntary
testing of components from organic materials by
manufacturers, in accordance with the KTW recommendations, together with certification by the
DVGW, ensures that the requirements of the Drinking Water Ordinance are met. These recommendations are updated by guidelines from the Federal
Environment Agency, which incorporate technical
progress and the increased requirements pertain-


Water Resource Management in Germany

The Federal Court of Justice has ruled that in the

case of private water utilities, the cartel authorities
may compare the water prices of one utility with
those of a similar utility, since water supply constitutes a natural monopoly. To this end, the cartel
authority must determine and compare the supply
density (metered volume), the client density (network length per house connection), the number of
residents supplied, the fee structure (household and
small commercial clients), differences in procurement and treatment costs, and the overall yields of
the water division.

6.3 Rainwater management

Rainwater usually infiltrates into the ground as it

falls. As part of the natural hydrological cycle, it
makes a significant contribution to groundwater
recharge. During infiltration, the water passes
through various layers of soil which purify it, and is
then collected in the groundwater-saturated zone.
In most developed or impervious covered areas,
only part of the rainwater now reaches the water
cycle by a natural route; a significant portion is discharged via the sewer system.

The utility must provide evidence of any other significant cost factors such as topography (land structure), increased maintenance costs for the pipeline
network or other special precautionary expenses
for environmental protection and hygiene, should
they wish to justify higher prices than other suppliers in selected cases. In future, it will be important
to formulate these evidence requirements in such a
way that the water utilities are still able to provide
the full range of vital water conservation and hygiene services.

Prices are generally calculated from two fee components: The consumption-related price per cubic
metre, and a basic monthly charge designed to
cover the fixed costs for maintaining the supply
infrastructure. These price components vary between municipalities, with the result that actual
water prices vary considerably from the calculated
average of 1.60/cubic metre, plus a basic monthly
charge of 5.13. The majority of all households pay
a price per cubic metre and a basic charge. The following chart summarises the fee categories:

This form of stormwater disposal is based on the

principle of discharging rainflows as quickly and
comprehensively as possible via the sewer system,
coupled with a high standard of disposal reliability and drainage convenience. In Germany, two
different sewer systems are used: The combined
discharge of precipitation together with wastewater
(mixed system), and discharge in two separate sewers (separate system). However, precipitation discharges from separate sewer systems and overflows
from mixed systems have led to quality problems
in our surface waters in the past. Over the past 35

Figure 42: The bulk of precipitation in towns is discharged

via sewers

We can use a simplified calculation for a model

household to illustrate the costs. For this standardised two-person household with a water consumption of 80 cubic metres, the annual expenditure
would be 190 /annum, i.e. the cost of drinking
water is 95 per person, per year. Put another way,

Table 11: Drinking water prices 2007

Share of

Communities with

Price in
Per cubic metre

Basic charge

97 %



Cubic metre
price only



Basic charge only



Cubic metre price

and basic charge

Source: Federal Statistical Office, 2007

Photograph: Bernd Kirschbaum, Federal Environment Agency

the daily drinking water consumption of 122 litres

is covered by a charge of 0.27 per day.

Water Resource Management in Germany


years, these adverse impacts of water management

have been addressed primarily via the construction
of more than 45,000 rainwater treatment plants,
at high investment and operating costs, the majority of which are only used in the rare event of
heavy rainfall. To date, almost 24,000 stormwater
overflows and reservoir sewers in the mixed system,
almost 18,500 stormwater retention facilities in the
mixed and separate system, and just under 3,200
rainwater purification basins in the separate system
have been built in Germany.

In the case of land whose usage necessitates stabilisation, there are various opportunities for minimising the extent of sealing. For example, paths, roads,
parking spaces and terraces may be stabilised with
water-permeable coverings. Figure 43 illustrates the
changes in evaporation, run-off and infiltration as
the level of development rises.

Pollution of water resources

For a number of pollutants, pollution loads from

precipitation discharge exceed those from wastewater treatment plants, despite every effort taken.
Studies to date73 indicate that discharges from
urban systems account for around 40% of total
discharges of heavy metals into our surface waters.
The principal discharge routes are sewer systems,
erosion, and groundwater inflow. Mixed water discharges and precipitation outflows from separate
systems account for between 10 and 40% of overall
emissions. The proportions are particularly high
in the case of the metals zinc, lead and copper74.
Nutrient loads from precipitation discharges are
also relevant. The eutrophication of surface waters
caused by nutrient discharges from human settlements is one of the main reasons for failing to
achieve a good waterbody status.

Stormwater infiltration

Returning stormwater to the natural water cycle

as close as possible to the site where it falls is a
modern, sustainable and eco-friendly concept for
dealing with stormwater in developed areas, and is
also beneficial from an economic viewpoint. With
infiltration via the unsaturated soil zone, the pollutant load is significantly reduced and the run-off
volume minimised.

This has many benefits: Underground sewers and

storm overflows that are expensive to build may be
replaced with cost-effective, semi-natural retention
systems. The reduction in overflows from mixed
sewers resulting from stormwater infiltration may
help to significantly improve water quality this in
itself is reason enough to change the way we handle stormwater in developed areas.

The amendment to the Federal Water Act (WHG)

in 2009 made allowance for this realisation: Article
55, paragraph (2) of the WHG adopts the principle
already introduced in Land law of the local infiltration of precipitation. The formulation of this provision is quite broad and open (target requirement)
in order to make allowance for the varying local
conditions (e.g. existing mixed sewers in residential
developments). It only applies to the construction
of new installations; existing mixed sewers may still
be operated as before.

Rainwater management

Decentralised rainwater management is an ecologically and economically expedient alternative to central municipal drainage, and can now be described
as the best available technology. It consists of a
combination of various complementary individual
measures, aimed at ensuring reliable drainage
while at the same time conserving the natural
hydrological cycle as far as possible. For example,
thanks to an expedient combination of green roofs,
rainwater use and infiltration plants, the water balance in developed areas can almost approximate
that of undeveloped areas75.
The first step toward semi-natural stormwater
management on a piece of land should always be
to review the need for sealed and stabilised land.
In many cases, a certain form of usage no longer
applies or a planned usage has failed to materialise,
and these areas may be reconverted into grassland.

73 For further details in this regard, cf. Bundesministerium fr Umwelt, Naturschutz und
Reaktorsicherheit (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and
Nuclear Safety, BMU) (2006): Wasserwirtschaft in Deutschland - Teil 2 Gewssergte
74 Hillenbrand et al. (2005): UBA Texte 19/05 Eintrge von Kupfer, Zink und Blei in
Gewsser und Bden, Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency, UBA)
75 Stockbauer, M. (2008): Regenwasserbehandlung- Neue Entwicklungen in Bayern, Wasser und Abfall, 5, p. 16-18


Aspects such as reducing contamination with pollutants, minimising the hydraulic load of water
resources, land sealing, climate change and demographic change will change the way we handle
stormwater in years to come. The opportunities
for local rainwater management will make the
treatment of precipitation more efficient in future,
which in turn will save costs.

Rainwater use

There are various expedient applications of rainwater, particularly in the commercial and industrial
sector. Examples include: Cleaning animal stalls
in agriculture, large air-conditioning systems with
cooling towers, car washes, and process water in
industry. In facilities such as airports and football
stadiums, where water is used in very large quanti-

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 43: Changes in the natural water balance

Source: US-EPA, 2004

ties just for irrigation purposes and for flushing

toilets, this can likewise be achieved with rainwater.

The use of rainwater in private households should

be decided on a case-by-case basis from an economic viewpoint rainwater is not always a cheaper alternative to the public water supply. An installation
for the use of rainwater must be reported to the
competent water utility, and must be constructed
and operated in accordance with the best available technology. When laying rainwater pipelines
to households, it is very important to ensure strict
separation between the rainwater network and
the drinking water network. The Drinking Water
Ordinance (TrinkwV) prohibits the connection of
pipelines carrying drinking water to other pipelines
carrying water of an inferior quality. In order to
prevent misconnections, which could cause largescale contamination of the drinking water network,
a high degree of responsibility is required from the
operators. Complaints often arise because essential
maintenance work is omitted for a variety of reasons.
The Federal Administrative Court has confirmed
that water used for household laundry need not

Water Resource Management in Germany

be of drinking water quality76. The Drinking Water

Ordinance leaves it up to the discretion of each individual whether they choose to use drinking water
or water of inferior quality to wash laundry in their
own home. Well water or rainwater from an independent supply system which is used alongside the
public drinking water connection in a household
need not be of drinking water quality.

6.4 Wastewater disposal

6.4.1 Legal framework

Since 1976, minimum nationwide requirements

have applied to the discharge of wastewater into
waters and hence to the incidence, avoidance and
treatment of wastewater. Under the old Federal Water Act (WHG), these minimum requirements were
outlined in Article 7a. These regulations have since
been replaced and extended to a significant degree
by Article 57 of the new WHG. Since 1996 these
minimum requirements have been based on the

76 Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) 8 C 16.08 ruling of 31 March 2010


Figure 44: Trenching systems on a road

Photographs: German Environment Foundation (DBU)

best available technology (Article 2, no. 11 of the

WHG), i.e. the permissible pollutant load depends
on how emissions into the water may be minimised
by the respective industry by complying with technically and economically practicable progressive
processes. This applies directly to direct dischargers.

In the amended version of the WHG, the regulatory mandate in Article 7a, paragraph (4) of the old
WHG was replaced by full regulations on the licensing of indirect discharges into public and private
wastewater treatment facilities (Articles 58, 59 of
the WHG).

The requirements for both the direct and indirect

discharge of wastewater are defined in a statutory
ordinance adopted by the Federal Government. The
relevant statutory ordinance, the Wastewater Ordinance77, was enacted by the Federal Government
in March 1997; since then, the existing rules contained the administrative guidelines for wastewater
for the various industries have been continuously
incorporated into the Ordinance. The Wastewater
Ordinance of 17 July 2004 was promulgated in the
version valid from 1 January 2005.

Overall, the new WHG and the Wastewater Ordinance, together with the new uniform nationwide
provisions on wastewater disposal, make an important contribution to the harmonisation and simplification of procedures, while at the same time
maintaining a high standard of environmental
The minimum requirements for domestic and
municipal wastewater and for wastewater from

77 Ordinance concerning requirements for the discharging of wastewater into waters

(Wastewater Ordinance AbwV) in the version promulgated on 17 June 2004, Federal
Law Gazette I p. 1108, amended p. 2625, most recently amended on 31 July 2009,
Federal Law Gazette I p. 2585


commercial and industrial plants are defined in

specific Annexes to the Wastewater Ordinance. To
date, some 57 such Annexes have been added to
the Wastewater Ordinance. Annex 1 to the Wastewater Ordinance applies to domestic and municipal
wastewater (Table 12), while the remaining Annexes
concern individual segments of commerce and
industry. For example, Annex 38 regulates the
requirements pertaining to wastewater from textile
manufacturing and textile finishing plants. The
Wastewater Ordinance also serves to implement
the technical requirements of EC law pertaining to
wastewater78. Implementation of the IE Directive
(former IPPC Directive) has had particular impacts,
since it regulates all emissions (not just those into
water) in an integrative fashion. There is some
discussion at present regarding the adoption of
a more specifically cross-media approach in the
Wastewater Ordinance (cf. also Chapter in this

6.4.2 Organisation of wastewater disposal in Germany

With between 7,000 and 8,000 local authority

wastewater management enterprises (the exact
figure varies according to the data source), the German wastewater sector is divided into extremely
small units.

Public wastewater management in Germany is a

state duty that is performed by communities and
cities as a local authority responsibility. The entity
responsible for wastewater management may itself
guarantee the performance of wastewater disposal,
or may entrust this to third parties, while retaining
local authority supervision. Local authorities have

78 For example, the Dangerous Substances Directive (2006/11/EC, which codifies 76/464/
EEC), the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC), the IE Directive
(2010/75/EU) and the Waste Incineration Directive (2000/76/EC).

Water Resource Management in Germany

various operational forms at their disposal for the

autonomous and effective disposal of wastewater.

water associations on behalf of several local governments (single-purpose association/wastewater association) with 28%. Public-law corporations account
for a further 17%, referring essentially to the cities
of Berlin and Hamburg7979. Publicly owned enterprises account for 15%.

ffPublicly owned enterprise: Operated by the

community within the context of general community administration

ffMunicipal utilities: Operated by the community as a special asset with separate book-keeping.

ffCompany in its own right: Enterprise under

private law owned by the community.

ffOperator model/cooperation model: Plant

operation is transferred to a private contractor,
whereby responsibility for the completion of
tasks remains with the community. In Germany, a particular role is played by (usually) voluntary, in some cases Land-regulated cooperation between local authorities in associations,
in order to ensure that the organisation of water supply, sewage treatment and waterbody
maintenance is efficiently structured from a
technical and financial viewpoint, and also
with regard to waterbody conservation. These
associations vary in terms of the task assigned
to them, regional coverage and organisational

Special purpose organisations as associations under public law

Water associations as defined by the Water Association Act or on the basis of special legislation (e.g. Ruhrverband / Ruhr

Based on the number of people served, municipal

utilities are the most common operational form for
wastewater management tasks with 36%, ahead of

Wastewater disposal essentially comprises two main

tasks: Wastewater discharge via the sewer networks
or wastewater pumping trucks (so-called rolling

Figure 45: Organisational forms of wastewater disposal in

relation to the number of inhabitants served

Municipal department
15 %


Public-law institution
17 %

Municipal utility
36 %

Single-purpose inter-municipal association/

wastewater management association
28 %

Source: BMU 2007; data source: BGW/DWA, 2006

79 Due to almost total coverage, the public-law corporation is over-represented in

the ATV/BGW survey, which means that this figure cannot be applied to the Federal
Republic of Germany in general with regard to responsibility for and performance of
wastewater management functions

Table 12: Minimum requirements for the discharge of municipal wastewater under Annex I to the Wastewater
Size categories
of wastewater
treatment plants

oxygen demand

Biochemical oxygen
demand over 5 days


Total nitrogen
as sum of ammonium,
nitrite and nitrate-N


Population equivalent






Less than












Greater than





Greater than 100,000





Greater than

1 population equivalent = 60 g BOD 5 /d in untreated wastewater

* Qualied random sample or 2-hour composite sample
Source: Federal Environment Agency

Water Resource Management in Germany


sewers), and wastewater treatment in sewage treatment plants. Both tasks may be mandated to various companies by the local authority.

By European comparison, the local authority sewage disposal system in Germany is exemplary.
Around 90% of the phosphorous and around 81%
of the nitrogen incurred are removed in public
wastewater treatment plants and individual small
sewage treatment plants. The EC Directive on urban
wastewater treatment only requires a reduction of
75% for both substances.

In recent years, the majority of plants which did

not yet meet the valid requirements of the Waste
Water Ordinance have been upgraded. The trend
for making constant improvements in local wastewater treatment technology especially with a
view to optimum nutrient reduction and a holistic
approach to wastewater systems (reduction in
drinking water consumption, treatment of substreams for further use, recovery of usable wastewater constituents) will continue in future.

6.4.3 Impacts of the legal requirements

According to the water management survey by

the Federal Statistical Office for the year 2007, the
total number of public wastewater treatment plants
in Germany is 9,933. 96% of the general public
are connected to the public sewer system, 95% to
public sewage treatment plants, and around 3% of
the population treat their wastewater in individual
small sewage treatment plants.
In 2007, just over 10 billion m3 of wastewater was
treated in public treatment plants. The volume
of wastewater treated annually is comprised of
50% urban sewage, approximately 20% sewer
infiltration water, and the remainder comes from
precipitation. In 2007, 99.9% of the wastewater in
treatment plants was purified biologically. Around
98% of biologically purified wastewater is purified
with advanced treatment methods, 99% with nitrification, 97% with denitrification, and 93% with
the selective removal of phosphorous.

Since the reorganisation of the wastewater regulations and the implementation of extensive wastewater remediation measures (among other things,
funds from earmarked wastewater charges are
being used to improve wastewater treatment), a
considerable degree of success has been achieved,
which is reflected in an improved biological quality
in particular.

Contributory factors include the development of

wastewater treatment plants and the high level
of connection to the public sewer system and to
municipal mechanical/biological plants and plants
with selective nitrogen and phosphate elimination
(implementation of Annex 1 to the Waste Water
Ordinance - AbwV and EC Directive 91/271/EEC
Urban Wastewater Directive (UWWD)).

6.4.4 Current challenges and problem-solving approaches Integrative wastewater management Options
for a new Wastewater Ordinance

As a result of the WFD and the adoption of the

objectives of the IE (former IPPC) and EIA Directives
into the Federal Water Act (WHG), the requirement range of the Wastewater Ordinance has been
significantly extended in favour of integrative environmental protection requirements, with the aim
of giving greater consideration to the overall effects
and total emissions resulting from wastewater treatment.

This integrated approach of the European Communitys IE and EIA Directives is generally superior
to the media-based approach with its narrow
interpretation of protected assets. However, the
existing structures of environmental legislation and
administration in Germany did not yet fully allow

Table 13: Connection of the population to the public sewer system (%)
Connection to sewers







Germany as a whole







Old Lnder




New Lnder




Population as at 31 December in each case

Not shown in the statistics
Source: Federal Statistical Office 2009


Water Resource Management in Germany

for the requirements of an integrative, sustainable

urban water management system.

The Composite Act Implementing the IPPC

Amendment Directive (new IE Directive), the EIA
Directive and Other EC Directives on Environmental
Protection, which entered into force on 3 August
2001, anchored the integrative concept more firmly
in the WHG (in the version of 31 July 2009) on the
basis of a uniform cross-media definition of the best
available technology.

With due regard for the legal framework, Figure 46

shows all mass flows in the wastewater sector which
must be taken into account, and where applicable
regulated, against the background of the integrated, cross-media approach.

These include:

ffReviewing the 57 annexes to the Wastewater

Ordinance for possible simplification and the
need for adjustment to the best available technology

The reorganisation of legislative competence under

the 2006 Federalism Reform led to the extensive
redefinition of competencies for the areas of
environmental legislation, including water legislation. The new WHG was standardised on the basis
of competing legislative powers by the Federal
Government, and forms the basis for redesigning
the Wastewater Ordinance with a cross-media approach. Two industry-based working parties are
currently drafting proposals for Annexes 28 (paper/
board) and 40 (electroplating), with a focus on the
required integrative approach.

ffRequirements for stormwater management

ffThe specification of indicators for the energy
efficiency of sewage treatment plants

ffThe recovery of raw materials (e.g. phosphorous and nitrate) from wastewater and sewage

ffThe more widespread consideration of all

emissions when considering the water route,

ffThe hygienisation of wastewater depending on

water use.

Figure 46: Massflow in the wastewater disposal chain based on the integrative approach

Integrative wastewater management

- options of the new Federal Water Act Energetic and
material recycling

(3) (5)

low waste and


waste water

(2) (5) (6) (10)

waste for

(1) (5)

material recovery P and N

(5) (6) (10)

(1) (2) (5) (9)

Auxiliary (5) (6) (10)
chemicals waste air

waste air
(5) (6) (10)

(5) (9)
industrial plant

water recovery


(2) (5) (9)

Raw materials
Auxiliary Chemicals

Local authorities

waste air



(5) (6) (10)

(3) (9)
electricity, heat
(energy efficiency)



(5) (6) (10)

(3) (5) (6)

use as fuel

(5) (6) (10)




agricultural recycling

wastewater(5) (6) (7) (8)

Viruses, bacteria, parasites
(1) (5) (10)
combined sewage overflow

(5) (6) (10)

(Drinking and
service water)

combined sewage overflow

Solids phase

(5) (6) (10)


in the speparate system

Surface waters
(Drinking and service water,
Bathing and leisure waters)

a) District heating power station

b) Waste water treatment plant
Crieria for appointment of Best
Available Techniques (BAT)
(Annex 1 to WHG 3 (11))

(1) Low-waste technology

(2) Less hazardous substances
(3) Recovery/Recycling
(4) Comparable techniques

(5) Technical progress

(6) Impacts of emissions
(7) Date of commissioning
(8) Time needed for introduction

(9) Use of raw materials/energy efficiency

(10) Overall effect of emissions
(11) Accident prevention
(12) BAT sheets

Source: Federal Environment Agency 2005, revised 2010

Water Resource Management in Germany

83 Industrial and commercial wastewater

recovery has acquired a separate status. Wastewater

is not seen as a source of pollution for the environment resource water, but as a production resource
with its own intrinsic value.

Wastewater avoidance

Avoiding wastewater by using wastewater-free

techniques as far as possible is the most effective
measure for implementing the IE (former IPPC) Directive. There are a large number of procedural approaches which avoid wastewater discharge so that
harmful effects cannot occur in the watercourses.
For example, the following procedures may be considered:

Best available technology for indirect dischargers

The best available technology for the 220,000

or more indirect dischargers is comparable with
that for direct dischargers. However, unlike direct
dischargers, it is far more difficult for indirect dischargers to achieve integrated cross-media wastewater disposal. A holistic, substance flow-based approach to wastewater disposal must therefore make
allowance for emissions arising during wastewater
transportation and final treatment when considering indirect discharges. Leaking sewers pose a
major potential threat in the case of industrial and
commercial locations when handling hazardous
substances if these substances enter the subsoil
via leakages in the in-plant network or the public
sewer system. At present, the existing regulations in
relation to indirect discharges in particular fail to
make adequate allowance for emissions from sewer

Implementation of the new Articles 58 and 59 of

the WHG facilitates harmonisation of the regulations for direct and indirect dischargers.

ffWastewater-free (and chlorine-free) cellulose


ffWastewater-free waste paper and paper production

ffWastewater-free flue gas scrubbing

ffWastewater-free vehicle cleaning
ffWastewater-free metal finishing (e.g. galvanizing)

ffWastewater-free cleaning of reusable bottles

ffWastewater-free screen printing
ffWater-free substance syntheses
ffWastewater-free powder-coating

Technologies which are not wastewater-free but

which lead to significant reductions of the pollutant levels in wastewater discharges should be considered in the same connection. Examples include
developments in membrane technology, which
have made a substantial development leap over the
past ten years, and which have broad application
options with the various wastewater treatment
techniques. The significant benefits of membrane
techniques such as Municipal wastewater

ffHygienically faultless wastewater

ffExtensive wastewater purification for virtually
all wastewater parameters, and

ffMultiple reuse options for water as a production resource

meet the new requirement pattern of the best available technology.

Implementation of the integrated approach and

the use of low-waste technology, use of less hazardous materials, the recovery and reuse of materials
and waste, the use of raw material-conserving and
energy-efficient techniques and procedures and
the overall effects of emissions should be analysed
and taken into account throughout the entire
wastewater disposal chain in relation to municipal
wastewater disposal. This should also incorporate
the disposal of domestic and indirectly discharged
commercial and industrial wastewater, the public
sewer system, local authority wastewater treatment,
as well as sludge treatment and recovery.

Demographic change
Water Reuse


The reuse of water as a resource for sustainable

materials management in Germany, with a potential water supply of 188 billion m3/a and water
use of only 32 billion m3/a or so, is not necessarily
logical. As a general principle, the IE (former IPPC)
Directive views the recovery of water as a raw material resource, and this aspect was included in the
definition of the best available technology under
the WHG with the Composite Act. As such, water

Whilst the global population is expected to grow by

50% by the year 2100, the population in Germany
is expected to fall from its current level of 83 million to an estimated 67 million by the year 2050. To
date, there has been no decrease in population as
a result of migration. However, the decrease in the
birth rate, growing life expectancy and internal migration within Germany towards the urban centres
is already leading to the partial desertion of peripheral, structurally weak, rural regions, coupled with
rising ageing in such areas.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 47: Community wastewater treatment plant at


changes in wastewater composition mean that the

existing plants no longer meet the requirements of
ecologically and economically oriented wastewater
disposal. The quantitative and qualitative changes
necessitate new solutions for wastewater transportation and treatment.

Source: Gemeinschaftsklrwerk Bitterfeld-Wolfen GmbH

Except in conurbation areas, fewer and fewer

people now live in the same area of land, all of
whom must be provided with local authority infrastructure components including water supply and
wastewater disposal. In some cities and regions,
population figures will stagnate or even increase in
the long term.
Declining population figures and falling population
density are leading to changes in the wastewater
disposal infrastructure. Wastewater sewers and
treatment systems are overdimensioned for the
diminishing volumes of wastewater, and depositions in the sewer system are a growing problem.
The consequences are: higher scouring frequencies,
increased development of odours, and an increased
operational input for wastewater discharge and
treatment. As the incidence of wastewater is closely
interrelated to drinking water consumption, the
demographic impacts on the wastewater sector can
be further reinforced by additional water-saving
measures. A falling incidence of wastewater and

There is a need for economically and ecologically

expedient alternatives. By this, we mean technical, operational and conceptual solution strategies
which safeguard the long-term performance capabilities and affordability of municipal wastewater
disposal in the face of changing framework conditions, while at the same time satisfying the crossmedia approach. The Federal Environment Agency
commissioned a research project which assessed
various innovative wastewater disposal techniques,
plant management strategies, structural changes
and organisational models vis--vis their relevance
for adaptation of the wastewater infrastructure to
demographic change, and formulated initial problem-solving approaches and recommended actions.
Consideration was also given to climate change and
water supply80.

Stormwater management

See Chapter 6.3.

Wastewater hygiene

Figure 48: Development of population figures in Germany

Population forecast for Germany three variants

Data basis: Federal Statistical Office
High variant
Medium variant
Low variant

The risks to humans include, in particular, harmful microbial organisms whose emissions are to be
avoided within the meaning of the IE (former IPPC)
Directive. With conventional wastewater treatment
techniques, hygienically questionable wastewater
pathogens (viruses, bacteria and parasites including some pathogens with multiple resistance to
antibiotics) are emitted in high concentrations. For
this reason, in future, measures to make wastewater
more hygienic will be needed, at least on those
waterbodies which are used as bathing water. By
using membrane filtration plants, for example, it is
possible not only to comply with requirements for
the more extensive purification of wastewater, but
also to achieve a high standard of hygiene safety
(with virtually complete elimination of pathogens)
when discharging wastewater into surface waters.

Million inhabitants

Emissions in soils with the agricultural use of sewage


Source: Federal Statistical Office (2006)

Water Resource Management in Germany

Substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals are bound to particles in
high percentages in both water resources and
wastewater. During wastewater treatment they

80 Hillenbrand, T. et al (2010): Demographischer Wandel als Herausforderung fr die

Sicherung und Entwicklung einer kosten- und ressourceneffizienten Abwasserinfrastruktur, Forschungsprojekt im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamts (FKZ 3708 16 305)


become bound to the sewage sludge via adsorption,

but are only inadequately biodegraded.

Sewage sludge used for agricultural purposes is

subject to water legislation while at the wastewater
treatment plant (as far as the plant gate), and then
becomes subject to transport and fertiliser legislation once it has left the plant. Limits for pollutants
in sewage sludge are intended to prevent contaminated sewage sludge from being used as a soil improver. In order to preventively avoid and reduce
management-related emissions from fertilisers into
the soil and groundwater, most sewage sludge today is subjected to thermal recovery.

the complete destruction of the organic pollutants

in sewage sludge which have increasingly become
the focus of attention in recent years.

Use of wastewater heat

Recovery of raw materials from wastewater and sewage



New techniques are also being developed to close

substance cycles and recover the nutrients contained in wastewater. In particular, this concerns
the recovery of phosphorous from wastewater and
sewage sludge. On the one hand, phosphorous is
a vital element for all living organisms, yet on the
other, significant environmental pollution may occur if phosphorous enters waters in excessive quantities and leads to eutrophication. Phosphorous is
a non-substitutable, scarce raw material resource,
which will only be available in adequate quality for
the next few decades. Global consumption totals
more than 17 million tonnes of phosphorous per
annum in the form of mineral fertilisers (phosphates). At present, Germany and the EU are completely dependent on imports of mineral phosphate
fertilisers, while at the same time waste and wastewater rich in phosphates are being disposed of.
Mindful of this fact, back in 2004 the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and the Federal Ministry
for Education and Research designated phosphorous recycling a national priority for financial aid,
in order to identify relevant material flows in Germany and develop and establish suitable techniques
for recovering the phosphorous contained in these
material flows and make it available to various recovery routes.
In Germany, the phosphorous levels contained in
wastewater and sewage sludge equate to almost
half of our annual phosphorous mineral imports.
At present, 40% of the phosphorous input can be
recovered from wastewater and sludge water as
magnesium ammonium phosphate (MAP) using a
wet-chemical technique. This MAP is ideally suited
for use as a mineral fertiliser. An even higher recovery potential of around 90% of the infeed is attainable with the recovery of phosphorous from sewage
sludge mono-combustion ash. Although the monocombustion of sewage sludge is more technically
complex than wet-chemical techniques, it ensures

The wastewater from households and commercial

enterprises usually has a temperature of between
10 and 15C, even in the winter months. In wellinsulated residential buildings, around 15% of
the heating energy used is therefore lost with the
wastewater. From 1 m3 of wastewater, a thermal
output of more than 1 KW can be derived from
cooling by just 1 Kelvin. To date in Germany, only
a few pilot projects have used wastewater in large
sewers as a heat source for heating apartment
blocks, commercial buildings, a swimming pool
and a sports hall. If the building technology were
correctly adapted, up to 60% of CO2 emissions
could be avoided by heating with wastewater heat
compared with conventional heating technology.

Energy efficiency of public wastewater treatment


Wastewater treatment plants are major consumers

of electricity. The 10,000 or so public wastewater
treatment plants consume some 4,400 GWh of
electricity each year, equivalent to the capacity
of a typical modern hard coal-fired power plant.
The volume of electricity currently used by public
wastewater treatment plants therefore emits some
3 million tonnes of CO2.

Specific electricity consumption depends to a large

extent on the size of the plant. Size categories 4
and 5 only account for 22 percent of Germanys
10,000 public wastewater treatment plants, but
treat more than 90 percent of domestic wastewater,
and are responsible for around 87 percent of total
electricity consumption.

Many wastewater treatment plants have huge energy-saving potential. Energy savings can primarily
be achieved with short- and medium-term measures
at the aerator installation, the treatment of sewage
sludge and the recovery thereof, without impairing
the purification performance or operational stability. Merely from more efficient aerator installation,
improved control of the units and the use of motors
and pumps of the highest energy efficient category,
it would be possible to achieve an average electricity saving of 20% in Germany, corresponding to
900 GWh/annum or an annual emission reduction
of around 600,000 t of CO2.

Electricity generation via the improved extraction

and recovery of sewage gas is another aspect of
the energy-efficient operation of wastewater treat-

Water Resource Management in Germany

Table 14: Average specific electricity consumption of public wastewater treatment plants

Size category

Population units

specific electricity

Share of total electricity

consumption by public wastewater
treatment plants

Category 1

< 1,000 PU

75 kWh/PU a


Category 2

> 1,0005,000 PU

55 kWh/PU a


Category 3

> 5,00010,000 PU

44 kWh/PU a


Category 4

> 10,000100,000 PU

35 kWh/PU a


Category 5

> 100,000 PU

32 kWh/PU a


Source: UBA, according to Haberkern et al., 2006

ment plants. The entire process chain, from sludge

dehydration to breakdown of the sewage sludge,
generation and recovery of sewage gas and the
recovery of fermentation residues, is relevant for
the energy generation potential. By employing optimised techniques, electricity generation in public
wastewater treatment plants could be doubled, on
average, achieving a CO2 saving of almost 600,000
tonnes per year; with co-fermentation the figure
could even be quadrupled.

poses or similar origins. Conventional wastewater

treatment already provides tried-and-tested techniques which are also used in these new types of
sanitation techniques.

In small and medium-sized plants, solar drying and

optimised organisational forms are expedient measures for boosting resource and energy efficiency.

In Germany, new sanitation concepts are mainly

used in new developments and extensive renovation projects. These systems are particularly advantageous for plots in rural regions without connection to a public wastewater treatment plant, and for
tourism and leisure facilities in exposed positions
e.g. allotments. Micropollutants
Figure 49: Typical shares of individual process stages
among total energy demand

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, diagnostic agents

When people think of pharmaceuticals, they tend

to think primarily of the therapeutic benefits, and
possibly also of the potential risks to patients due to
side-effects, rather than environmental problems.

Media reports in 2005 about vultures dying in India and Pakistan due to secondary poisoning with
Diclofenac, a common analgesic, attracted a great
deal of attention. The vultures were poisoned in
large numbers because they had been eating the
cadavers of cattle that had been treated with the
pharmaceutical. In this way, scientists were able to
prove for the first time that a pharmaceutical can
cause severe ecological damage to an entire region.
The Indian Government responded in 2005 by banning the use of Diclofenac as a veterinary pharmaceutical.

In Germany, a few years ago, there were some rather random, unsystematic findings which indicated
the presence of active ingredients from pharmaceuticals in the environment. Monitoring programmes
by the Federal/Lnder Working Party on Chemical
Safety (BLAC) and LAWA have since shown that
the active ingredients from pharmaceuticals are
present in surface waters throughout Germany. The
concentrations of active pharmaceutical ingredi-

Mechanical purification stage


Sewage lifting plant

Infrastructure, other
Sludge treatment
11 %

Flocculating filtration
Biological purification
and secondary clarification
67 %
Source: UBA, according to Haberkern et al., 2006

Sustainable sanitation concepts

Sustainable sanitation concepts aim to reuse water

and recover the constituents of sewage. In the absence of a uniform terminology, a large number of
synonyms have emerged for these new sanitation
concepts. The basic concept behind all of them is
the separate collection and selective treatment of
substreams from facilities used for residential pur-

Water Resource Management in Germany


ents measured in the environment are generally

significantly below the therapeutic doses of the
medicines. However, this does not mean that they
are safe for the environment. . Effects on organisms caused by comparatively low but permanent
exposure to pharmaceutical residues are largely unresearched. For example, long-term exposure could
have adverse effects on the sensitive reproduction
systems of aquatic and terrestrial organisms. One
well-known example is 17 ethinyl estradiol, the
active hormone found in the contraceptive pill and
some menopause drugs. Laboratory fish exposed to
this active ingredient in environmentally relevant
concentrations of just 4 ng/L were found to have
significantly lower reproductive rates. Another example is fluoxetine, the active ingredient in an antidepressant. In environmentally relevant concentrations of a few micrograms per litre, fluoxetine
delays certain development stages from a fish egg
to a mature specimen, and has an algo-toxic effect.

Higher concentrations of the human pharmaceuticals carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazol have been
found in German waters, as well as of Diclofenac.
The consumption of Diclofenac in analgesics and
rheumatism drugs in Germany totals some 90
tonnes per annum. Laboratory studies have indicated that Diclofenac can also cause serious damage to
the kidneys of fish in the concentrations found in

Diagnostic agents (radiographic contrast media)

are also regularly detected in the environment. The
stability towards metabolic processes required by
medicine leads to a high level of persistency, and
hence to a continuous accumulation in the environment. Although these substances have a comparatively low active eco-toxicological potential, they
should be investigated further in view of their poor

The obligation anchored in EC law since 2001 to

conduct environmental risk assessments of human
pharmaceuticals81 and veterinary pharmaceuticals82
within the context of authorisation has proven
essential: In recent years, practical experience has
shown that the use of numerous veterinary pharmaceuticals in particular causes environmental
risks, and that therefore, authorisation should be
tied to certain conditions in order to protect the
environment (e.g. by restricting application areas),
or that authorisation should be refused due to the

81 Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 November

2001 on the Community code relating to human medicinal products. OJ L 31, p. 67 ff.
Directive 2004/27/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004
amending Directive 2001/83/EC on the Community code relating to human medicinal
products. OJ L 136, p. 34 ff.
82 Directive 2001/82/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 November
2001 on the Community code relating to veterinary medicinal products. OJ L311, p. 1 ff.
Directive 2004/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004
amending Directive 2001/82/EC on the Community code relating to veterinary medicinal products. OJ L 136, p. 58 ff.


environmental risks. In 2005, the development of

various international guidelines on the environmental assessment of veterinary pharmaceuticals
was completed, and the requirements governing
environmental risk assessments have since been
internationally harmonised83. Since 2006, a coordinated European guideline for assessing the environmental risks of human medicines has likewise
been in force84. With human medicines, however,
an identified environmental risk cannot lead to
the refusal of authorisation. Further measures are
needed here to reduce environmental exposure
(e.g. safe disposal).

Environmental chemicals (fragrances, personal care

products and detergents)

Around 1.3 million tonnes (t) of washing and cleaning agents are consumed by private households
in Germany each year. On average, some 600,000
t of detergents, 200,000 t of fabric softener and
500,000 t of cleaning agents enter our sewage
each year as a result. Washing and cleaning agents
contain a wide range of chemical substances. The
level of environmental impairment depends on the
status of sewage purification and the nature of the
constituents. Depending on the application area,
washing and cleaning agents will usually contain
surfactants, complexing agents, builders, alkalis
or acids, enzymes, optical brighteners, fragrances,
preservatives, disinfectants and/or solvents.

Following the entry into force of the EC Detergents

Regulation85 on 8 October 2005, only washing and
cleaning agents containing surfactants for which
proof of complete aerobic biodegradability has
been submitted may be placed on the market. This
means that surfactants that produce toxic by-products during degradation are no longer admissible.
For all other constituents, biodegradability has not
yet been regulated by law. As a result, individual
constituents may pollute the environment.

In Germany, the phosphate contents of detergents

are limited by the national Maximum Phosphate
Content Ordinance of 1980, with the exception of
dishwasher detergents. Today, thanks to a voluntary
commitment by industry, all laundry detergents

83 International Cooperation on the harmonisation of test requirements for veterinary

medicines (VICH 2000), Topic GL 6: Environmental Impact Assessment for Veterinary
Medicinal Products, Phase I. June 2000, Ref. No. CVMP/VICH/592/98
International Cooperation on the harmonisation of test requirements for veterinary
medicines (VICH 2005), Topic GL 38: Environmental Impact Assessment for Veterinary
Medicinal Products, Phase II. October 2005, Ref. No. CVMP/VICH/790/03
EMEA (2008). Guideline on Environmental Impact Assessment for Veterinary Medicinal
Products in Support of the VICH Guidelines GL6 (Phase I) and GL38 (Phase II). November 2008; Ref. No. EMEA/CVMP/ERA/418282/ 2005-Rev.
84 EMEA (2006). Guideline on the environmental risk assessment of medicinal products
for human use. June 2006; Doc. Ref. EMEA/CHMP/SWP/4447/00.
85 Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31
March 2004 on detergents, OJ L 104, p. 1, most recently amended on 25 June 2009, OJ
L 164, p. 3

Water Resource Management in Germany

are now phosphate-free. As a result, the phosphate

levels in detergents have decreased sharply since
the 1970s. In 1975, phosphate consumption was
276,000 t/a, primarily due to use in household
laundry detergents; in 1993, thanks to the use of
phosphate-free household laundry detergents, this
figure had decreased to 4,000 t/a in the household
sector and around 11,000 t/a in the commercial sector. For a number of years, phosphate consumption
in the household sector has been on the rise again,
primarily due to the use of phosphates in househould automatic dishwasher detergents. In 2008,
the quantity used totalled 31,860 t86.

particles, nanofibres (rods, tubes) and nanoplates,

which may be comprised of various materials, and
agglomerates and aggregates derived from these87.
As these synthetic nanomaterials become more
widely used, growing quantities are likely to be
discharged into the environmental compartment of

After releasing nanomaterials into water, various

factors influence their persistence and transportation:

fflarger particles sediment faster than smaller


The development of phosphate-free laundry detergents has led to the halving of water loads in wastewater treatment plants without P elimination and
for discharges from mixed sewer overflows (approx.
40% of discharges from all outfalls of wastewater
treatment plants in Germany).
Fragrances are added to detergents, fabric softener
and cleaning agents to give users a sense of cleanliness and freshness with a pleasant fragrance. In total, the manufacturing industry uses around 2,500
to 3,000 different fragrances, around 15 of which
are produced in quantities in excess of 1,000 tonnes
per annum. Selected fragrances may be comprised
of a few to several hundred different fragrance substances.
To date, comparatively little is known about the effects of fragrances on health and the environment.
We do know that some fragrances can cause contact allergies or other intolerances. Such fragrances
may be either of natural origin or synthetically
manufactured. Natural fragrances with allergenic
potential include limonen, linalool and geraniol,
some of which is obtained from the peel of citrus
fruits. Certain fragrances, particularly certain musk
compounds, also have very low degradability in
the environment, and because of their good fat
solubility, accumulate via the food chain primarily
in the fatty tissues of animals. Since 1994, industry
has replaced musk xylol and most other nitro-musk
compounds with other substances on the basis
of a voluntary commitment. The accumulation
potential of many other fragrances, particularly
those produced in smaller quantities, has not been
researched to date.


Nanomaterials are manufactured materials with

special properties and functions that consist of
definable structural components in the magnitude
of 100 nanometers (1 nm = 10-9 m) or less. These
nanomaterials include nanoobjects such as nano-

86 Source: Industrieverband Krperpflegeprodukte, Wasch- und Reinigungsmittel (IKW)

Water Resource Management in Germany

fforganic substances are accumulated via coagulation, and

ffthe water flow and pH value have a decisive

effect on transportation.

During aquatic transportation, nanomaterials may

undergo chemical and physical changes as a result
of agglomeration, complexing, adsorption and absorption of substances.

Nanotechnologies are used in downstream processes such as water treatment, wastewater treatment
or groundwater purification. Nanotechnically optimised separation membranes and nanoparticles
are used commercially for catalytic and adsorptive purification purposes. Nanotechnology-based
production processes can also significantly reduce
wastewater pollution during the production process88. There are already a number of nanotechnology products used in drinking water processing,
wastewater treatment and groundwater purification. For example, the separation of arsenic from
drinking water and wastewater with nanoparticulate iron oxide (-FeOOH) is used in continuous fixed
bed reactors. Similar sorption techniques are under
development for the separation of other toxic heavy
metal compounds (antimony, lead, cadmium, chromium).

If nanomaterials from products enter the water, either deliberately or accidentally, they are subject to
differing conditions that influence their behaviour
and mobility. The effects of their discharge on water usage and water organisms need to be assessed.
For example, an increase in the silver content of
sewage sludge seems likely in view of the growing
number of products containing silver nanoparticles.
It is important to investigate whether this could
disrupt bacterial degradation in wastewater treatment plants.

87 Becker, H., Dubbert, W., Schwirn, K. and D. Vlker (2009): Nanotechnology for humans
and the environment,, Retrieved on 1 February 2010
88 Luther, W., Backmann, G., Grinau, V., Marscheider-Weidemann, F., Schug, H. And A Zweck
(2007): Zukunftsmarkt nachhaltige Wasserwirtschaft und Nanotechnologie. Fallstudie
im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamtes. Umwelt, Innovation, Beschftigung 12/07.


To date, analyses into the effects of nanomaterials

have concentrated primarily on microorganisms,
aquatic invertebrates and various species of fish.
For example, even relatively low concentrations of
C60 molecules (Buckminster-Fullerene) and nanoscale titanium dioxide can have lethal effects in
water, depending on the form of administration89.
Another study shows that exposure to nanoscale
silver leads to a higher rate of mortality in water
fleas than contamination with microscale silver at
the same concentration90.

It is known that aquatic organisms take in various

nanomaterials via the gills and other epithelia.
Synthetic nanomaterials can cause inflammation
in the gills and guts of fish91 92. The toxic effects of
some nanomaterials could affect organs such as the
gills, gut, liver and brain. A study of the Japanese
killifish (Oryzias latipes) shows that fluorescent
nanomaterials accumulate in various organs and
can also overcome the blood/brain barrier in these
organisms93. Nanosilver particles increased the rate
of deformities even at low concentrations in the
embryonic development of zebrafish. At higher
concentrations, the mortality rate among embryos
likewise increased94. Carbon nanotubes delayed the
hatching of zebrafish95.

The behaviour and mobility of nanomaterials depends heavily on their interaction with water and
its other constituents. To date, there has been no
research into how this interaction takes place, and
how it contributes to complexing, agglomeration
or deagglomeration, and possibly also uptake into
organisms. Research activities in this area should
contribute to an understanding of these processes
and create the foundations for modelling.

levels. These measurement techniques are also

necessary in order to be able to analyse and define
processes under environmental concentration conditions96. The potential (eco-)toxic effects of nanoparticles have not yet been adequately investigated.
For this reason, in the context of sustainable water
resources management, technical advancements in
nanotechnology should always be linked to a scientific risk assessment.


There are currently few or no ways of qualitatively

and quantitatively identifying nanomaterials in
environmental compartments under environmental
conditions. For this reason, it is necessary to develop suitable measurement techniques and strategies
which will enable us to detect nano-materials, distinguish them from the natural background where
necessary, and make a statement on concentration

89 Lovern, S. B. and Klaper R. (2006): Daphnia magna mortality when exposed to titanium
dioxide and fullerene (C60) nanoparticles. Environ Toxicol Chem 25.4 (2006): 1132-37.
90 Gaiser, B. K., Fernandes T.F., Jepson M., Lead J., Tyler C. R.,Stone V. (2009): Assessing
exposure, uptake and toxicity of silver and cerium dioxide nanoparticles from contaminated environments. Environ Health. Dec 21;8 Suppl 1:S2
91 Federici, G., Shaw, B.J., Handy, R.D. (2007). Toxicity of titanium dioxide nanoparticles
to rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss): gill injury, oxidative stress, and other physiological effects. Aquat Toxicol 84.4: 415-370.
92 Smith, C. J., Shaw, B.J., Handy, R.D. (2007). Toxicity of single walled carbon nanotubes
to rainbow trout, (Oncorhynchus mykiss): respiratory toxicity, organ pathologies, and
other physiological effects. Aquat.Toxicol. 82.2: 94-109
93 Kashiwada, S. (2006) Distribution of nanoparticles in the see-through medaka (Oryzias
latipes) .Environ.Health Perspect. 114.11: 1697-702.
94 Lee,K.J.; Nallathamby,P.D.; Browning,L.M.; Osgood,C.J.; Xu,X.H. (2007): In vivo imaging
of transport and biocompatibility of single silver nanoparticles in early development of
zebrafish embryos. ACS.Nano 1.2: 133-43.
95 Cheng, J., Flahaut, E. and Cheng, S. H. (2007): Effect of carbon nanotubes on developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos. Environ.Toxicol.Chem 26.4, 708-16.


Wastewater treatment prices

Like water supply, wastewater disposal is a public

service task (Article 50, paragraph (1) of the Federal
Water Act (WHG)) which is carried out by the local
authorities within the context of their constitutionally guaranteed self-administration. This means that
wastewater charges are set by the local authorities
and communities on the basis of the local authority
fee legislation of the Lnder with the corresponding local statutes. Under the local authority fee
legislation, charges are set on a polluter-pays basis,
and are payable by all property owners and companies connected to the public sewers. In keeping
with this cost recovery principle, the revenues of
the local authorities must not exceed the actual
operating and investment costs incurred in conjunction with the discharging and treatment of
wastewater in the disposal area.

Given the diverse framework and structural conditions within Germany (location, geology, population density), as well as the varying development
of wastewater treatment plants and specific investments in the sewer network and associated financing, the cost of wastewater disposal at local level
varies considerably.

When setting prices, the local authorities may

utilise various tariff models with different fee
components. The following factors are taken into
account: A wastewater fee in relation to the volume
of freshwater consumed, a precipitation fee per m2
of sealed land, and a basic annual charge to cover
fixed costs. The basic charge covers around 75 85% of the costs incurred for depreciation, interest,
staffing and plant maintenance, irrespective of the
quantity of water that is discharged and purified in
the wastewater treatment plants.

A nationwide survey by the Federal Statistical Office

in 2007 indicates the tariff systems used and the
broad variation in fee levels.

96 Kuhlbusch, T. and C. Nickel (2009): personal communication (Studie zur Emission von
Nanopartikeln aus ausgewhlten Produkten in ihrem Lebenszyklus, Ufoplan FKZ 3708
61 300 (preparing for publication))

Water Resource Management in Germany

Table 15: Wastewater prices 2007

Local authorities with

of local

Price in
Wastewater fee
per m3

Precipitation fee
per m2

Basic charge
per annum

Only wastewater fee



Wastewater fee and basic charge




Wastewater and precipitation fee




Wastewater and precipitation fee plus basic






Precipitation fee and basic charge




Only basic charge



Other fees





Source: Federal Statistical Office 2009

If we calculate an average nationwide price97 for

the individual fee components, this produces the
following costs:

substances dangerous to water. Seven Lnder have

additionally adopted ordinances outlining requirements for installations for the storage and filling
of liquid manure, slurry, and silage seepage. The
General Administrative Provision on the Classification of Substances Constituting a Hazard to Water
(VwVwS)99 also contains applicable substancerelated provisions, together with provisions on the
assessment of water hazard potential, i.e. on the
classification of substances into so-called water hazard classes.

ffAverage wastewater fee: 2.29 per m3 (according to consumption)

ffAverage precipitation fee: 0.41 per m2, per


ffAverage basic charge: 13.15 per annum

Taking as an example a standardised two-person

household with a wastewater volume of 80 m3 who
also pay a precipitation fee for 80 m2 of sealed land
and a basic charge, the level of expenditure on
wastewater disposal can be calculated from these
average figures. In 2007, this translates into a cost
of 229 .
The level of wastewater prices and the basic principles by which the fees are calculated are an extensively debated topic among the general public.
Recent court rulings on the admissibility of selected
tariff models could lead to changes in the fee
structure. To date, however, the level of fees has not
been affected by this.

6.5 Substances dangerous to water

6.5.1 Legal framework

Articles 62 and 63 of the Federal Water Act (WHG)98

outline the facility and substance-related provisions relating to water resources management. To
date, the provisions governing facilities have been
specified by the Land water legislation and 16 Land
ordinances relating to facilities for the handling of

97 Weighted according to inhabitants

98 Federal Water Act (WHG) of 31 July 2009, Federal Law Gazette I no. 51, page 2585

Water Resource Management in Germany

In the future, a Federal Ordinance on the handling

of substances constituting a hazard to water will
replace the 23 Ordinances of the Lnder as well as
the VwVwS. This ordinance is being drafted with
the assistance of the UBA. It will enter into force in
late 2010 at the earliest.

This amendment is rooted in the Federal Governments new legislative competencies in this field
under the Federalism Reform of 2006. Federal
Government is now able to draft regulations on
the handling of substances hazardous to water
which will flesh out and define the requirements of
the new Federal Water Act, and whose provisions
and standards will apply uniformly throughout the
Federal Republic of Germany. The Lnder will not
be able to deviate from such a Federal Ordinance,
because provisions relating to substances and
installations are part of the core water legislation
which cannot be deviated from, cf. Article 72,
paragraph (3) no. 5 of the Basic Law (GG)100. This
offers an opportunity to harmonise the provisions
of the Lnder, which in recent years have become

99 General Administrative Provision to the Federal Water Act on the Classification of

Substances Constituting a Hazard to Water into Water Hazard Classes (VwVwS) of 17
May 1999, BAnz p. 8491 and supplement, amended on 27 July 2005, BAnz no. 142a
100 Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany of 23 May 1949 (Federal Law Gazette,
page 1), most recently amended by Article 1 of the Act of 29 July 2009 (Federal Law
Gazette I, page 2248)


increasingly disparate. This will be advantageous,

not only for water resource conservation, but also
for planners, builders and operators of installations,
experts, and licensing and monitoring authorities,
since this simplification of the law will make provisions more transparent in future.

The WHG stipulates that installations for the storage, filling, manufacturing and treatment of substances constituting a hazard to water must be of
such a quality and constructed, maintained, operated and decommissioned in such a way that there
is no reason to fear any disadvantageous changes in
the properties of waterbodies (concern principle).
The same applies both to installations for the use of
substances hazardous to water in the area of commercial industry and public installations, as well
as to certain pipelines, with the exception of longdistance pipelines.
Facilities for the loading and unloading of substances hazardous to water and installations for
the storage and filling of liquid manure, slurry and
silage seepage and of comparable substances arising in agriculture must be of such a quality and
must be constructed, maintained, operated and decommissioned in such a way that the best possible
protection of water resources from disadvantageous
changes to their properties is achieved. As such,
these installations are privileged, i.e. they are
only required to meet less stringent requirements.
As a minimum requirement, the installations in
both these groups must meet the generally accepted technical standards. In order to comply with
Articles 62 and 63 of the WHG, operators of installations for the handling of substances hazardous
to water must observe certain technical and organisational requirements. These requirements will
be defined in more detail in the new Ordinance,
which will primarily be based on the sample installations ordinance drafted by LAWA and the existing
ordinances of the Lnder.

In individual cases, concerns over waterbody contamination from an installation depends on the
likelihood of damage to that installation and the
extent of the potential consequences of damage.

101 Ordinance on Installations for the Handling of Substances Hazardous to Water of 31

March 2010, Federal Law Gazette I, page 377.


The operator of an installation is required to ensure

that the technical and organisational requirements
are met by that installation. Generally speaking,
requirements govern the following four areas:

General safety, e.g. suitability of the installations parts for handling the substances, reliability towards all pressures and effects


Multiple safety, particularly redundant structural and/or technical safety precautions such
as collecting chambers and overflow safeguards


Self-monitoring and external monitoring


Measures during and after incidents.

All facilities in certain areas such as water protection areas or flood plains are subject to additional
requirements. Concessions for loading and unloading facilities and for liquid manure, slurry and
silage seepage installations apply particularly with
regard to the multiple safety and monitoring requirements.

Administrative Regulation on substances dangerous to

water VwVwS

When assessing the potential threat to water, substances are assigned to three water hazard classes
(Wassergefhrdungsklassen, WGK 1 to 3). The
procedure for classifying substances is set out in
the General administrative regulation to the Federal Water Act on the classification of substances
constituting a hazard to water into water hazard
classes (Verwaltungsvorschrift wassergefhrdende
Stoffe - VwVwS) of 17 May 1999 and the General
administrative regulation amending the VwVwS
of 27 July 2005. The VwVwS currently lists some
1,850 substances in water hazard classes 1, 2 or 3. A
further 79 substances are listed as not constituting
a hazard to water.

The amendment to the VwVwS of 17 May 1999

served to harmonise the classification systems,
and since then, the WGKs for substances are to be
derived and documented by the operators of plants
for the handling of substances hazardous to water
in a self-classification procedure using the R-phrase
classification under hazardous substance law.

As the provisions of the new WHG have already

been designed with a view to the forthcoming Federal Government Ordinance, regulatory gaps must
be avoided until it enters into force. A transitional
ordinance will apply during this period101.

6.5.2 Installations for handling substances constituting a hazard to water

For this reason, the requirements governing installations are graduated according to their hazard potential.102 An installations hazard potential depends
on the volume of substances hazardous to water,
their water hazard categories, and the site-specific

102 Berlin and North-Rhine Westphalia have deviated from this system.

Water Resource Management in Germany

To date, the WGKs of some 7,000 substances and

substance groups have been documented, based on
the self-classification procedure. WGKs are available
on the Internet (
wgs/index.htm), and are accessible to interested users via the safety data sheets (SDS) of the products.
The decisive difference from the R-phrase classification under hazardous substances legislation lies in
the consideration of the precautionary principle
that is anchored in water legislation, which states
that substances for which no adequate analysis
of toxicity and environmental hazard potential is
available should be classified in the highest water
hazard class as a precaution. In contrast, a lack of
data does not lead to R-phrase classification under
the Hazardous Substances Ordinance, making it
impossible to determine whether a substance not
labelled as environmentally harmful is actually
harmless to the environment, or whether there is
simply no relevant eco-toxicological test data available.
The WGK classification system designed for process
safety is therefore an expedient addition to hazardous substances law to prevent damage to waters,
particularly when handling untested substances. At
the same time, classification creates a permanent
incentive to substitute particularly hazardous or
poorly documented substances with others that are
less hazardous to water and have been well-tested.
In addition to the aforementioned laws and ordinances, installations constituting an operational
area or part of an operational area as per the
definition in Article 3, paragraph 5a of the Federal
Immission Control Act are subject to the 12th
Ordinance to the Federal Immission Control Act
(Hazardous Incident Ordinance)103 which requires
observance of the best available safety technology
with regard to construction and operation. An
operational area of this kind applies, for example,
to certain plants containing 100,000 kg or more
of environmentally harmful substances with the
risk phrase R 50 (very toxic to aquatic organisms)
or R 50/53 (very toxic to aquatic organisms, may
have long-term harmful effects in waterbodies) or
200,000 kg or more of environmentally harmful
substances with the risk phrase R 51/53 (toxic to
aquatic organisms, may have long-term harmful
effects in waterbodies). The Hazardous Incident
Ordinance implements EC Directive 96/82/EC on
the Control of Major-Accident Hazards Involving
Dangerous Substances and its amendment to Directive 203/105/EC104.

103 Hazardous Incidents Ordinance of 8 June 2005, Federal Law Gazette I p. 1598
104 104 Directive 2003/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16
December 2003 amending Council Directive 96/82/EC (OJ EU L 345, p. 97) and Council
Directive 96/82/EC of 9 December 1996 on the control of major-accident hazards
involving dangerous substances (OJ EU 1997 L10, page 13)

Water Resource Management in Germany

Accidents in facilities with substances dangerous to


Despite the safety requirements in place, accidents

associated with the operation of installations containing substances constituting a hazard to water
are a repeated occurrence. If a substance hazardous
to water escapes, this must be notified immediately
to the competent authority or the nearest police
station, where the substances have penetrated a
surface body of water, a wastewater treatment
plant or the soil, or if contamination of or a potential threat to a water resource cannot be excluded
for other reasons. Each year, the Federal Statistical
Office evaluates these notifications on the basis of
the Environmental Statistics Act and publishes the

Figure 50 shows that the number of accidents in

installations has decreased continuously, primarily thanks to a decrease in human errors, such as
operating errors. However, the volume released
during such accidents and the unrecovered volume
of substances hazardous to water has not declined,
and the trend has not changed significantly at all
over the years.

The principal causes of accidents when handling

substances hazardous to water are material defects
(e.g. ageing, corrosion), failures in the safety equipment (primarily overfill guards and fill level limiters) and human errors (e.g. operating errors).

If possible, immediate action should be taken such

as sealing defective containers, refilling into other
containers, applying binding agents, or incorporating barriers into waterbodies. If necessary, followup action should also be carried out, such as the
collection or excavation of contaminated material,
including binding agents, and the removal of
contaminated material. Soil contamination occurs
more frequently than water contamination, since
damage limitation measures are taken promptly
to prevent hazardous substances from being transported out of the accidentally contaminated soil
into the groundwater.

Figure 50 also shows that installations for the handling of liquid manure, slurry and silage seepage
make a significant contribution to the total volume
of substances hazardous to water that are released
each year, even though their share of the total
number of reported accidents is low (8% in 2008).

105 Unflle mit wassergefhrdenden Stoffen (2008), Fachserie 19 Reihe 2.3, Statistisches
Bundesamt (Federal Statistical Office)


Figure 50: Accidents with the storage, filling, loading

and unloading, manufacturing, treatment of use of substances hazardous to water in installations, and during
the transportation of substances hazardous to water in
pipelines (excluding long-distance pipelines)

In 2007 a total of 1,428 accidents involving substances hazardous to the aquatic environment were
notified in connection with transport. They involved the release of 764 m3 of substances dangerous to water, of which 329 m3 (43%) was recovered.
1,313 (92%) of these were road traffic accidents. In
70% (1001) of all transport-related accidents, substances hazardous to the aquatic environment were
released from tanks, accounting for 27% of the
total volume released. The recovery rate was 75%.
More figures on transport accidents in 2007 are
shown in Table 16.

The environmental protection task here is to reduce, as far as possible, or avoid the release of substances during accidents. As regards the transport
of dangerous goods, there are three possible ways
of achieving this:


Volume [cbm]










Accidents (number)

Non-reabsorbed volume

Volume released
(incl. installations
for the handling of
liquid manure, slurry
and silage seepage)

Volume released
(installations for the
handling of liquid manure,
slurry and silage seepage only)

Source: Unflle mit wassergefhrdenden Stoffen, Fachserie 19 Reihe 2.3,

Statistisches Bundesamt

ffTraffic prevention,
ffTraffic relocation,
ffImproving the legislation governing the transport of dangerous goods and the technical and
organisational requirements to be met.

Traffic prevention

Traffic prevention is an interdisciplinary long-term

structural policy task which entails severing the
link between traffic development and economic
development, at least to a certain extent. To this
end, conditions must be created which will enable
traffic prevention to be incorporated into entrepreneurial decisions, competition policy and consumer

Examples include:

6.5.3 Transport of substances hazardous to the aquatic environment by road, rail and water

Freight traffic has increased greatly in Germany in

recent years. The main causes of this are:

ffStructural changes in the economy (more valuable goods are being transported in smaller

ffSubstantially increasing transport costs with

the internalisation of external costs,

ffSpatial/temporal changes in industrial produc-

ffPreventing infrastructural measures that in-

tion (European-geared production)

crease capacity, especially for road traffic, and

ffLiberalisation of transport markets and open-

ffRegionalisation of industrial cycles.

ing of Eastern Europe.


The transport of dangerous goods has increased in

proportion to freight traffic. The modal shift from
rail and ship in favour of transportation by road is
also continuing. Unless the framework conditions
change with regard to economic and transport policy, we must expect the transportation of dangerous
goods by road to increase further.
Apart from global and local environmental pollution caused by ever-increasing transport densities,
the transportation and handling of dangerous
goods poses an increased threat of environmental
damage associated with the release of substances in
case of accidents. Statistics on transport accidents
have been kept since 1975.

The unavoidable transport of dangerous goods

must be rendered safe. In addition to measures
aimed at technical optimisation, e.g. safety and
control systems, organisational measures are also
gaining in importance.

Improved links between the planning and licensing

of production plants, transport routes and transport
licenses are needed.

Traffic relocation

Relocating freight traffic to only one mode of

transport cannot solve the impending problems of
the projected growth in traffic. Instead, we should

Water Resource Management in Germany

Table 16: Accidents during the transport of substances hazardous to the aquatic environment
Volume released
1313 accidents (91.9%) during transport by road

38 accidents (2.7%) during transport by rail

65 accidents during transport by water (4.6%)

4 accidents (0.3%) during transport

by long-distance pipelines

8 accidents (0.6%) involving other modes

of transport

458 m3

35.5 mV1

237.5 m

Volume recovered

Recovery rate

296.4 m3


4.3 mV1


27.3 mV


31.4 mV1

0.4 rm


1.1 mV1

0.4 rm


Source: Federal Statistical Office, June 2007

encourage expedient links between modes of transport to unburden the roads and encourage the use
of transportation by rail and ship, using the respective system-based benefits and resources to ensure
the optimum utilisation of all modes of transport.
The most ecologically expedient transport system
must be selected, taking into account the potential
environmental risk.

Apart from the quantity and environmentally hazardous properties of the goods transported, other
factors determining the potential risk associated
with their transport are the distribution pattern
following release, and the speed and effectiveness
of technical measures to prevent or eliminate
accident-related releases. The extent of damage also
depends on the regional sensitivity of the area affected.

The lowest quantities per transport operation arise

in road traffic, followed by shipments by rail and
inland waterways (as a function of capacity utilisation). The quantities potentially released per transport operation are therefore correspondingly low in
transportation by road. In the case of rail carriage
it can be assumed that only individual wagons will
be affected in the event of an accident, and not the
entire train. Releases from accidents during the
transport of dangerous goods by road or rail will
predominantly lead to soil contamination, sometimes indirectly via the air.

Contamination of surface waters may occur as a

result of traffic accidents on inland waterways and
only to a much lower extent from accidents on
motorways and railroads, although this cannot be
ruled out completely. The extent to which soil contamination caused by an accident involving dangerous goods might affect groundwater differs greatly
from region to region and depends primarily on
the retention capacity of the soil. Groundwater
contamination is essentially long-term damage, the
remediation of which requires substantial technical
and financial input. It is often impossible to restore
it to its original condition.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Improving the legislation governing the transport of

hazardous goods and the technical and organisational
requirements to be met

Until now, the dangerous goods classification

scheme has only considered the traditional
hazard characteristics of substances such as flammable, toxic, corrosive, etc. As of 2009, however,
the criterion environmentally hazardous (aquatic
environment) must also be taken into account for
all dangerous goods. If the dangerous goods are
already classified in one or more of the classes 1-9,
the property environmentally hazardous (aquatic
environment) must be marked as an additional
risk. The description of the hazardous goods remains unchanged. Since 2009, the criteria for the
classification of hazardous goods as environmentally hazardous (aquatic environment) have been
harmonised with hazardous substance legislation

6.5.4 Transportation of substances hazardous to water in long-distance pipelines

Germany currently has a network of long-distance

pipelines with a total length of around 3,000 km
for transporting substances hazardous to water, primarily crude oil and petroleum products. There is
also a widespread network of military pipelines for
petroleum products. Although in normal operation,
pipelines are relatively environmentally friendly
compared to other transport carriers in terms of
pollutant emissions, noise and energy input, they
may nevertheless pose a substantial threat to soil
and water in the event of an accident.

The construction and significant modification of

certain long-distance pipelines, including those
used to transport substances constituting a hazard
to water, requires planning permission and/or plan
approval under Part 2 of the Environmental Impact
Assessment Act.

Permission and approval may only be granted

provided there is no danger to humans, fauna and


The relocation of the licensing obligation from the

WHG to the Environmental Impact Assessment
Act associated with the amended version of the
Environmental Impact Assessment Act in 2001
recognises the fact that long-distance pipelines may
not only impact and pose a hazard to waterbodies,
and that encroachments into nature and soil e.g.
as a result of construction measures or keeping vacant the route above ground should be given equal
weighting within the context of plan approval or
planning permission.

Figure 51: Nutrient surpluses from agriculture,

1950 to 2008

Long-distance pipelines are often transboundary

installations, and the safety of sections of the pipeline in one country may be dependent on sections
of the installation in another country. To date, however, no applicable European directive has existed
in this respect. International recommendations
governing the safety of the pipelines are, however,
contained in the OECD Guiding Principles for
Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and
Response, which are being further developed at
UNECE Level.

6.6 Agriculture

For this reason, in 2007, the Fertilisation Ordinance

imposed upper limits for tolerable nitrogen surpluses, which are being gradually tightened up.
One loophole is that farmers are only required to
calculate the nitrogen balance of their arable land.
Ammonia losses in the barn and during application, which can also damage forests and water
resources, are disregarded under the provisions of
this Ordinance. Figure 51 shows the development of
the overall balance, also known as the farm gate
balance, which also includes these losses.







Nitrogen surplus (kg/ha)

help to reduce surplus levels, thanks to the dramatic reduction in cattle stocks in the new Lnder.
What is more, since the mid-Eighties farmers have
been applying fertilisers with more circumspection, so that the nutrients contained in slurry and
manure can be exploited more effectively. Despite
these efforts, the surplus has only been reduced by
a minimal amount to date. Of nutrient discharges
into Germanys surface waters during the period
2003 to 2005, more than 70% of all nitrogen discharges and more than 50% of all phosphorous
discharges originated from agriculture.



Phosphorus surplus (kg/ha)

flora, soil, water, air, climate and landscape, cultural assets and other assets, and provided precautionary measures are taken to prevent any impairment
of these protected commodities, particularly as a
result of structural, operational or organisational
measures, in accordance with the best available
technology. The project must not conflict with environmental provisions and other public law regulations, the objectives of regional planning must be
observed, and work safety requirements must also
be respected. For long-distance pipelines used to
transport certain hazardous dangerous to water,
these requirements are set out in the Long-Distance
Pipeline Ordinance106 and the Technical Rules on
Long-Distance Pipeline Installations.







Source: M. Bach, H.-G. Prede, Institute for Resource Management, Univ. Gieen

6.6.1 Water pollution from agriculture

Discharges of phosphorous and nitrogen compounds as well as pesticides have been a problem
for the groundwater, streams, rivers and lakes, as
well as for the coastal waters and seas, in Germany
and Europe for many decades. Although reduction
measures have already been adopted, including the
ban on atrazine (1991), the amendment to the Plant
Protection Act (1996) and the Fertilisation Ordinance (1996, tightened in 2007), to date all of these
measures have demonstrated only a partial effect.
This is illustrated by the example of the nitrogen
surplus in agriculture. Germanys reunification did

106 Federal Law Gazette I 2002 page 3777


Pollutants in groundwater

Groundwater in Germany is often contaminated

with nitrate107. The latest values from representative
measurements in 2008 indicate that the nitrate
threshold of the old Groundwater Ordinance108 of
50 mg/l NO3 was exceeded at 15% of monitoring
sites. 36% of those indicated significantly to greatly
elevated nitrate levels. Nitrate levels of less than 10
mg/l corresponding to a natural or only slightly
modified state were found at around 49% of all
monitoring sites.

107 (Cf. Chapter Groundwater properties section on nitrate in groundwater)

108 Cf. in this connection chapter 4.2, section on Groundwater Ordinance

Water Resource Management in Germany

An analysis of land use provides clear indications

of the nitrate sources. Comparing monitoring sites
whose catchment area is characterised primarily by
forest with monitoring sites in the catchment area
of arable land indicates significantly higher nitrate
loads of the groundwater in arable land (Figure 52).
Monitoring sites in grassland likewise have higher
nitrate levels than those in forest. Levels of contamination are even higher in human settlements,
although most are attributable to leaking sewers.

Figure 53: Nitrogen and phosphorous discharges from

point and diffuse sources into German surface waters
More than 90% of emissions via erosion, elutriation,
drainage and groundwater and 50% of atmospheric
depositions of nitrogen originate from agriculture


Atmospheric deposition
Surface runoff
Urban land
Point sources


Figure 52: Nitrate pollution in forest, grassland, human

settlements and arable land


NO3 (mg/l)







Forest (193)

Grassland (97)




land (308)







lakes. The proportion of soil erosion and soil runoff

is even higher, at 30%.


The principal discharge sources for nitrogen and

phosphorous have changed substantially since the
mid-1980s. In the 1980s, nitrogen tended to originate from point sources, primarily from wastewater
treatment plants. Since the mid-1990s, inflows from
agriculture via the groundwater have been the
principal discharge source of nitrogen into surface
waters such as rivers and lakes: Today, the nitrogen
discharge from agriculture is more than twice as
high as that from point sources (Figure 53).
Waterbodies have a long memory. Although the
reduction in nitrogen surpluses is noticeable in Germanys rivers, the river basins have a more delayed
response to changes in pollution. In the case of the
Rhine, experts estimate that a load reduction will
be seen within two to ten years, and in the case of
the Elbe not until 20 to 30 years from now.
Phosphorous shows a similar picture: The phosphorous content of soils, and hence discharges,
continues to rise because average surpluses of 8 kg/
ha are still entering our soils each year (see Figure
53). In the case of acidic, oxygen-free or extremely
sandy soils, phosphorous, while initially insoluble,
is discharged into the groundwater. For this reason,
groundwater is responsible for approximately 20%
of the phosphorous contamination of our rivers and

Water Resource Management in Germany


Source: Federal Environment Agency, 2009

Overall, it is true to say that the water quality situation in Germany remains unsatisfactory, despite
some partial improvements. Only 16% of 147 representative monitoring sites in rivers met the requirements of quality class II and above for nitrogen in
2008 (Figure 54), while 28% of 136 monitoring sites
met the requirements of quality class II and above
for phosphorous. Since 1998, however, there has
been a general increase in the proportions of the
higher quality classes the proportion of class III is
decreasing, while class II-III is increasing.

It is not just nutrients that are harmful to our waters, but also heavy metals and pesticides. Around
20 to 40% of heavy metal discharges into surface
waters originate from erosion or surface and drainage runoff from agricultural land. In the case of
chromium, the figure is as high as 60%. Once
again, it is important to stress that other sources
of pollutants, particularly from industry, have been
substantially reduced, and the proportion of the
overall load attributable to agriculture has therefore increased.

Most pesticide pollution originates from agriculture

from application on the field but equally from
cleaning sprayers and other equipment. In the
measurement period 2006 to 2008, of 38 pesticides
significant to water, only 21 met the quality requirements for the protected assets aquatic communities and drinking water at all the monitoring
sites analysed. A few substances that are banned
or no longer licensed (e.g. atrazine) indicated decreased pollution levels during the 1990s.

Pollution in rivers and lakes


Phosphorus discharges in kt/a

Source: Federal Environment Agency


















due to the high nitrate loads. For lakes and coastal

waters, eutrophication as a result of nutrient discharges is by far the greatest problem. In the case
of streams and rivers, structural damage is the
main factor. In the past, watercourses have been
straightened and deepened for agricultural use, but
also for hydropower and shipping, their beds are
often trapezoid, reinforced and uniform, and natural structures are prevented and eliminated109.

Figure 54: Quality classification of nitrate nitrogen (LAWA

monitoring network).
No. of monitoring sites








The Federal Water Act, Fertilisation Act, Plant

Protection Act, Federal Soil Conservation Act and
Closed Substance Cycle and Waste Management
Act, coupled with EC Directives 91/414/EEC concerning the placement of plant protection products on
the market, 91/676/EEC concerning the protection
of water against pollution caused by nitrates from
agricultural sources (so-called Nitrates Directive),
86/278/EEC on the use of sewage sludge (Sewage
Sludge Directive), and 2010/75/EU concerning industrial emissions (IE former IPPC Directive), have
already adopted a number of key statutory provisions for environmentally-compatible agriculture.
The length of this list shows that the requirements
placed on farmers for environmental and water
resource conservation is not only varied, but also
encompasses a number of different legal spheres.

In the debate over environmental protection in

agriculture, furthermore, consideration must be
given to the subsidies occurring within the context
of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Beginning in 2005, Germany has started to decouple
its direct payments from actual production. The
German Government opted for a so-called combination model, which combines two possible forms of
distributing the separate payments. Initially, one
part of the payments will be distributed on the
basis of the average funds received over the years
2000 2002 (standard model). The other part will
be granted in the form of standard payments per
hectare (regional model), whereby farmers get a
higher amount for arable land than for grassland.
From 2010, Germany will switch completely to the
so-called regional model in 4 stages, so that with effect from 2013, each Federal Land will have its own
standard regional land premium for arable land
and grassland. Other key points of Agenda 2007





























Source: Federal Environment Agency

Pollution of coastal waters

Following the algae problem and seal mortality

along the North and Baltic Sea coasts in the early
1980s, the littoral states adopted ground-breaking
resolutions: Between 1985 and 1995, pollutant discharges into both seas via rivers were to be halved.
For phosphate, this target is considered to have
been met, since the introduction of phosphate-free
detergents and an improvement in wastewater
purification in wastewater treatment plants quickly
produced an effect. By contrast, a halving in nitrogen loads has only been achieved fairly recently.

A long way before we achieve a good status of waters


Back in 1991, the realisation that agriculture was

responsible for nitrogen contamination in many
rivers prompted the European Parliament to adopt
the Directive concerning the protection of waters
against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources (91/676/EEC).

Since adoption of the EC WFD in 2000, strategies

and protection concepts have been geared towards
achieving a good status of waterbodies by 2015
(see Chapter 2).

The management plans for all ten German river

basins indicate that agriculture is responsible for
a large proportion of nutrient and pollutant discharges. It is part of the reason why around 38%
of groundwater aquifers, 89% of streams and rivers, 57% of lakes and almost all coastal waters in
Germany will fail to achieve a good status unless
effective reduction measures are introduced by
2015. Nitrate pollution from agriculture is almost
single-handedly responsible for the contamination
of groundwater. Almost half of groundwater bodies are unlikely to attain a good chemical status

Legal framework

ffCross compliance, i.e. linking direct payments

to standards in the areas of environmental
protection, animal protection and food safety;
in this respect, the environmental standards
will also include parts of the requirements of

109 Further details may be found in the Federal Environment Agency brochure Gewsser
pflegen und entwickeln - Neue Wege bei der Gewsserunterhaltung of 2009

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffThe new provision on buffer zones at river-

the Nitrate Directive 91/676/EEC and the

Groundwater Directives 80/86/EEC, 2006/118/

banks in Article 38 of the WHG is designed to

protect the ecological function performed by
riverbanks. Paragraph (4) is the heart of this
provision, and in addition to the general requirement to conserve riverbanks, also lists a
catalogue of prohibited activities. For example,
the prohibition of conversion cited in no. 1 is
intended, firstly, to prevent erosion and elutriation, and secondly, to prevent the discharge of
nitrate and phosphates into groundwater and
surface waters. Furthermore, in accordance
with Article 38, paragraph (4), no. 3 of the
WHG, the application of pesticides and fertilisers in buffer zones at riverbanks may be prohibited under Land law in future.

ffCompulsory modulation, i.e. cutting direct

payments by 3% (2005), 4% (2006) and 5%
from 2007 to 2012, so that these funds may be
channelled into the subsidy programmes for
the development of rural areas (including the
agro-environmental programmes).

As part of the Health Check Reform under the

Common Agricultural Policy 2008/2009, it was decided that from 2013 onwards, farmers will receive
10 percent fewer direct payments. Furthermore,
farmers who receive more than 300,000 Euros in
subsidies per annum can expect a further deduction of four percent. Hence, in the medium term,
affected farms will receive 14 percent less in direct
assistance. The milk quota will continue to be increased by one percent per annum between 2009
and 2013.

ffWhen designating drinking water protection

areas, restrictions may be formulated for agriculture. Where applicable, the affected farmers may be entitled to financial compensation
for the losses suffered as a result of the change
in management.

From 2014 to 2019, a new EU budget comes into

force. This will also contain a reformed CAP, which
will address topics such as reducing the agricultural

ffThe new WHG also contains regulations on

flood alleviation affecting agriculture. For example the discharge of substances hazardous
to water into flood plains is prohibited, unless
the incorporation of such substances is permitted by good agricultural practice.

The EC Water Framework Directive (WFD) is not

one of the EC Directives to be met by farmers
within the context of cross-compliance. However,
the rural development programmes envisaged for
the period 2007 2013 should explicitly support
the attainment of the WFDs objectives.

ffIt is hoped that the management plans and

programmes of measures required to be prepared by the end of 2009 under the WFD will
ensure the achievement of a good status for all
waterbodies by 2015. Within the context of
these planning mechanisms, decisions must
also be made on reducing discharges from diffuse sources, i.e. from agriculture.

In addition to the general cautionary principles in

Article 5 of the WHG, the new Federal Water Act110
also outlines various approaches affecting agriculture.

ffFor example, the discharge of substances into

The Use of Fertilisers Ordinance (DngeVO111),

which transposes the EC Nitrate Directive into
German law, requires the preparation of fertiliser
balances and stipulates that fertiliser quantities
must be geared to plant requirements. For organic
fertilisers of animal origin, the upper limits have
been set at 170 kg N per hectare, per annum, with
an exception for grassland under certain conditions
of 230 kg N/ha, per annum.

The Crop Protection Act (PflSchG112) contains principles for the authorisation and application of
pesticides. In accordance with Article 6, paragraph
(1), first sentence, pesticides may only be used in
accordance with good agricultural practice.

groundwater and the storage and deposition

of substances which could contaminate the
groundwater are prohibited (Article 48 of the

ffIn addition to discharges into groundwater

and the abstraction of groundwater (Article 9,
para. 1, no. 4, 5 of the WHG), the so-called
non-genuine uses referred to in Article 9,
paragraph 2, no. 2 of the WHG are likewise
subject to licensing. The latter refers to measures deemed likely to cause permanent, significant harmful changes to water. The licence
obligation therefore applies to agricultural
measures which may pose a significant threat
to water. However, good agricultural practice
is not subject to licensing under current water

110 Federal Water Act of 31 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, page 2585).

Water Resource Management in Germany

111 111 Ordinance on the Principles of Good Agricultural Practice when Applying Fertilizers
(Use of Fertilizers Ordinance) of 26 January 1996, Federal Law Gazette I, 1996, p. 1835),
most recently amended by Article 18 of the Act of 31 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I,
page 2585)
112 112 Act on the Protection of Cultivated Plants (Plant Protection Act) in the version
promulgated on 14 May 1998 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 971, 1527, 3512), most recently
amended by Article 13 of the Act of 29 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2542).


For instance, pesticides may not be used if their

application is likely to have harmful effects on human or animal health or on the groundwater or
the natural balance or other significant adverse
impacts, particularly on the natural balance (Article
6, paragraph (1), sentence 3 of the PflSchG).

When licensing a pesticide, the Federal Environment Agency will investigate, inter alia, whether
any of its active ingredients or principal metabolites are likely to leach into the ground on a relevant scale.

In order to keep the risk of damage within ecologically justifiable limits, where necessary, application
provisions will be specified at the time of licensing.
In order to minimise emissions via spray drift, for
example, minimum distances may be specified or a
drift-minimising technology may be stipulated.

In order to guard against unjustifiable/undesirable

discharges into the groundwater and surface water
as a result of surface run-off, the use of selected pesticides is only permissible subject to the presence of
a buffer zone at a riverbank of a defined minimum
width that is sealed by plant growth, or application
using a mulching technique, for example. Corresponding application provisions regulate the use of
such substances. The guide to Good agricultural
practice in plant protection113 (1998) published in
the Federal Law Gazette contains a number of recommendations but is not binding for users.

In addition to the provisions of the Federal Soil

Conservation Act114, the precautionary requirements
are also ensured by observing good agricultural
practice. The principles of Good practice in agricultural soil use115 (1999) were concretised and
published within the context of a joint Federal/
Lnder working party of the BMVEL (2001)116. On
the basis of Articles 3 and 17 of the BBodSchG,
however, official directives may not be imposed on
agricultural activity for precautionary purposes,
and may only be decreed as a means risk aversion
(e.g. to avert the risk of harmful soil changes as a
result of soil erosion by water).

113 Grundstze fr die Durchfhrung der guten fachlichen Praxis im Pflanzenschutz

(Principles for the enforcement of good expert practice in plant protection), Federal
Law Gazette No. 220a of 21 November 1998).
114 Act for protection against harmful soil changes and for remediation of contaminated
sites (Federal Soil Protection Act BBodSchG) of 17 March 1998, Federal Legal Gazette
I, page 502), most recently amended on 9 December 2004 (Federal Law Gazette I, p.
115 Principles and recommended actions for good agricultural soil use, BAnz. No. 73 of 20
April 1999).
116 BMVEL (2001): Bundesministerium fr Verbraucherschutz, Ernhrung und Landwirtschaft (Federal Ministry, for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture) (Editors):
Gute fachliche Praxis zur Vorsorge gegen Bodenschadverdichtungen und Erosion.



Sustainable agriculture

The principles of good agricultural practice apply

to land management. For example, fertilisers and
pesticides should be used in a demand-based, efficient and low-loss manner. In order to attain a
good status of waters, these compulsory measures
must be supplemented and tried-and-tested practices established which facilitate optimum waterbody
protection without adversely affecting agricultural
yields. Methods of reducing water pollution

Fertiliser management and nutrient balances

The Use of Fertilisers Ordinance is the statutory

basis for the application of fertilisers. The aim of
good, water-conserving practice is to reduce nutrient surpluses and minimise the accumulation, elutriation and run-off of fertilisers into groundwater
and surface waters. To this end, a comprehensive
fertiliser application plan for the entire farm is
needed, covering the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Planning must include organic
fertilisers arising on the farm, together with any
fermentation residues that may arise. Planning
must be based on an up-to-date calculation of nutrient requirements, coupled with the results of soil
and plant analyses.

Crop rotation and site-adjusted land use, buffer zones

at river banks

Optimum crop rotation and site-adapted land use

have a positive effect on water quality. They increase the content of organic substance in the soil,
and improve the soils fertility, structure and water
retention capacity. In this way, they help to minimise nitrate elutriation and reduce erosion and
surface nutrient run-off.

Buffer zones along waterbodies or protection strips

in areas at risk of erosion can help to prevent direct nutrient discharges into surface waters. The
effectiveness depends on the adjacent use, the
width of the strip, and the angle of the slope. The
strips must be cohesive, otherwise water will flow
around them. However, the principle applies that
erosion protection must take place in the land.

The ploughing of permanent grassland leads to

extreme nitrate elutriation, because humus that
has accumulated over a period of several years or
even decades is removed in just a few months. For
this reason, it is important to avoid ploughing of
grassland particularly in areas at risk of erosion or
flooding, in water meadows and in drinking water
extraction areas, and this is often stipulated in laws
and ordinances.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Plant protection

and organisms. Hard bank and bottom structures

may often be removed. Mowing, weeding, profile
and wood maintenance can be carried out less frequently and more carefully. Shading from the tree
line prevents the growth of weeds, and semi-natural
structural elements can be left without hindering
outflow, even within the current stream profiles.
Finally, not all flood damage needs to be repaired,
because this marks the beginning of structural diversity117 118.

Good agricultural practice also includes the principles of integrated plant protection, which must
be observed as a minimum requirement from the
viewpoint of waterbody protection. Additionally,
any measures that reduce the quantity of pesticides
used are advisable.

ffPrevention, including mechanical maintenance, biological, biotechnical, plant breeding,

and cultivational techniques (such as multicrop rotation), are ideal for minimising chemical plant protection. Where the use of spraying is nevertheless deemed necessary, it is important to check whether it is economically
viable (harmful threshold principle). Ways of improving the (environmental) policy

framework conditions

European and national specifications and the requirements of agricultural and water conservation
legislation provide the framework for measures by
individual farms. In order to reduce contamination
of waters by the agricultural sector, there is a need
to coordinate and improve statutory and political

For effective political control, combining European

requirements with valid European-wide minimum
standards and supplementary, regionally adapted
measures agreed between the water industry and
agriculture, based on the recommendations of the
preceding chapter, is advisable. Effective monitoring and consultation, coupled with education and
training courses, are indispensable elements.

ffIn order to prevent elutriation or spray drift,

distance regulations and application requirements must be observed, at least 5 m from the
upper edge of the riverbank.

ffSpraying equipment should be cleaned on the

field, and where applicable, upgraded for this
purpose. Residual quantities and cleaning fluids must be disposed of properly. Rinse residues should be disposed of on the field or as
special waste. Discharging into farmyard
drains or sewers is prohibited.

Ecologically oriented waterbody maintenance

Germany has many diverse natural types of small

watercourses, but these have become more unified
as a result of development, maintenance and use.
Streams and ditches have been made narrower,
straightened, shortened and their beds constricted
and deepened. Agricultural use often extends as far
as the upper edge of the riverbank. Under Article
39 of the WHG, waterbody maintenance comprises
the care and development of waterbodies including the banks. Improving the ecological conditions based on the natural type and meeting the
requirements of users e.g. with regard to outflow
are ranked with equal importance. Impairments to
the water balance of land ecosystems and wetlands
should be avoided as far as possible.

Ideally, if land is available along the watercourse,

this should be left to develop under its own momentum. Semi-natural elements such as gravel
banks may be left as they are. Side shifts may be
prompted by deadwood or bank erosion. If streams
need to remain significantly below the upper edge
of the land for drainage purposes, a secondary
meadow may be facilitated.

Even if there is no space available and stream beds

are to remain in their current locations, waterbody
maintenance can still be carried out carefully to ensure the diversity of waterbody structures, habitats

Water Resource Management in Germany

Minimum ecological standards for good agricultural


Minimum standards of soil and waterbody conservation in good agricultural practice should consistently be anchored as binding legal requirements
and as a vital element of eco-friendly agriculture,
with nationwide implementation throughout all EU
Member States. Limiting implementation to endangered or sensitive areas is inadequate.

Demanding and promoting environmental achievements

In order to offer incentives to farmers to use ecofriendly, water-conserving production and management practices, it is necessary to strengthen the
so-called second pillar of the EUs Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). As part of agricultural funding under the CAP, the financial framework of the
second pillar will be gradually increased to 10%
by 2013 by way of modulation (cutting direct
payments that are currently paid depending on

117 Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency): Kleine Fliegewsser pflegen und

entwickeln - Neue Wege der Gewsserunterhaltung. 2009.
118 Deutsche Vereinigung fr Wasserwirtschaft, Abwasser und Abfall (German Association
for Water Resources Management, Wastewater and Waste, DWA): Neue Wege der
Gewsserunterhaltung -Pflege und Entwicklung von Fliegewssern. Merkblatt DWA-M
610. 2010. 422 pages.


the size of the farm). The next CAP reform should

introduce clear budgeting for the two pillars, with
a clear shift in weighting in favour of the second
pillar, in order to accommodate new challenges
such as renewable energies, climate change, biodiversity and water management. This must not be
allowed to occur at the expense of existing activities to promote rural development.

The EAFRD Regulation119 provides the statutory

basis for funding of the second pillar, and also
provides the framework for the agricultural and
environmental programmes of the Lnder. In Germany, agricultural and environmental programmes
are used to integrate agricultural measures over
and above regulatory law into the WFD management plans. In addition to the voluntary measures
offered within the context of agricultural and
environmental programmes, the EAFRD Regulation
also provides for compulsory measures implementing the WFD and compensating for the associated
restrictions of use and increase in expenditure. The
relevant conditions will be fleshed out by the EU.
With regard to waterbody conservation, it is essential that the Lnder use this opportunity to impose
compulsory measures in areas with high levels of

terbody conservation and improves their technical

knowledge of eco-friendly production techniques.
Targeted information and advice can promote
the spread of voluntary measures and their implementation at farm level, so that in the long
term, eco-friendly practices become integrated into
everyday agricultural life. Participating in waterbody conservation-based consultation and training
programmes should be a condition for receiving
additional subsidies.

Strengthening organic farming

Organic farming is considered a particularly sustainable method of production, even though it too
generates emissions. By refraining from the use of
mineral nitrogen fertilisers, its N balance surpluses
are lower, and the risk of nitrate elutriation is lower. It also uses no chemico-synthetic pesticides, and
in this way relieves pressure on the environment.

In individual cases, organic farming is selectively

used to ensure a good groundwater quality and
thereby secure the basis of water supply to large
towns and cities. This is achieved on a cooperative,
i.e. contractual, basis with compensatory payments,
for example in the Mangfall region (water supply
to the city of Munich) or the Canitz reservoir near
Leipzig (water supply to the city of Leipzig).

In its sustainability strategy, the German Government is aiming to increase the proportion of organically farmed land. At present, however, it accounts
for just 5%. Consumer demand for organic produce
significantly exceeds domestic production, leading
to rising imports. Our aim should therefore be to
encourage farmers to switch to organic farming
and make it so attractive that demand in Germany
can be met largely from domestic production.

Make use of agricultural and environmental programmes!

The agricultural and environmental programmes of

the Federal Lnder reward more eco-friendly forms
of management and production. In the current
support period (up until 2013), they have tended to
focus more on sites at risk of erosion and leaching.
The majority of Lnder support measures to reduce
nutrient discharges, protect against erosion and
promote eco-friendly land use, such as the cultivation of intercrops or undersowing, the cultivation
of flowering strips, flowering areas and riparian
buffer strips over several years, the use of mulching
or direct sowing, and the use of eco-friendly techniques for the application of slurry. Furthermore,
some Lnder subsidise the semi-natural development of watercourses, the improvement of waterbody ecology, and the sustainable development
of wetland areas in conjunction with agricultural
activities. In future, we would recommend linking
subsidies more closely to results, and rewarding the
actual environmental relief achieved.

Communication and training



Use of biomass

Bio-energy is one of the main components in the

future energy mix, as it minimises emissions of
greenhouse gases while at the same time reducing
our dependency on energy imports.

There are various technical ways of utilising the

energy potential of plants and plant or organic

Incorporating environmental and waterbody conservation aspects into the education and training of
farmers helps to support their understanding of wa-

119 119 EAFRD European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

Cooperative waterbody conservation agreements

both within and outside of waterbody conservation areas at Land and river basin level also help to
encourage water-friendly agriculture. Experiences
from existing programs in selected Lnder and the
results of pilot projects to implement the WFD in
the agricultural sector should therefore be actively
communicated in order to initiate follow-on projects.

Water Resource Management in Germany

residues and waste to generate electricity, heat

or biofuels. The oldest and most widespread form
is heating with wood. The extraction of biodiesel
from rapeseed and the fermentation of plant material into biogas which can be used to generate
electricity and heat are established techniques.
Bioenergy has gained increasingly in significance in
Germany. Among renewable energies, almost 70%
of the energy supplied (heat, electricity and biofuels) is obtained from biomass.
Figure 55: Proportion of bioenergy among renewable

pollution of waterbodies by agriculture, already at a high level, could increase further.

ffAs raw materials production becomes intensified and regionally concentrated, measures for
the water-friendly management of agricultural
land, such as agro-environmental programmes
and extensive production techniques, are being increasingly neglected.

ffBiogas production is likewise linked to various

water-related problems. The fermentation residues produced are reused as fertilisers thanks
to their high nutrient content, whereby the
nutrients and constituent ingredients are determined to a large extent by the substrates
fed into the system. Ahead of maize, liquid
manure is the most important initial substrate
for biogas extraction in Germany. The fermentation residues arising from this mixture can
be difficult to define and control, which leads
to growing plant- and site-inappropriate application. What is more, fermentation residues
increase the occurrence of farm fertilisers,
with the associated risk of over-supply to agricultural land surrounding the farm.

Biomass (electricity)
12.8 %

14.2 %

42.4 %
Total: 237.8 TWh
Approx. 70 %
from bioenergy

8.0 %

2.6 %

ffDeficiencies in the construction and operation

of biogas plants, coupled with failure to comply with the ordinance on the handling of substances constituting a hazard to water, could
lead to contamination of the groundwater and
surface waters in the area surrounding such
plants, e.g. if seepage contaminated with pollutants escapes via leakages, or if there is accidental damage to fermentation tanks.

Wind power
15.9 %

Geothermal energy Solar thermal energy

2.0 %
2.1 %

Source: Daten AGEE, 2009; FNR 2010

As a result of this development, the agricultural

cultivation of energy crops has expanded rapidly in
recent years: At present, energy crops are cultivated
on more than 14% of Germanys arable land. The
two dominant crops, rapeseed (as a raw material
for biofuels) and maize (as a substrate for biogas
generation), in particular, have increased sharply.

Recommendations for water-friendly bioenergy

Impairments to waterbodies may arise both from

the cultivation of energy crops and from the return
of fermentation residues to agricultural land.

For the first time, the sustainability ordinances

adopted in 2009 in the electricity and biofuels sectors link the cultivation of energy crops to certain
environmental and management standards. From a
waterbody conservation viewpoint, however, these
criteria are not sufficient, especially as the requirements are limited to good agricultural practice
and the cross-compliance regulations. Instead, it
is necessary to adopt site-adapted, water-friendly
management principles in the field of energy crop
cultivation (cf. Chapter 6.6.3).

Moreover, farmers should exploit the full range of

crop rotation opportunities to counteract one-sided
cultivation structures and minimise the risks of
waterbody pollution. The use of plants for energy
makes it possible to broaden the spectrum of species in the fields, for example by introducing new

This development also impacts soils and waters,

both via land use and via the generation of energy

ffThe growing cultivation of energy crops adversely impacts groundwater and surface water, because a growing number of sites are being used for intensive biomass production.
Rapeseed and maize are problematic crops
from the viewpoint of waterbody conservation,
because they require comparatively large
quantities of fertiliser and pesticide. What is
more, maize tends to encourage erosion. Yieldoriented production, close cropping with high
proportions of rapeseed or maize and expanding cultivation areas, coupled with regional
concentration, all combine to exacerbate these
problems. As a result, there is a risk that the

Water Resource Management in Germany


Figure 56: Cultivation area used for energy crops

Source: FNR 2010

cultivars such as millet, silphium perfoliatum and



Mixed cultures and duoculture systems also offer

opportunities for water-friendly energy crop production. Both techniques promise to reduce diffuse
nutrient discharges by minimising the use of fertilisers and pesticides, although they have not yet
been widely used in practice.
The ploughing of grassland areas is to be avoided,
particularly in sites at particular risk of erosion and
leakage, since ploughing mineralises and releases
large quantities of nitrogen, and furthermore, large
quantities of the carbon stored in the soil are released into the atmosphere.

The use of fermentation residues plays a central

role in the operation of biogas plants. The relevant
provisions governing the application and storage
of organic fertilisers are inadequate. If fermentation residues are applied as fertilisers, they must be
fully included in the farms calculated application
limit of 170 kg N/ha. The entire volume of nitrogen
must be included in the calculation, not just the
proportion of animal origin. Fermentation residues
contain various initial substrates, and as a result,
their nutrient contents vary considerably. In order
to ensure eco-friendly agricultural use, therefore,
farm- and plant-specific analyses are needed in order to ensure targeted application.

The targeted, precisely timed application of fermentation residues pre-supposes adequate storage

capacities, possibly beyond the six-month deadline.

Application after harvesting and in the autumn
should be reduced to a minimum or avoided
altogether in order to prevent the relocation and
elutriation of soluble nitrogen portions.

6.7 Other uses

6.7.1 Flood risk management

Floods, as a consequence of meteorological events,

have natural causes and are a regular factor in the
natural balance. The biotic communities in rivers
and water meadows have adapted to the changing
water levels. However, a large number of serious anthropogenic encroachments over many years have
led to the loss of natural flood plains and wetlands,
causing fundamental changes to the flow characteristics of waters that were adapted to the landscape
and seasonal rhythms. The man-made changes to
many rivers and streams were designed to create
land for industry and housing, make waters navigable, intensify agriculture, utilise hydropower, and
protect against flooding. Owing to the straightening and shortening of river courses, flood waves
now travel faster and transport larger volumes of
water per unit of time. For example, since the first
large-scale straightening of the Rhine in the mid19th century by hydro-construction master Johann
Gottfried Tulla, the number of riverine meadows on
the Upper Rhine between Basle and Karlsruhe has
diminished by 87%.

Water Resource Management in Germany

All in all, the flood plain of the Upper Rhine was

reduced by 60% or 130 km2. River straightening
measures lead to a shortening of the run on the
Upper Rhine by approximately 82 km, and on the
Lower Rhine by approximately 23 km which in
turn led to an acceleration of runoff. For example,
the flow rate of the flood wave in the Rhine on the
section between Basle and Maxau has been reduced
from 64 to 23 hours.
From a nationwide perspective, at present, only
around 1/3 of the former flood plains can now
be used to retain the water in the event of major
flooding. In large river basins such as the Rhine,
Elbe, Danube and Oder, in some sections only 10%
- 20% of the former riverine meadows remain120. As
well as changes to the rivers and water meadows,
climatic factors also influence the scale, frequency
and timing of flood events. Based on current predictions of climate change, in future, as well as
temperature increases, we can expect a significant
intra-year shift in the rainwater regime, as well as
increasing variability in the area of heavy downpours. This may lead to an increase in extreme

weather, both flooding and periods of drought (cf.

Chapter 2.3).

Parallel to the aforementioned structural changes,

humans are responsible for an accumulation of assets in areas at risk of flooding, as a result of which
the potential for damage increases. It is only the
interaction of these two independent mechanisms
that causes the high levels of damage observed in
cases of flooding.

In order to limit flood damage in future, viable

long-term strategies at catchment area level are
being drafted both nationally and internationally.
Increasingly, their attention centres on the risk
of flooding. Water management administrations
do not merely assess the risk of flooding, but also
relate the likelihood of this happening to the anticipated damage, so that measures can be targeted
more selectively.

In Europe, the EC Directive on the assessment and

management of flood risks (Directive 2007/60/EC)
has been in force since November 2007. The flood
risk management directive pursues a three-pronged

Figure 57: Changes to the Rhine as a result of

development and straightening

Rhine 1838

Rhine 1872

Rhine 1980

1. The flood risk at river basin level is to be provisionally assessed by the end of 2011. To this end,
the Member States will draw on information
about past flooding, as well as the knowledge
available regarding the impacts of climate
change on flooding probability.
2. In a second stage, they will draw up flood
hazard maps and flood risk maps. These will
contribute significantly towards improving
awareness of flooding by indicating the risk of
extreme events. These maps are due to be completed by the end of 2013.

Source: Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe

3. This will be followed by the development of

flood risk management plans by 2015. These
plans focus on the handling of flooding in a
river basin from analysis of the last flood and
after-care, to the development of flood protection and prevention measures, through to the
possible need for disaster management with any
future flood. These plans should focus primarily
on flood avoidance, protection and alleviation.

Source: Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe

Source: Landesvermessungsamt Stuttgart

These steps are to be reviewed every six years so

that new findings from research into the consequences of climate change regarding possible
changes to the likelihood of flooding may be duly

In Germany, there are a wide range of measures

available in various different sectors for addressing
flood risk management:

Source: Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe und Landesvermessungsamt Stuttgart

120 BfN Auenzustandsbericht - Flussauen in Deutschland Bonn, 2009

Water Resource Management in Germany


ffLand precautions, e.g. restriction of construction in flood plains, flood-adjusted usage in

flood risk areas, representation in regional

Figure 58: Large-scale flooding of the Elbe and Mulde in

August 2002

ffNatural water retention, e.g. decentralised

rainwater seepage, reduction of land sealing,
retention and reintroduction of water meadow
sites, recovery of flood plains

ffTechnical flood prevention, e.g. dykes, dams,

retention basins, property protection, protection of oil tanks

ffConstruction precautions (building to cater for


ffRisk precautions, e.g. formation of reserves,

insurance policies

ffSupply of information, e.g. flood warning

ffBehavioural precautions, e.g. public education
and preparation for flooding with specific recommended actions for the general public

Photograph: M. Zebisch, 2002

ffPreparation for risk aversion in disaster plans,

amended version entered into force on 1 March


e.g. alarm and deployment plans, drills and

training of rescue teams.

When discussing and selecting measures for dealing with flooding, however, it is worth remembering that technical measures are only effective up
to a certain water level. If the flood level on which
they are based is exceeded, the supposedly safe
areas behind the dykes become high-risk areas.

For successful flood risk management, cooperation

must transcend administrative boundaries, involving both responsible and affected parties, in order
to ensure a balanced combination of measures on
the river itself, in the catchment area, and in the
flood risk areas. The EC Flood Risk Management
Directive pre-supposes the involvement of the general public and coordination in the catchment area.


At Federal level, important regulatory instruments

for improving flood risk management already exist
in the form of the Federal Water Act, the Construction Code, the Regional Planning Act and the
Federal Soil Protection Act. Following the floods in
the Elbe and Danube river basins in August 2002,
which caused 21 fatalities and more than 10 billion
Euros worth of damage in Germany alone, it became clear that the national regulations needed to
be specified in greater detail.
This occurred with the Act to Improve Preventive
Flood Alleviation, which entered into force on 10
May 2005. This Act supplements the Federal Water
Act, the Construction Code, the Regional Planning
Act, the Federal Waterways Act and the Act for
the German Weather Service by adding essential
provisions to improve preventive flood mitigation.
The Federal Water Act was revised in 2009, and its

The principal provisions on flood risk management

in the Federal Water Act, coupled with the provisions of the EC Flood Risk Management Directive,
regarding the provisional assessment of the flood
risk, flood hazard and risk maps and flood risk
management plans, are as follows:

ffThe designation of flood plains by the Lnder

by 22 December 2013. This concerns areas
which have statistically been affected by flooding at least once in 100 years (measured flood
level HQ100) or for which flood relief and retention are required.

ffFarther-reaching provisions apply to designated flood plains which support an improvement

in the ecological structures of waters, prevent
erosion-encouraging measures, ensure the conservation and recovery of flood control areas,
and regulate flood discharge as well as aiding
the minimisation of damage. For example,
these may include:

Prohibiting the zoning of areas for new

development exceptions are only possible subject to compliance with strict prerequisites (e.g. there is no other option for
housing development, there is no anticipated threat to human life or considerable damages to health or property, the
flood discharge and water level will not
be adversely influenced, the project is being carried out under aspects of construction precautions etc.)

Regulations governing the handling of

substances dangerous to water such as

Water Resource Management in Germany

the banning of oil heaters and flood-proof

upgrading of existing oil heating installations.

Measures to retain or improve the ecological structures of waterbodies and their

flood plains.

Requirements governing the proper agricultural and forestry use of a site in order
to reduce erosion and minimise pollutant
discharge into waterbodies.

The international river basin commissions, such as

the International Commission for the Protection
of the Rhine (IKSR), play a vital role in coordinating river basin-related flood risk management
measures at international level. Current tasks here
include converting the existing flood action plans
into flood risk management plans, and coordinating the aspects required for transboundary flood
risk management (e.g. designating flood runoffs
along the entire Rhine for the calculation of flood
scenarios). Similar work is being carried out by the
International Commissions for the Protection of the
Moselle and the Saar (IKSMS), and in varying levels
of detail for the international river basins of the
Oder, Elbe and Danube.
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes
was adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on 17 March 1992 and
entered into force on 6 October 1996. In order to
strengthen preventive flood control as an important
area of sustainable water protection at national and
international level, the UNECE submitted guidelines
for preventive flood control which were adopted
by the Member States at the 2nd Conference of the
Parties in March 2000. It is hoped that implementation of the guidelines will achieve approximation
to the targets and strategies for flood prevention
and flood control by means of joint activities in the
riparian states of transboundary watercourses, with
due regard for differing local, national and transboundary aspects. The guidelines are not binding,
but constitute an important basis for the formulation of strategic plans of measures for each river
basin. The UNECE guidelines for sustainable flood
prevention were revised at an international conference in 2004 following the August 2002 floods in
the catchment areas of the Elbe and Danube, and
their validity was confirmed. Other recommendations included the drafting of farther-reaching policy guidelines for the areas of flash floods, the links
between flooding and water pollution, the linking
of flood management and dealing with drought
situations, rainwater management and consideration of the impacts of climate change. The UNECEs
current work on the topic of flood risk management concentrates on knowledge sharing and the
exchange of experience. An international workshop

Water Resource Management in Germany

in April 2009 addressed the need for transboundary data exchange to improve flood forecasting,
inter-government cooperation in river basins on the
drafting of flood risk management plans, and the
establishment of a statutory agreement on transboundary cooperation121.

6.7.2 Shipping Inland shipping

The large European rivers are used as waterways,

and form part of the transport network alongside
road and rail. Germany has a high density of
waterways, as do the Netherlands and parts of
Belgium and France. Each year, European inland
shipping transports some 520 million tonnes (t) of
goods, corresponding to a 5.6% market share of
the transport capacity (measured as the product of
volume of goods multiplied by the distance transported, shown as transported tonne kilometres). By
comparison with the rest of Europe, Germany has
the most extensive and best-developed network of
inland waterways with the highest volume.

Among Germanys Federal waterways, a distinction

is made between waterway legislation for inland
and marine waterways, and shipping legislation
for inland and marine waterways. Around 90% of
inland waterways are used for shipping and form a
wide-meshed, coherent network around 7,350 km
long. Of this, around 35% is free-flowing/regulated
sections of river, 41% impounded sections of river,
and 24% canals. They connect the major ports
with economic centres in Germany and abroad
(hinterland traffic), as well as interconnecting key
industrial zones. The vast majority of Germanys
major cities have a direct waterway connection
with their own inland port. Inland waterways are
also becoming increasingly significant for sports
and leisure use. However, their predominant function is as a transportation route for goods. The total
volume of goods transported by inland shipping in
Germany was around 249 million tonnes in 2007,
corresponding to an average 6.1% of the total
transport volume of the various different transport
carriers (modal split). At present, ships flying the
German flag account for around 34% of the volume shipped via inland waterways.

In recent years, German freight traffic has seen a

sharp increase in transport capacity. The largest
increase has been in road freight, which now accounts for 70% of the modal split. As a result of
this development, since 1985 inland shipping has
lost around 9% of its market share in the modal
split, despite an increase in absolute transport

121 UN-ECE Transboundary Flood Risk Management - Experience from the UN-ECE
Region, Geneva 2009


of development and offer less favourable natural

conditions than the Rhine. From an environmental
viewpoint, it is preferable to maximise the existing
potential rather than to further expand the Federal
waterways. To this end, there is a need for improvements at a nautical level, such as modern transport
management, fleet modernisation (for instance, the
BMUs ERP environmental and energy efficiency
programme with a focus on supporting inland shipping) and the logistical linking of transport carriers
via the creation of intermodal interfaces at port
locations. This would also help to ease the pressure
on the environment caused by pollutants which are
currently still emitted in large quantities by ships
with outmoded engines.

Figure 59: Development of freight traffic on Germanys

inland waterways according to principal goods categories, distances travelled, and development of inland
shipping as a share of the modal split in German freight
traffic, 1985 to 2007 (pre-1990 figures refer to the former
territory of the Federal Republic of Germany)


chemical products,


iron, steel and

non-ferrous metals







1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007
Share of modal Split
in relationto
mileage travelled

Share of modal Split

in relationto the
volume of goods

Percentage of modal split (%)

Volume of goods (million tonnes)

and distance transported (km)


Principal goods categories [million t]:


food and
spec. transport goods,
vehicles etc.
agricultural and
forestry goods
solid mineral fuels
petroleum products, gases

The consequences of climate change can affect

Germanys waterways in various ways. If the altered
peripheral conditions such as the decrease in
precipitation during the summer months reduce
the number of navigable days and reduce transport
capacity, this should be factored into the decisionmaking processes with regard to future infrastructure measures. Increasing importance is attached to
the threshold levels at which the costs for maintaining waterbody use exceed the benefits to society,
and this also applies to the cost/benefit calculation
for hydraulic engineering projects.

Only 15% of watercourses will achieve the WFDs

environmental objective of a good status by
2015. This is due mainly to the altered morphology, i.e. the properties of waterbodies on the basis
of usage for example, as a result of straightening, narrowing and rock dumping, leading to a
loss of important habitats for various waterbody
organisms. This is particularly true of the Federal
waterways. 75% of Federal waterways have been
heavily-to-completely modified compared to the
undeveloped state of the respective river type, and
less than 5% meet the WFDs environmental objectives. It is therefore vital to minimise the impacts
of waterbody development on the water ecology.
To this end, integrated waterbody development
concepts for waterways need to be developed at
a supra-regional level which combine aspects of
shipping, flood protection, nature conservation,
hydropower (where applicable) and water resources
management. This approach should safeguard
waterbody function on a large scale, while preserving shipping as a form of usage. Effective measures
include, for example, the lateral linking of large
rivers with their water meadows (e.g. by connecting segregated bayous), the network of interlinked
biotopes, relocating dykes, or restoring passability
at weirs. Many effective improvements in the water
morphology are already possible at the waterbody
maintenance level. Based on the Federal Water Act,
there are plans to successively make the weirs and
locks on Federal waterways passable.

ores and metal scrap

stones and earth

Transport distance
via inland ship

Source: Verkehr in Zahlen 1998, 2008/2009

capacity resulting from an increased distance transported. It currently accounts for just under 10% of
total freight transport capacity in Germany, whereby the average distance transported is 260 km.


Barges are used primarily to transport bulk goods.

Inland cargo shipping is dominated by the four
categories of stone and earth, petroleum, ores,
and solid mineral fuels, accounting for around
two-thirds of the freight volume. One benefit of
this mode of transport is that it facilitates the
high-tech transportation of exceptionally heavy
and bulky goods. Since the early 1990s there has
been a change in the freight structure as a result
of the sharp increase in container transport, for
which the prognosis remains favourable. This form
of transport allows inland shipping to move even
high-quality consumer goods. Favourable growth
rates are also anticipated for chemical products and
finished products such as machinery and vehicles.
By contrast, conventional freight categories such
as petroleum products, ores and fertilisers show
a declining trend depending on the relationships

The main focus of German and indeed Central

European inland shipping is in the Rhine corridor.
On the Rhine, and its tributaries that are developed
for shipping the Moselle, Main and Neckar, as well
as on the canal network in western Germany, largeengine freight ships (110 x 11.45 x 2.80 m; 2,350
t) or push tows with two tugs (185 x 11.45 x 2.8 m;
3,600 t) as well as two-layer container transporters
may be used. Around 88% of the transport capacity
of inland freight shipping occurs in this area. Other
inland waterways such as the Oder, Ems, Danube,
Elbe and Weser do not have a similar standard

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 60: Density of freight traffic on German waterways in million tonnes (tkm/length of waterway in km)

Federal waterways
Density of freight traffic in ocean and inland waterways 2000 in the main network of German waterways

BMVBW Abt. EW Bonn, 2002 W 172b

up to 1 bn t

inland shipping
Ocean shipping*

Over 1 bn t
To scale

* Calculated on the basis of handling figures

for seaports excluding NOK



Sonderstelle fr Vermessungswesen beim Wasser- und

Schiffahrtsamt Regensburg


Federal Statistical Office,


Source: Federal Statistical Office

Water Resource Management in Germany

109 Ocean shipping

90% of foreign trade outside of the EU and more

than 40% of trade within the EU happens via the
ocean. On a global level, around one-third of all
vessel movements are destined for or originated in
the EU. The North and Baltic Seas are among the
most frequently and densely travelled oceans of the
world. Germanys Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
and the coastal waters of the North and Baltic Seas
are characterised by waterways and sea transport
corridors (known as traffic separation areas). Some
of Europes most significant European harbours are
located in the German Part of the North Sea and
its tributaries, including Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven
and Bremen/Bremerhaven, while in the Baltic Sea,
transits to the Russian oil ports and passenger ferries account for a significant proportion of traffic.
In recent decades, global ocean shipping has risen
continuously at a rate of more than 4% per annum. Forecasters expect this growth to continue
in future, following a downturn prompted by the
economic crisis in 2009. An annual increase of 3%
is expected until 2020.
Although ocean shipping causes less environmental
damage per transported tonne than other transport
modes, it nevertheless has a massive impact on the
ecosystems of our oceans, coastlines and air quality.
It is responsible for 3.3% of man-made greenhouse
gas emissions.

directly into the sea. In recent years, however, we

have seen a decrease in illegal oil contamination of
the Baltic Sea, despite the fact that shipping movements and the number of monitoring flights has
increased a positive trend.

Figure 62: Distribution of shipping movements: The North
and Baltic Seas are among the most heavily travelled
waters in the world

Source: Benjamin Halpern and colleagues, UC Santa Barbara

Besides environmental damage caused by illegal

discharges of oil or oily wastewater, there is also
the risk of shipping accidents entailing the escape
of its fuel and/or load, which may contain crude
oil, petroleum products or other toxic substances
such as chemicals or fertilisers. Following a number
of major oil disasters in recent decades (the Erika
off the Brittany coast in 1999, the Prestige off the
Spanish coast in 2002), the international regulations have been tightened up considerably. For
example, a twin hull is now compulsory for tankers;
oil collection facilities in ports must accept the residues.

Oil contamination at sea and along the coast

Ocean-going ships use so-called heavy fuel oils,

which are obtained from refinery residues and are
of significantly lower quality compared with the
petrol and diesel used in road traffic. Heavy fuel
oils need to be processed on-board in an energyintensive operation, creating oily residues, called
sludge. Some ships still dispose the sludge illegally

Figure 61: Container ship

Photograph: Bernd Sterzl/


Coastal waters, shores and beaches of seaside resorts as well as port cities are particularly affected
by shipping-related environmental pollution, as
ships spend most of their time in the direct vicinity
of the coast. Around 70% of shipping movements
occur within the 200 nautical mile zone, 36%
within a 25 mile zone.

Particularly sensitive marine regions may be designated as Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)
if they merit particular protection due to a recognised ecological, socio-economic or scientific significance and are under threat from international shipping. The Wadden Sea in the North Sea, the coastal
sea from Spain to Ireland (Western European Waters) and the entire Baltic Sea are included in this
category. Under these provisions, certain conditions
may be imposed on shipping, such as the creation
of route guidance systems or special routes for haz-

Water Resource Management in Germany

ardous goods transportation; however, transport in

general cannot be prohibited.

Oil contamination represents a major problem

for marine ecosystems. The initial oil film on the
waters surface is distributed by wind, waves, and
currents; parts evaporate; while other parts settle
on the seabed or are washed to the shore. Animals
then ingest the oil. In addition, the feathers of
seabirds become oily and are no longer water repellent; this impairs their ability to swim. When they
clean their feathers, they swallow oil, which causes
damage to the intestinal tract. The oil-covered birds
either die of drowning, starvation or poisoning.
Seabirds such as guillemots, eider ducks and redthroated loons which dive to catch their food are
particularly endangered.

Contamination of the ocean and the coast from shipping waste

Marine litter is found on the surface of the ocean,

in the water column, on the seabed, and on
beaches. The waste is distributed around the world
by waves and currents; around 70% sinks to the
ocean floor. Anthropogenic debris and especially
platics pose a serious hazard to marine creatures,
which face a variety of risks such as becoming
entangled in parts of the waste, or oral ingestion.
Seabirds, fish and marine mammals which have
been killed due to entanglement by drifting litter
such as plastic nets and plastic packaging material
are found time after time. The US-Marine Mammal Commission has identified 136 marine species
that regularly become entangled in marine litter.
Furthermore, animals die from litter (primarily
plastic such as bottle tops, bags or pellets) they have
mistaken for food and ingested. Post mortems on
Northern fulmars revealed an average of 32 plastic
parts in each birds gut, the amount of a lunch box
full of litter scaled to human size. Bottles and other
open containers on the seabed often prove fatal for
fish and other creatures. Beams and boards from
cargo residues as well as floating cargo that has
gone overboard contribute to the contamination of
the driftline122. Nets, ropes and packaging materials
are floating traps for the marine fauna. Lost fishing
gear, known as ghost nets, continues to catch prey
for many years and damages fragile organisms such
as cold water corals. Coastal communities need to
raise a lot of funds to remove shipping waste from
their beaches. For example, in Ostholstein alone,
between 750,000 and 1.2 million Euro is spent annually on coastal clean-ups.
It is usually difficult to clearly identify the origins
of waste. It is assumed that the bulk of litter discovered on Germanys North Sea beaches in all

122 The driftline is defined as the shore region where material is deposited.

Water Resource Management in Germany

likelihood originates from shipping, with a significant portion from the fishing industry. Shipping
discharges some 70,000 cubic metres of waste into
the North Sea each year.

Worldwide, there is a similar trend. Most studies

identify shipping and fishing as the principal discharge routes. However, it depends on the region.
For example, in the Mediterranean land discharges
are higher (open landfill sites, illegal waste disposal
in waters). One-tenth of the total waste in the
worlds oceans which equates to around 640,000
tonnes is attributable to fishing equipment that is
adrift in the water or has dropped to the seabed.

Substantial quantities of waste are generated on

board: Around 3 3.5 kg per person, per day. For
example, a 7-day cruise on a vessel with 3,000 passengers can produce up to 73.5 tonnes of waste.

There is no general ban on the jettisoning of ships

waste overboard. The existing provisions are regulated in Annex V of MARPOL (Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships) and displayed in Table

The Baltic and North Seas have been designated

special areas under MARPOL Annex V since 1998
and 1991 respectively. Furthermore, in 2000 an EC
Directive was adopted which hopefully will improve
disposal options for shipping waste and cargo residues in European ports. To date, however, studies
of the German North Sea coast during the period
1992 to 2002 and of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR
region) from 2001 to 2006 have failed to ascertain
any significant decrease in the garbage washed to

In the central environmental pillar of the European marine strategy the EC Marine Strategy
Framework Directive marine litter is one of the
eleven descriptors used to characterise a Good Environmental Status of the oceans (cf. Chapter 5.1.3).
The objective is that Properties and quantities of
marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and
marine environment.

Discharge of wastewater from ships

Both black water and grey water is created by ships.

Black water originates from toilets, sanitation areas,
scuppers or facilities where animals are held. Grey
water refers to effluents and wastes from kitchens,
bathrooms and showers. Large quantities of wastewater are created by passenger vessels in particular,
i.e. ferries and cruise ships. On a cruise ship, approximately 32 litres of black water and 250 litres
of grey water are produced per passenger, per day;
for a vessel with 3,000 passengers (including crew),
this produces a weekly volume of 627,000 litres


Table 17: Regulations governing the disposal of waste on board ships pursuant to MARPOL 73/78 Annex V;
regulations 3 and 5
Garbage disposal
Outside special areas

Inside special areas

Plastics, plastic ash

Floating dunnage,
lining, and
packing materials

Food waste and

other waste such
as cargo residue,
paper, rags, glass,
metal, bottles,
crockery, ash

Plastic, plastic ash

Other garbage

Food waste


Minimum distance
from nearest land
25 nm

Minimum distance
from nearest land
12 nm. However,
if comminuted or
ground: 3 nm



Minimum distance
from nearest land
12 nm

of black water and 5,250,000 litres of grey water

which is discharged into the sea, either treated or

Under MARPOL Annex IV, the discharge of untreated black water into the sea is prohibited; it
must either be collected in tanks or treated in
wastewater treatment plants. The effluent is usually
disinfected with chlorine prior to being discharged
into the sea. The discharge of grey water is not
regulated under MARPOL Annex V.

majority of cases. The paint gradually washed off,

and the TBT entered the marine environment and
sediment. The Antifouling Convention of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) prohibits the
use of TBT in ships paints worldwide (since 2003
for all new vessels, and since 2008 for vessels that
had previously been treated with a paint containing TBT).

Tributyl tin (TBT) in ports and coastal waters

The outer shell of vessels is coated with a special

paint known as anti-fouling paint to prevent
the growth of mussels, barnacles, gastropodes
and algae, and to prevent any increase in the flow
resistance of the hull. In the past, paints containing tributyl tin (TBT) as a biocide were used in the

Figure 63: Composition of waste found on the beaches of

the North Sea coast

apparel; 1.0
metal; 2.1
cardboard; 3.0

foam rubber;

glass; 3.6
fishery; 5.8

other; 10.5

wood; 14.1
Source: Federal Environment Agency, 2003


TBT has a disruptive effect on the metabolism of

sensitive organisms and the hormone system of
certain types of gastropods, and renders them
infertile. Pathogenic changes have been observed
in fish, blue mussels and crabs. TBT accumulates in
the food chain, since most organisms are only able
to decompose this substance very slowly. Due to its
high level of stability and accumulation in all living things, TBT is a typical permanent toxin which
continues to pollute the environment for decades
even after it has been banned. Sediment, especially
harbour sludge in the vicinity of shipyards, exhibits
particularly high levels of pollution, leading to
problems with the disposal of dredged material.

Impairment of the indigenous ecosystem and biodiversity from ballast water

Ships need ballast to stabilise their position in the

water and balance out different loads. To this end,
seawater is pumped into special ballast water tanks
which in large vessels may have a volume of up
to 100,000 tonnes and in this way, is transported
from one port to the next, where part or all of
it is then discharged when new cargo is loaded.
Worldwide, some 10 billion tonnes of ballast water
are transported each year. Organisms also travel
round the world in this water, and can become
established in new ecosystems. The species diversity detected in the ballast water of ships ranges
from microscopic algae to mussels, gastropods and
crabs, and even fish up to 15 cm in length. These

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 64: Shipworm (top left), comb jellyfish (top right), mitten crab (bottom)

Top left: Wikipedia
Top right:
Bottom: Wikipedia

entrained, invasive species can displace indigenous

species, disrupt the ecosystem and biodiversity, and
cause economic damage. In the North Sea alone,
scientists have detected more than 200 non-native
species entrained on ships hulls or in ballast water.

conditions than those available in coastal/port

waters, and therefore will be unable to establish
themselves there.

Air pollution along the coast and in port cities

In the North and Baltic Seas, the shipworm, comb

jellyfish and mitten crab are among the best-known
invasive species.

The Ballast Water Convention was adopted in

February 2004 as part of an IMO Diplomatic Conference. Under this Convention, in the future, ships
must be equipped with facilities for the treatment
of ballast water. This equipment uses filters and
UV light, but also chemicals, to kill organisms.
However, the Convention has yet to be ratified by
a sufficient number of States and for this reason is
not yet in force. During a transitional period, until
such treatment facilities are compulsory on board
all ships, the ballast water must be exchanged in
specified areas, at least 200 nautical miles from the
coast with a water depth of 200 m. It is assumed
that fewer organisms will enter the tanks in such
areas, and that they also require different living

Water Resource Management in Germany

There is a growing focus on air pollutants from

ships exhausts. In the heavily frequented ferry
ports of the North and Baltic Seas, emissions from
ships (SOx and NOX) already represent by far the
greatest proportion of pollutants.

In 2008, this prompted the IMO to reduce the limits

for SOx and NOx (NOx only for new vessels, however).
The sulphur content in fuel is being gradually reduced worldwide from its current level of 4.5%, to
3.5% by 2012 and 0.5% by 2020. Additionally, the
IMO has introduced emission control areas for air
pollutants (SECAs, Sulphur Emission Control Areas).
The Baltic Sea was declared a SECA in 2006, and
the North Sea in 2007. In these areas, more stringent limits apply to sulphur emissions (currently:
1.0%; from mid 2015: 0.1%). As well as improving
the air, these regulations will also affect the quality
of the seas, since sulphur oxide emissions contrib-


ute to acidification and nitrogen oxide emissions

contribute to eutrophication. Studies suggest that
ocean traffic contributes around 24% to the atmospheric discharge of nitrogen oxide into the Baltic

In European ports, a sulphur limit of 0.1% has

been in force since early 2010. This is intended
in particular to improve air quality in port towns,
where ships emissions account for a significant
proportion of SO2 emissions for example, in
Lbeck-Travemnde the figure is more than 90%.

Because ships also use their back-up engines/backup boilers to maintain on-board operations in ports,
a few port towns now offer the first land-based
electricity connections, enabling ships to switch off
their back-up engines altogether.

6.7.3 Hydropower

The German Government has prioritised the expansion of renewable energies with a view to effective
climate protection and the development of a sustainable energy supply. By the year 2020, the contribution of renewable energies to electricity supply
is to be increased to at least 30%, and to heat supply to 14%, and continuously increased thereafter.
The progress report on the sustainability strategy
sets a target of 50% of total energy consumption
from renewables by 2050. In order to attain these
targets, we need to maximise the potential of the
various regenerative energy forms in an environmentally compatible fashion. The regenerative and
virtually emission-free generation of energy from
hydropower is particularly significant by virtue
of its high level of efficiency and the opportunity
of producing electricity in line with demand and
protecting the base load. At the present time,
hydropower is the worlds most intensively used
regenerative energy source, accounting for around
16% (2006) of the global power supply. Renewable
energy from hydropower is derived from outfall
power plants and streamflow power plants. The use
of hydropower depends on both the natural gradient and the outflow level. By European comparison,
Norway and Iceland have particularly favourable
conditions in this respect, and are able to cover
their electricity requirements almost entirely from
hydropower. In Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden, over 50% of the electricity
generated originates from this regenerative energy

By contrast, in Germany the natural conditions for

the use of hydropower are less favourable. Germany
currently has around 7,500 hydropower plants, 402
of which are known as large hydropower plants
with more than 1 MW capacity. These produce
more than 93% of Germanys electricity from
hydropower, and are therefore pivotal to hydropowers contribution to the expansion target for
renewable energies. Depending on the hydrological
conditions, the proportion of total electricity gener-

Noise at sea

Over the past century, the volume of shipping, in

terms of the number and size of vessels, has grown
continuously. This has led to a significant increase
in the ambient noise level. The underwater sound
spectrum in the seas of the northern hemisphere
is dominated by noise from commercial shipping.
High noise levels are generated within a broad
frequency range over a comparatively large area
surrounding the vessels. In the frequency range of
10 300 Hertz, the natural noise level is increased
by 20 - 30 decibels due to ship traffic. In the last 30
years alone, the level has risen by around 10 decibels.

Anthropogenic underwater noise may damage

the hearing of marine mammals and disturb their
sense of direction, may cause behavioural changes,
and may even drive them away permanently from
their feeding and breeding grounds. Large whales
primarily use the same frequency range as shipping
noise and therefore their communication ranges
shrink due to the masking of their sounds. Calls
at low frequencies have also been recorded in dolphins and porpoises. However, cargo ships are not
the only perpetrators of noise; small vessels such as
those used for whale watching are also among the
culprits. They can cause evasive responses up to a
distance of four kilometres. There are indications of
a negative correlation between shipping routes and
the presence of porpoises, the only native species of
whale in German waters.


The ships hull is a good transmitter of mechanical

waves, which may re-emerge at certain points as
noise. At high speeds, vibrations are caused primarily by motor, gearbox and propeller noise. At lower
speeds, the back-up engines tend to predominate.

The input of energy into the marine environment,

with a particular focus on underwater noise, is one
of the 11 descriptors in the MSFD. Together with
the other descriptors, it has to be used to determine
a good status of the oceans (cf. Chapter 5.1.3). Chronic background noise is a major stress factor in the
marine environment. In implementing the Guideline, it would be expedient to follow international
reduction targets as identified by the IMO and the
International Whaling Commission (IWC). The scientific committee of the IWC is calling for a three
decibel reduction in shipping noise in 10 years, and
10 decibels in 30 years, in the 10-300 Hertz range
compared with current levels.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 65: Structure of electricity supply (final energy)

from renewable energy sources in Germany, 1990 to

In Germany, the usable potential of water as an

energy carrier, with due regard for technical,
ecological, infrastructure and other requirements,
is around 25,500 GWh, around 85% of which has
already been developed. Output could be increased
by optimising and modernising or reactivating hydropower plants at existing reservoirs.

Apart from the advantage of largely emission-free

energy generation compared with fossil energy
carriers, however, the development of watercourses
for hydropower use also brings with it significant
adverse consequences for the water ecosystem.

The principal impairment to the structure and function of water-dependent ecosystems associated with
hydropower use is that it interrupts the passability
of watercourses, and causes direct damage to and
kills organisms as a result of turbine operation and
at power plant grills in the case of downstream migration. Where several plants exist in sequence, this
damage has a cumulative effect, placing fish populations at risk. Atypically low flow speeds occur in
the weirs used for hydropower or shipping, leading
to sludge accumulation, a lack of oxygen, and the
conversion of typical watercourse biocoenoses to
degraded lake biocoenoses. Dyke construction and
uniformly high or unnaturally fluctuating water
levels leads to a loss of contact with watermeadows,
and the water balance is disturbed. Sedimentation
leads to the reabsorption of bed material as a result
of erosion and deepening below the weir.

A good ecological status as called for by the WFD

cannot be attained in most affected river sections
(cf. due to the consequences for water
ecology. As there is not felt to be an alternative
to hydropower use, these sections of river have
generally been classified as heavily modified. The
environmental goal for waterbodies is to achieve a
good ecological potential without relinquishing


Electricity generation [GWh]










Geothermal energy

Biogenic portion of waste

Wind power





Source: BMU 2009

ation in Germany from hydropower ranges between

approximately 3 and 5%. Over 80% of this is generated in the Central German Uplands in Bavaria
and Baden-Wuerttemberg, areas with high levels
of precipitation. In 2008, just under 21,000 GWh
of electricity was provided from hydropower, corresponding to 3.4% of final energy consumption in
Germany. Among renewable energies, hydropower
ranks third with 22%, after wind power (44%) and
biomass (24%).

Figure 66: Fish ladders at large hydropower plants (left Rhine/ Grenzach-Whylen, right Aare/ Ruppoldingen)

Source: Federal Environment Agency

Water Resource Management in Germany


usage. This requires structural changes (installation

of fish ladders, smaller grill sizes) and modifications to operation (flow rates during fish migration
periods), which will entail a loss of profits. The long
concession periods of several decades required to
safeguard investment necessitate voluntary participation by operators, as well as incentives. The
Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG)123 provides for
financial support which is being utilised.

Deep geothermia

Given that only 21% of waterbody sections in

Germany have a waterbody structure that is classified as unaltered to moderately altered, partly as a
consequence of hydropower use, the construction
of new hydropower plants in the few remaining
undeveloped, passable sections of waterbody would
be inappropriate. When modernising or reactivating hydropower plants, it is important to optimise
the plants design and operating mode to improve
the ecological balance in the water as well as in
connected land ecosystems and wetlands. This can
be achieved primarily via the creation of biological
and morphodynamic waterbody permeability, and
by ensuring adequate minimum water outflows in
discharge sections.

6.7.4 Geothermia

Geothermal energy, also known as geothermia and

ground heat, refers to energy stored in the form
of heat beneath the earths crust (VDI Guideline

The assessment of geothermal energy potential is

based on the heat content stored in the subsoil. Up
to a depth of around 10 to 20 m below the earths
surface, the temperature is influenced by sunlight
and climatic temperature fluctuations. Below this
range, the temperature in our latitude is around
10C on average, and increases by 3C per 100 m,
depending on the structure and composition of the
earths crust. However, temperature distribution in
the subsoil is not uniform. In Germany, there are
certain areas where the temperature gradient in
this case, the increase in temperature at greater
depths is significantly above-average. In some
areas of the Upper Rhine Rift (Oberrheingraben),
in the vicinity of Bad Urach at the foot of the Swabian Alb, near Landshut in Bavaria and in selected
areas of the North German Basin, the temperature
increases by 5C, and in some cases even 10C,
per 100 m. These areas exhibit so-called positive
temperature anomalies. The benefit for geothermal
energy use is that a usable temperature is achieved
at a low depth, which means lower drilling costs

123 Cf. Act to Amend the Act on Granting Priority to Renewable Energy Sources and
Amending Associated Regulations of 25 October 2008, Federal Law Gazette 2008 Part
1 No. 49, p. 2074
124 Stober I. et al., (2009): Nutzungsmglichkeiten der tiefen Geothermie in Deutschland,
Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)


and lower investment costs. Geothermal systems

may be classified according to various aspects; one
common classification is to divide them into deep
and shallow geothermia.

Alongside hydropower, biomass and wind power,

deep geothermia is another option for regenerative
electricity generation capable of providing a base
load. This issue is becoming increasingly significant
in the energy debate. Deep geothermia taps into
geothermal energy via deep drillings, allowing the
energy to be utilised directly. In particular, this
includes hydrothermal systems with a low heat content and direct use of the groundwater available in
the subsoil, e.g. to feed into local and long-distance
heating networks or for agricultural use. From a
temperature of around 100C, it may be converted
into electricity. Under the current status of technological development, certain strata of the South
German Molasse Basin, the Upper Rhine Rift and
the North German Basin are potential sources of
geothermal electricity generation (cf. Figure 67).

Shallow geothermal energy

Around 60% of total energy consumption in Germany is associated with the heating and cooling of
buildings. The use of shallow geothermal energy
offers considerable potential for deriving a large
proportion of this energy consumption from geothermia. The supply of energy from the subsoil essentially entails indirect use with geothermal heat
probes up to a depth of 400 m; the majority of geothermal heat probes currently in operation reach
depths of between 70 and 200 m. There are already
around 350,000 heating (and cooling) plants in
Germany that take energy from or supply energy
to the subsoil via a heat pump (BMU, May 2009).
Demand for the extraction of geothermal heat is
continuously rising, and the number of geothermal
heat probes is expected to double by 2015, with a
clear trend towards deeper drillings.

Risks to groundwater

As a general principle, the construction, operation

and decommissioning of facilities for the use of
geothermal heat must not be allowed to pose a
threat to groundwater. However, as the number of
encroachments into the subsoil rises, so too does
the threat to the groundwater ecosystem and the
use of groundwater for drinking water purposes.
The drilling itself poses the greatest threat. Damage often occurs due to a lack of knowledge about
the subsoil conditions and the use of non-adapted
technology, drilling technology in particular. Some
typical types of damage include:

Water Resource Management in Germany

ffShort-circuits of aquifers and the resultant pos-

can be severe. Gas releases, changes in the redox

potential, changes in the pH value and shifts in
solution equilibriums, coupled with iron hydroxide
and carbonate precipitation, are all possible.

sible entrainment of pollutants from shallow

layers to deeper ones,

ffSettlement or lifting damage to adjacent infrastructure

ffMore highly mineralised groundwater may

rise towards the surface.

Particularly in open geothermal systems, the temperature and pressure changes in the groundwater

If the geothermal heating probe tubes are filled

with a heat exchanger fluid other than water,
this is usually a liquid of water hazard category I
(WGK I). For legal purposes, therefore, geothermal
heating probes are considered containers of WGK

Figure 67: Overview of areas that may be suitable for deep geothermal use: Regions with groundwater aquifers whose
temperature exceeds 100C (red) or 60C (yellow); 100C is required for the generation of electricity, and 60C for
direct heat use

Temperature range
> 100C
> 60C

Source: Geothermisches Informationssystem Deutschland (GeotIS)

Water Resource Management in Germany


I substances, whose storage in the subsoil requires

a twin-walled container. This twin wall is achieved
firstly via the closed pipeline, and secondly via
back-filling with a seal, usually of a cement-based
bentonite suspension.

It is difficult to assess the effects of temperature

changes on groundwater, both during the heating
and cooling of buildings. A general rule of thumb
is that the operation of shallow geothermal installations can be assumed to influence biological
activity in groundwater, but there is still a need for
research in this area.

The German Government promotes the generation

of energy from offshore wind farms. The financial
aspects are regulated in Article 31 of the amendment to the EEG which entered into force on 1
January 2009, which includes a system of remuneration for electricity from offshore windpower.

The construction of wind farms within the EEZ

is regulated by the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 and
the German Federal Maritime Responsibilities Act
(SeeAufG). The Marine Facilities Ordinance (SeeAnlV) based on the latter regulates the licensing
procedure. According to Article 3 of the SeeAnlV,
licensing can only be refused if the safety and
smooth flow of shipping and air traffic is disrupted
or the marine environment is endangered and
these negative effects cannot be prevented or compensated for by imposition of a time limit, condition or additional requirement. Reasons for refusal
include fears of contamination of the marine environment within the meaning of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (hazardous substances,
underground noise etc.) and the endangerment of
bird migration.

As part of the licensing procedure e.g. for the construction of offshore wind farms, investigations are
carried out to determine whether the individual

6.7.5 Energy extraction at sea

Offshore windpower

The German Government is aiming to continuously

increase the proportion of renewable energies in
relation to

ffFinal energy consumption from its current level of around 10% to 18% by 2020

ffGross electricity consumption from its current

level of around 15% to at least 30% by 2020

ffHeating energy demand from its current level

of just under 8% to 14% by 2020.

Since the potential of hydropower is already being

exploited to a large extent in Germany, windpower
currently offers the greatest potential for expansion. By the end of 2009, some 21,164125 wind
turbines with a total windpower capacity of 25,777
MW had already been installed in Germany.

In order to maintain the expansion of windpower

use at a high level, in addition to the further expansion of suitable on-shore locations and the replacement of outmoded, smaller plants with modern,
more powerful ones (repowering), we should also
be gradually exploiting suitable offshore locations
on a large scale.

The German Government has estimated that of the

areas currently thought to be available, 500 1,000
MW of capacity can be achieved in the short term
(i.e. by 2011) from the use of offshore wind energy.
This will entail the construction of 50-100 wind
turbines in the 2.3, 3.6 and 5 MW categories. In
the long term (i.e. by 2025 / 2030), some 20,000
to 25,000 MW of installed capacity is thought to
be possible via the construction of 4,000 to 5,000
wind turbines in the 5 MW category. As technology
progresses, it may be possible to use 10 MW by that

125 Bundesverband Windenergie e.V.


Figure 68: Offshore wind farm Alpha Ventus with the

Thialf (construction ship)

Photograph: Konrad Hlzl, BMU image database

Water Resource Management in Germany

protected assets of the marine environment (such

as the ocean floor, water, benthic organisms, fish,
birds and marine mammals) are endangered by
the project. An assessment of the impacts on the
marine environment presupposes a system of assessment criteria for each environmental feature.

The ecological impacts associated with the construction and operation of wind turbines are many
and varied, and affect the environmental features
listed below:

interests (such as the Federal Environment Agency

(UBA), Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
(BfN), State Mining Office (Landesbergamt), WSD)
and other interest groups (such as nature conservation, fishing and windpower organisations) are consulted. Public participation is ensured by displaying
the application documents for public inspection.

To date, only pilot phases with up to a maximum

of 80 individual wind turbines have been licensed,
so that site-specific scientific findings on the environmental and nature conservation-related aspects
may be obtained from smaller wind farm projects
initially. On the basis of these findings, a decision
will later be reached regarding the licensing of additional turbines in the respective wind farm until
the number originally applied for is reached.

In order to accelerate the expansion of windpower

as a renewable energy source in the offshore sector,
a total of five priority areas have been identified by
regional planning ordinances in the German EEZ of
the North and Baltic Seas. In these designated priority areas for wind energy, the extraction of windpower will be given priority over other significant
uses for that area. This does not mean that offshore
wind farms cannot be installed outside of these areas. Offshore wind farms are only prohibited in the
Natura 2000 areas.

By 1 March 2010, 23 offshore wind farms with a

total of 1568 turbines had been licensed in the EEZ
of the North Sea. Figure 69 shows the offshore wind
farms licensed and planned in the German EEZ of
the North Sea and in the coastal sea126.

By 1 March 2010, three offshore wind farms with a

total of 240 turbines had been licensed in the EEZ
of the Baltic Sea. Figure 70 shows the offshore wind
farms licensed and planned in the German EEZ of
the Baltic Sea and in the coastal sea.127 The envisaged capacity of the individual turbines is 3 to 5
MW, the average hub height approx. 90 to 100 m
above sea level, and the rotor blade length approx.
110 to 120 m.

Electrical connection of the wind farms is achieved

via an internal network, an offshore transformer
station, and remote transmission to an onshore
transformer station, from where the energy is fed
into the terrestrial high-voltage grid. The internal
network of cables connects the individual turbines,
and feeds electrical energy into the offshore transformer station. The internal cables are laid at a
depth of approximately 1 2 m (minimum depth 1
m) in the seabed. The converter station is a two- to

ffAmong fish and biotic communities on the

ocean floor, impairments may arise during the
construction phase as a result of sediment disturbance and clouding.

ffThe migration behaviour of sharks and rays, as

well as fish, may be affected by electromagnetic fields from the cables connecting the offshore wind farm to the grid.

ffIn the vicinity of the turbines, in habitats that

are characterised predominantly by sand, the
incorporation of hard substrates may cause
changes in biotic communities as well as
changes in flow conditions.

ffMigrating birds face the risk of collision with

wind turbines, which can have a barrier effect
on migration routes and/or dissect the links
between resting and feeding grounds.

ffResting and feeding grounds may be lost in

the long term because the birds are frightened

ffThe cumulative effects of the large-scale expansion of offshore wind energy on migrating and
resting birds are largely unresearched, and
should be the topic of further research efforts.

ffThe effects on marine mammals such as porpoises are considerable. It is known that piledriving work drives porpoises out of the area.
Further research is needed to quantify these
effects on behaviour with regard to impairments to their vital functions.

As well as an analysis of the ecological impacts, the

possibility of an impairment to shipping traffic is
also investigated. The respective regional Waterways and Shipping Directorate (WSD) must give its
consent to licensing of a wind farm project from a
shipping traffic point of view.

For planned wind farms with more than 20 turbines, an environmental impact assessment pursuant to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act
(UVPG) must be carried out. To this end, the applicant must investigate the marine environment of
the planned area and forecast the potential impacts
of the project. During the course of the licensing
procedure, the affected representatives of public

Water Resource Management in Germany



Figure 69: North Sea: Offshore wind farms

North Sea: Offshore wind farms

Continental shelf/EEA
12 nautical mile zone/coastal sea
International boundary


Converter platform, under construction

Converter platform, planned
Transformer station, in operation
Transformer station, planned

Grid connections
In operation
Under construction

Offshore wind farms

Under construction
In operation

External data sources:

Elsam A/S (DK)
Rijks Waterstaat (NL)

Geodetic datum: WGS 84

Map projection: Mercator (52N)
BSH/M5 31.03.2010

Source: BSH

Figure 70: Baltic Sea: Offshore wind farms

Baltic Sea: Offshore wind farms

Offshore wind farms
In operation
Under construction
Not approved

Power cables
In operation

Coastal sea
Continental shelf/EEA
International boundary

External data sources:

Ministerium fr lndliche Rume (S-H)
Ministerium fr Bau und Arbeit (M-V)
Kalmar district government (Sweden)

Geodetic datum: WGS 84

Map projection: Mercator (54)
BSH/M5 29.03.2010

Source: BSH


Water Resource Management in Germany

forwards. Several offshore wind farms have been

installed particularly in Denmark, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Figure 71: Oil platform in the North Sea

Petroleum and gas extraction

Photograph: Storman

The discovery of petroleum and natural gas in the

North Sea in the 1960s and 1970s led to one of the
largest investment projects in industrial history.
Today, the North Sea is one of the worlds largest
exploration areas for the offshore industry.

Whereas the extraction of petroleum occurs primarily in British and Norwegian waters, natural gas
is also extracted from the shallow waters off the
Dutch and Danish coasts. In the north-east Atlantic,
there are currently some 700 installations for oil
and gas extraction, including 420 oil and gas platforms, approximately 200 undersea installations,
and around 80 drilling installations128.There are
three petroleum platforms installed in the Russian
part of the EEZ of the Baltic Sea.

Figure 72 provides an overview of all the uses and

protected areas of the North Sea (and parts of the
Baltic Sea)129

Petroleum and natural gas are likewise extracted

in Germanys Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and
coastal waters, and exploration rights also exist
over large areas. There are currently two offshore
platforms in operation in German waters: The oil
platform Mittelplate (Schleswig-Holstein Wadden
Sea National Park) and the gas platform A6-A in the

The International Convention on the Law of the Sea

and the OSPAR Convention provide the legal framework for the oil and gas industry. Based on the ECs
competencies in the field of energy legislation, a
number of legal acts affecting petroleum and gas
extraction were adopted, aimed primarily at developing the internal market in this field. The Federal
Mining Act (BBergG) regulates the detection, extraction and processing of mineral resources with the
aim of protecting raw material supplies. The laying
of pipelines in order to transport the raw materials
likewise falls within the regulatory scope of the

The exploration, extraction and transportation of

oil from the North Sea invariably has consequences
for the ocean. Exploration and production, and
the routing of pipelines, conflict with nature and
environmental conservation, fishing and future
transmission networks for electricity from offshore
wind farms as well as the farms themselves. The

three-storey sea platform which rests on the seabed

with its own foundations. Remote transmission of
the energy to an onshore transformer station is
achieved via bipolar high-voltage DC cable systems
at a depth of at least 1.5 m below the top of the

Nine littoral states of the North Sea (Benelux,

Germany, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom,
Ireland, Norway) are planning to link their various
renewable energy sources via high-voltage DC cable
systems into a large-scale supergrid. The supergrid
would be better placed to compensate for regional
and seasonal fluctuations in the volume of renewable energies, whereby the enormous potential of
hydropower in Norway would both buffer shortterm capacity peaks, and store large volumes of
electricity in the long term.
Among Germanys neighbours, major efforts are
likewise underway to drive offshore windpower

Water Resource Management in Germany

128 SPAR Daten 2008



Figure 72: North Sea: All uses and protected areas

North Sea: All uses and protected areas


Sediment extraction

Continental shelf/EEA
12 nautical mile zone/coastal sea
International boundary


Traffic separation area

Deepwater lane
Caution area
Coastal traffic zone
Shipping lane (recommended)
Shipping lane (unclassified)
Prohibited area
Anchorage site


Planning permission

Deposition areas
Dredged material
Former munitions disposal
Dredged material
Dredged material (discontinued)
Former munitions disposal

Military drill areas

Prohibited area
Torpedo drill area
Submarine area
Shooting drill area
Mine-sweeping drill area
Flight drill area

Measurement platform, in operation

Measurement platform, under construction
Measurement platform, planned
Measurement platform, approved
Petroleum drilling platform, in operation
Cultivated area
Petroleum drilling platform, decommissioned
Nature conservation areas
Natural gas compression platform
Natura2000 SPA
Natural gas extraction platform, in operation
Natura2000 SCI
Unclassified, in operation
Areas of special suitability
Unclassified, approved
For the use of offshore
Unclassified, decommissioned
wind power
Converter platform, under construction
Converter platform, planned
Transformer station, in operation
Transformer station, planned


Natural gas (in operation)

Natural gas (planned)
Hydrocarbons (in operation)

Data cables

In operation
Operation unclear

Power cables

In operation

Offshore wind farms

External data sources:

see detailed maps

In operation
Under construction

Geodetic datum: WGS 84

Map projection: Mercator (54N)
BSH/M5 31 March 2010

Source: BSH

increased threat to the environment from accidents

and the pressures associated with the installation
and operation of platforms and the related pipelines due to the discharge of pollutants into the sea,
for example, are ecologically relevant.


Seismic testing is used to explore raw material supplies in the subsoil of these areas. The use of airguns and other acoustic measurement techniques
represents an anthropogenic sound discharge into
the marine environment. There is a risk that communication between marine mammals and their
acoustic perception of their marine environment
could be impaired by the acoustic, temporal and
spatial characteristics of these technologies. Furthermore, the aforementioned methods may entail
behavioural-biological or physical impairments,
ranging to injury and even death. Marine mammals perceive the frequencies generated by the airguns above 500 Hz even at a distance of more than
10 kilometres.

The extracted oil can enter the sea via four routes:
As a result of accidents, via the operational dis-

charge of production water130, via cuttings131, and

finally as a result of the burn-off of gas during test
drillings (drilling to test the productivity of a potential deposit). In order to prevent and reduce these
discharges from offshore installations, a number of
decisions and recommendations have been adopted
under the OSPAR Convention for the protection
of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic (cf. Chapter Prompted by the events
in the Gulf of Mexico, the EU is calling for a comprehensive review of all safety issues in the field
of offshore oil and gas exploration in the OSPAR
Convention territory (and other European seas).
Following an analysis of the reasons for the disaster
in the Gulf of Mexico and the current situation in
Europe, the Commission is planning to introduce
new legislative and policy initiatives.

130 Deposit water separated on the platform (separation of oil components)

131 Cuttings refer to the spoils left by drilling (fragments of stone) that are extrcted via
the drilling lubricant used

Water Resource Management in Germany

Other uses

Use of the seas energy is still at the development

and research stage worldwide. In recent years,
however, a number of technical innovations have
been presented, and initial foreign experience has
been collated. Pilot projects such as the 300 kW
prototype of the Seaflow-1 marine current turbine
installed off the English coast, the on-going installation of the SeaGen marine current turbine in
Northern Ireland, and the worlds first prototype of
an osmosis power plant commissioned as a miniature power plant in November 2009 in Tofte at Oslofjord, Norway, are indicative of technical progress
in this field. Marine energy refers to energy forms
such as tidal range, waves, current, salt gradient
(osmosis) and temperature gradient.

in the European Union. 391 vessels are dedicated

to trawling and coastal fishing, the majority (257
units) being shrimp trawlers.

Small-scale coastal fishing with passive catch equipment such as gillnets and traps is practised almost
exclusively on the Baltic Sea coast by a total of 1362
vessels. Germanys fishing capacity also includes
nine deep-sea fishing vessels, 12 specialist vessels
for catching mussels, and a further 51 small vessels
for fishing for unlisted species.

Status of fish stocks and consequences of fishing for

the marine environment

OSPAR estimates that the impacts of fisheries

remain one of the most severe pressures on the marine environment. Sustainable fishing must replace
overfishing, which has made the marine ecosystems
more susceptible to climate change and less capable of adapting.

The following impacts of fisheries are of particular


a) Status of fish stocks

Since the mid-1990s, global catch yields have stagnated, and vary between 78 and 86 million tonnes,
even though fishing expenditure has increased
continuously, due to the development of ever more
powerful vessels, freezer trawlers, acoustic fish
echolots and other technological progress.

Scientists are warning that stocks of large predator

fish such as tuna, swordfish or cod have already
fallen by 90% over the past 50 years, and are predicting a collapse in commercial fish stocks by the
year 2048, placing a central source of food for 2.6
billion people under threat.

The development of bluefin tuna stocks in the

Mediterranean is one such example. According to
the latest scientific calculations by marine biologists
at ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), reproductive stocks of
this predator fish have fallen to below 15% of their
original level.

Stocks of the small spiny dogfish in the North-East

Atlantic, which is sold as a delicacy in Germany
(Schillerlocke, or sea eel), have already decreased
by 95% and are therefore highly endangered. The
European eel is also highly endangered. The number of juvenile eels that migrate from the sea into
rivers has fallen by 99% compared with pre-1980
levels. Fishing for juvenile eels prevent their stocks
from recovering.

Current estimates would suggest that the usable

potential of marine current energy, wave energy
and other forms of ocean energy use in Germany
is minimal, while the global potential is thought to
be very large.

6.7.6 Fishing and marine aquacultures

Overfishing of our global fish stocks has wideranging implications for the marine ecosystems.
Although fish is known to be a healthy food choice,
its availability is limited. As far as fishing is concerned, our native seas, the North and Baltic Seas,
are still a long way from attaining the objective of
sustainable, eco-friendly management, as called for
in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 and in many regional
and international conventions. According to the
European Commissions Green Paper on the Reform
of the Common Fisheries Policy published on 22
April 2009, overfishing, fleet overcapacity, heavy
subsidies, low economic resilience and diminishing
volumes of fish caught by European fishermen are
the reality at present. The paper concludes that
the current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has
not worked well enough to prevent those problems. The exploitation of commercial fish stocks is
mentioned in the new environmental pillar of the
European Marine Strategy as one criterion to reach
or maintain Good Environmental Status in the seas.
However, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive
(2008/56/EC) does not grant it the competency to
regulate European fisheries from an ecological
viewpoint, and competency remains with the CFP.
The forthcoming reform must furnish the future
CFP with the correct instruments to support the
ecosystem-based approach of the MSFD.
As at January 2009, the German fishing fleet
comprised 1825 vessels with a total gross register
tonnage of 68,593 and a total engine capacity of
159,527 KW, making it one of the smaller fleets

Water Resource Management in Germany


Fish stocks in the waters of the European Community are in a particularly alarming state. According
to ICES, 88% are being fished beyond the maximum possible permanent yield. 30% of stocks are
already below safe biological limits, which means
that they may no longer be able to recover. European fisheries are now dependent on small, young
fish, which are often caught before they have the
chance to reproduce. For example, 93% of North
Sea cod is fished before it ever has chance to reproduce. In this way, European fisheries are undermining their own ecological and commercial basis.

The EUs fisheries industry is the second-largest

in the world, processing more than seven million
tonnes of fish per year. The decreasing availability
of fish in our own waters means that the bulk of
fish consumed in Germany (85%) and other European countries originates from external countries;
for the same reason, the European fleet is continuously expanding its fishing grounds. As a result,
European fishing vessels are competing with native
fishermen above the West African shelf, threatening the fish supply to the local people.


The decrease in the bio-stocks of certain basic fish

species in the North and Baltic Seas, such as cod,
sole, hake and whiting, is particularly dramatic. For
example, cod catches in the North Sea in 2008 were
only 15% of 1980 levels. Similarly, stocks of codfish
in the western Baltic Sea have been below safe
biological limits for years, and are classified by the
ICES as overfished.
The removal of large quantities of biomass has
huge impacts on marine ecosystems. In the North
Sea, each year between 30 and 40% of the total
biomass of commercial fish species is removed. For
example, industrial sand eel fishing threatens the
availability of food for selected species of seabird off
the Scottish coast and for harbour porpoises in the
southern North Sea. The adverse impacts of overexploitation of cockle and mussel populations on
Eider ducks and oystercatchers have been reported
in Denmark and the Netherlands. These examples
illustrate the need to develop a holistic approach to
the various ecosystem components in conjunction
with the human pressures acting on them, such as
that provided for in the Marine Strategy Framework

b) Discards

Discard is the unwanted or unsaleable part of the

catch, which is disposed of in the sea for various
legal or economic reasons often dead or dying.
Bycatch refers to the portion therein which consists
of non-target species. In addition to the excessive
removal of marketable fish from the marine environment, current practices under the CFP lead to
the discarding of undersized fish, the catch quota

for which has already been exhausted, together

with the by-catch of fish species for which there
is no market, benthic invertebrates, marine mammals, seabirds and, outside of our waters, even
reptiles such as sea turtles. Another widespread
practice is so-called high grading, whereby marketable fish is discarded overboard in order to create
storage space for larger or more valuable fish. The
fact that fish are discarded simply because the fishermans quota has already been exhausted means
that many populations fail to recover despite low

Conservative estimates suggest that discards including bycatches makes up around 40% of the global
catch, at 38.5 million tonnes. According to the
International Whaling Commission, some 650,000
seals and whales die in fishermens nets worldwide
each year.

In the North Sea alone, it is estimated that several

hundred thousand tonnes of discards are thrown
overboard annually. In flatfish or shrimp fishing in
the North Sea, discards can account for up to 90%
of the total catch. This in turn boosts some populations of large seagulls and carrion-eating species
(such as starfish) in an unbalanced way.

Common dolphins are a bycaught in pelagic trawling nets in unsustainable numbers. The bycatch of
harbour porpoises in set gillnets poses a threat to
the small population of porpoises in the Central
Baltic Sea, estimated at less than 600 individuals.
An EC Regulation on the protection of whales132,
which provides for the use of acoustic deterrents
(pingers) on set gillnets and observer programmes
for fishing vessels from a certain length, has not
yet been adequately implemented and does not go
far enough. Although pingers have been in use in
the Baltic Sea since January 2007, their application
range is confined to ICES region 24 (Mecklenburger
Bucht) and vessels at least 12 metres in length.
However, the bulk of the by-catch occurs close to
the coastline outside of this area, by shorter fishing
vessels, some of which are operated by fishermen
for whom fishing is a secondary occupation (and
which are not covered by the 812-regulation).

Large areas of the North Sea are impaired by bottom trawling and heavy beam trawling, whereby
the intensity and spatial distribution of the impacts
can vary significantly. For example, certain areas
of the southern North Sea are traversed up to 20
times a year by such devices. Heavy-beam trawlers
dig into the sea bed up to a depth of eight centimetres, leading to constant rearrangement of the
sediments. This results in structural changes to the
substrate and adverse impacts on benthic commu-

132 Regulation (EC) No. 812/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 April
2004 on the protection of whales, OJ EC L 150, p. 12 ff.

Water Resource Management in Germany

nities. The churned-up sediment leads to releases of

settled nutrient salts, and therefore contributes to

Technically speaking, fishin at depths of up to 2000

metres is no longer a problem. As coastal zones
are increasingly overfished, new fishing grounds
are being explored. As a result of this, previously
untouched habitats are under threat. To give an
example: It is only since the mid-1990s that scientists have been aware of coral reefs in the NorthEast Atlantic. These coldwater corals live at depths
of 60 to 4000 metres, and form a broad strip along
the north-west European continental shelf from Gibraltar to northern Norway. In terms of the wealth
of species, they are comparable with their tropical
counterparts. Some of the reefs are more than two
hundred thousand years old. If the reef structures
are destroyed e.g. by bottom trawling, it will take
centuries for them to regenerate. Fish living at
these depths cannot be selectively removed, and it
is not uncommon for them to reproduce on a human scale: They often do not mature until the age
of 30, and it is not uncommon for them to reach
the age of 100. They are therefore very susceptible
to overfishing. ICES considers fishing for deep-sea
species such as orange roughy and roundnose
grenadier to be unsustainable and recommends a
moratorium on any deep-sea fishing operations.

Tuna farming in the Mediterranean needs 25

kilogrammes of protein per kilogramme of fish produced.

In Germany, mariculture is comprised almost

exclusively of mussel farming. Problems arise in
particular with the extensive removal of seed mussels from natural stocks and the entrainment of
foreign breeding organisms from other regions. For
example, farming of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea
gigas in areas of Holland and off the coast of Sylt
has resulted in this species becoming established in
the Wadden Sea and competing for habitats with
the native common mussels.

Environmental organisations such as Naturland

have been selling fish from organic aquaculture for
some time now. Globally, in 2007 just 9,000 tonnes
of fish were produced from organic aquaculture,
primarily inland. This puts Germany in top place,
but the volume produced is still minimal compared
with fish from conventional farming. Medicines,
hormones, growth accelerators and genetically
modified ingredients in feed are prohibited in
organic aquaculture. The fish have more space in
the farms, and the proportion of organic fish food
derived from plants is regulated. The essential
animal protein component originates from the
processing of fish for human consumption, which
produces plenty of waste. Industrial fishing for the
purpose of fishmeal extraction is prohibited. As yet,
however, there is no EU-wide legislation regulating
organic fish.

Aquaculture: Opportunities and risks

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing branch of the

worldwide food industry, with growth rates averaging 9% since 1970. In 2005, almost 48 million
tonnes of fish and seafood were produced in freshwater and sea farms. Some 47% of global production is now produced via the artificial farming of
fish and other seawater and freshwater organisms.
In many places, however, the intensive farming of
fish and crustaceans poses major problems. Sustainable aquaculture cannot be guaranteed unless
standards are observed.
With salmon farming in Norway, for example,
manifestations of eutrophication have been observed, together with toxic algal bloom in the narrow fjords, due to an over-supply of nutrients to the
surrounding water as a result of food residues and
excrement. The displacement of the wild salmon
population due to the high escape rates among
farmed salmon is also an ecological problem. The
latter are generally stronger than their wild counterparts, and can also transmit dangerous infections.
Overall, aquaculture in its existing form contributes
to the overfishing of the worlds seas. For example,
up to four kilogrammes of wild fish are used as
food to obtain one kilogramme of salmon or cod.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Approaches to the sustainable management of fish


The sustainable use of fish stocks pre-supposes an

equilibrium between fishing catches and renewable resources. European fish stocks have been
overfished for decades, and the fishing vessel fleets
are still too large and effective for the available
resources. As correctly identified by the European
Commission, the future CFP must ensure that the
size of the European fishing fleet is appropriate and
proportionate to the available fish stocks. Furthermore, application of the Maximum Sustainable
Yield (MSY) concept is required to ensure that
European fish stocks remain within safe biological
limits. To account for a buffer, the MSY should be
applied with a precautionary target biomass that
is 30% larger than that which produces MSY and
with annual catches of 91% MSY.

Within the context of redesigning the CFP, the

practice of discards should be abolished, as it leads
to the consequences outlined above. The German
Government is calling for the introduction of a ban
on discards and the introduction of compulsory
catching, as already practised in Norway. Such a


system creates a strong incentive for fishermen

to avoid by-catches and discards. Unwanted and
under-sized fish may no longer be discarded over
board, and would either need to count towards
the fishermans catch quotas (in the case of species
with quotas), sold at low prices, or processed into
fishmeal (in the case of under-sized fish). Under
this system, discards would remain quantifiable,
and it would also be easier to reliably estimate the
bycatches e.g. of marine mammals. The fishing
industry would fish more selectively in order to be
able to maximise the use of its transport capacity.
The use of discards could be one way of reducing
or replacing industrial fishing e.g. for sand eel.

Technical measures such as modified mesh sizes,

sorting grilles or escape windows, acoustic deterrents for marine mammals, and changes in procedures could ensure greater selectivity in the catch

In order to counteract the by-catch of marine mammals in European waters, which even puts some
populations in danger, adequate monitoring programmes need to be implemented, pingers utilised
as an interim measure in all affected fishing operations, selected areas declared off-limits during key
biological periods such as reproduction, and above
all, equipment modified or developed in such a way
that it prevents further by-catch. The final management option would be a temporary or complete
exclusion of certain forms of fishing in affected


Overall, temporary or permanent closures in selected regions are expedient in areas with a local
concentration of high by-catches or numerous
young fish.

In order to give our seas an opportunity for regeneration, we need a network of well-managed protected fishing areas. At European level, these could
be Natura 2000 areas. Human usage, and especially
fishing usage, must be strictly regulated or (possibly
temporarily) excluded in such areas. They should
contain off-limits zones to ensure the recovery of
exhausted populations, especially in known reproduction areas for fish and marine mammals.

The transparency of the fishing market must also

be vastly improved. There is a need for more accurate labelling of fish products and comprehensive
traceability back to the vessel where the fish was
caught, if possible, in order to introduce a system
of origin protection by excluding fish caught in
an unsustainable way. Traceability is also a central
aspect for the implementation of descriptor 9 in
the Marine Strategy Directive on pollutant contents
in fishing products. Only this will allow us to review
whether a good status has been achieved for this

descriptor in the marine region of a given Member


Eco-certification is a way of promoting local, ecosystem-friendly fishing operations. The logo of the
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is currently the
best-known certification for wild fishing. Founded
in 1997 by Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund
(WWF), the MSC is now an independent, international non-profit organisation whose primary objective is to safeguard fish stocks for the future. Some
7 million tonnes of fish, or around 12% of the global catch, are now caught under the MSC program,
and there are already some 906 products available
on the German market with the blue-and-white fish
logo. Although some of the MSC criteria still have
scope for improvement (for example, recertification
of overfished stocks with a recovery plan and a failure to ban fishing), this process should be constructively encouraged. As a long-term objective, it is
also worth considering whether and to what extent
the entire fishing sector, including the fishing vessels and fish processing, could be certified within
the meaning of an eco-balance sheet.

Aquaculture can play a valuable supporting role,

and offers major opportunities via the application
of eco-friendly practices. However, it is no substitute
for proper marine management. Particular attention should be devoted to the cultivation of herbivorous (plant-eating) species and production in closed
cycle facilities, particularly on shore, in order to be
able to effectively reduce and control the adverse
environmental impacts.

6.7.7 CCS Storage of CO2 in the subsoil or seabed

Future projects for the storage of CO2 from power

supply facilities in the subsoil could be carried out
both onshore and in the marine subsoil. The applied technology is known as carbon capture and
storage, or CCS. It is hoped that this technique
will help to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into
the atmosphere and should become feasible on an
industrial scale in the next 10 to 15 years. Empty
gas and oil fields are potentially suitable storage
spots. Experts are also discussing the possibility of
storage in saline aquifers. If CO2 gets into contact
with groundwater, the groundwater may become
acidified. Inter alia, this may lead to the release of
heavy metals, which are then transported in the
groundwater. It is also worth noting that the stored
CO2 is not a pure gas, but a substance mixture
containing other sometimes toxic substances
originating from the production process or the
separation, transportation or storage operation.
Acidification of the groundwater and the associated
release of pollutants, together with the discharge
of pollutants with the CO2 itself, can adversely affect groundwater quality. The discharge of CO2 into

Water Resource Management in Germany

water were used to cool production processes and

to generate electricity. Electricity generation alone
accounts for around 78% of the cooling water
used, at 19 billion m3. Most of the fresh water used
is taken from rivers, lakes and reservoirs, as well as
from bank filtrate and groundwater. After cooling,
the water used is returned to the waterbody at an
increased temperature. A certain proportion of
cooling water evaporates during use; in the case of
electricity generation this figure is around 3%133.

Figure 73: CO2 storage in the subsoil


Water depth [m]




Density (kg/m3)

Temperature [C]



Water depth (m)


Sea bed

The water temperature is of crucial significance for

the living conditions of all organisms in water. Most
water organisms are unable to control their own
body temperature in other words, all physiological processes are dependent on the ambient temperature. The direct negative impacts of increased
water temperatures range from death due to heat,
to damage to organs, the displacement of egglaying periods or disruption to feeding, through
to the migration of species. A number of indirect
impacts, such as changes in the species spectrum or
the encouragement of non-native species, can also
result. As the water temperature increases, the solubility of oxygen decreases. Bacterial turnover and
self-purification increase as the temperature rises,
which in turn uses additional oxygen. If the level of
precontamination with organic substance is high,
a temperature increase can lead to critical oxygen
concentrations, and potentially to fish mortality.

Depending on the outflow conditions and water

region, the abstraction of cooling water may be of
varying intensity, but always represents an ecological pressure for the waterbody. The water authorities must therefore have a precise knowledge of the
ecological status of the waterbody when licensing
the use of cooling water. Key values include specification of the maximum waterbody temperature
and limiting the admissible temperature increase
range. This describes the maximum tolerable deviation from the unimpaired temperature in the
waterbody. The abstraction of cooling water must
not threaten a good ecological status. For a comprehensive evaluation of a cooling water discharge, it
is necessary to consider the discharge of heat into
the entire river basin.

As a result of changes in air temperature during

the course of climate change, water temperatures
are expected to rise, and in some cases the effects
are already measurable. This means that the ecological problems associated with cooling water use
will increase in the future.



Source: UBA research project, CO 2 separation and storage in the marine subsoil,
research code (FKZ) 206 25 200

saline aquifers could pose particular problems. The

pores of these groundwater aquifers are generally
filled with salt water which become displaced by
the ingressed CO2. This salt water may penetrate
other groundwater aquifers, inter alia, and lead to
contamination. The situation would become particularly critical if the salt water were to penetrate
fresh water aquifers (potentially) used for drinking
water extraction. The salt water could also ingress
other ecosystems, e.g. by rising to the earths surface and causing damage to surface waters (rivers,
lakes) or terrestrial ecosystems.

When transporting CO2 into the marine subsoil,

the main risk is that CO2 and other toxic substances
could escape from the storage formations, leading
to acidification of the local marine environment
and other forms of contamination.

To date, there is no scientifically proven upper limit

for the maximum permissible discharge of CO2
from stores into nearby seawater to protect marine
organisms from impairments. As a pragmatic
solution, experts suggest that the natural rate at
which CO2 is formed on the seabed should not be
exceeded by more than 10%.

6.7.8 Cooling water

Cooling water is needed for many production

processes and for energy extraction, since the primary energy carriers used, such as coal, cannot be
converted entirely into electrical energy. In order
to ensure the maximum possible efficiency during
energy extraction, the heat generated must be removed from the process by means of cooling water.
According to publications by the Federal Statistical Office, in 2007 around 24.5 billion m3 of fresh

Water Resource Management in Germany

133 Federal Statistical Office Nicht ffentliche Wasserversorgung und Abwasserbeseitigung 2007, Wiesbaden 2009


ing water, in present-day outboard engines the

exhaust gases are discharged below the waterline through the screw, which mixes them up
with the surrounding water. In boats with inboard engines, the exhaust gases are mixed
with the engine cooling water. Both systems
cause greater pollution of the surrounding water.

Figure 74: Cooling water discharge from power plant

ffThe intensive travelling over marginal bank

areas and the waves created by motor boats
and other motorised sporting equipment leads
to impairments of the bank vegetation and
bank reinforcement as well as to disruption of
the animals which live and breed in the bank

ffA considerable number of leisure craft have

chemical toilets, some of which discharge into
the water. This additionally exacerbates pollution and eutrophication of the water and kills
water-relevant microorganisms. The same applies to disposal of oily bilge water.

Photograph: Erik Schumann/

6.7.9 Leisure use of waters

Social changes (more leisure and higher pay) in

recent decades have also led to changes in demand
regarding the recreational use of waters, and German water protection policy must get to grips with
the impacts of these changes.

Waters are ascribed a high leisure and experience

value, which results in intensive and varied uses
of waters including the associated infrastructure
development (e.g. camping sites, marinas, bathing
sites). This results, firstly, in opportunities for the
general public to identify more readily with their
waters, but on the other hand, also creates significant potential for conflict vis--vis water and nature

rine shipping operate according to the principle of a continuous discharge of a toxic,

growth-preventing active ingredient into the
waterbody surrounding the vessel. This may be
copper, but increasing use is also being made
of silicone paints or hard coatings to reduce
the ability of organisms to adhere.

ffNoise emitted by motor-powered water-sports

equipment may adversely affect human health
and disrupt animal species living in and from
the water.

Whereas recreational uses of waters were once

primarily confined to the activities bathing/swimming and sailing/canoeing/rowing, these have
been joined over time by a range of other activities
associated with technological developments in
sports equipment, such as surfing, angling/fishing,
water touring, motor-boating, jet ski/water bobsled riding, river rafting, canyoning, water skiing,
motorboat-towed paragliding, white-water rafting
and diving/snorkelling.

In order to reconcile the conflict between leisure interests on the one hand, and waterbody and nature
conservation interests on the other, there is a need
for suitable control and planning instruments as
well as the application of administrative law as in
the case of jet skis, the areas for which are strictly

The intensification and diversification of waterrelated leisure activities, and the related infrastructure development of transitional areas, can result in
ecological stress for these bodies of water. Potential
areas of conflict associated with the increase of
boat traffic on inland waters include:

Initial attempts at mediation in the conflict area

water protection versus recreational use have,
at least in the field of organised sport (clubs),
promoted a realisation and readiness to accept
that ecologisation of water sports or their watercompatible design is an important precondition
for safeguarding water quality and for minimising
water pollution in Germany.

Examples of initial approaches include the following:

ffThe modified design of the exhaust pipe for

motorised sports boats. Whereas in the past,
the exhaust gases were discharged above the
surface of the water and not mixed with cool-


ffThe anti-fouling paints currently used in ma-

ffEmbodiment of environmental and water protection considerations in the rules of sports


ffPromoting awareness of ecological problems

within sports clubs and among private service-

Water Resource Management in Germany

providers and tourist organisations, by means

of more widespread public education

compounds, which lead to the mass development

of algae (algal bloom). Cyanobacteria (formerly
known as blue algae), in particular, form toxins and
allergens which may cause skin rashes and, in rare
cases, poisoning. Furthermore, where the water is
very turbid, apart from being an aesthetic problem,
efforts to save someone who is drowning may be

ffDevoting greater attention to water protection

issues in the planning and construction of water sports facilities on the basis of close cooperation between local planning authorities,
sports clubs, tourist organisations and (private)

ffMinimising water pollution by existing water

sports facilities by means of ecological redesign,

ffGearing club-related sporting activities to the

ecological conditions of the water,

ffEncouraging the active participation of sports

clubs in the designation and management of
water conservation and nature conservation
areas, in order to identify and, if possible, address conflicts at an early stage.

Reductions in water pollution have already been

achieved by technical means as well. These include,
for example:

ffCollection and special disposal of the water

from hull cleaning on land,

ffMuch reduced use of antifouling paints in

favour of less problematic types,

ffDisposal of bilge oil in suitable facilities on


ffIn some cases, use of catalytic converters to

reduce pollution due to exhaust gases from

6.7.10 Bathing water

Bathing and swimming are among the most popular leisure activities in Germany. Bathing sites on
rivers and lakes and along the North and Baltic
Sea coasts attract large numbers of visitors in the
summer months. Swimming is also good for ones
health, as it uses many muscle groups. This not
only improves blood-circulation and is good cardiovascular exercise; it also helps improve posture,
eliminate tension and eases joint problems.

Avoidance and minimisation of health risks

However, bathing in natural waters may also entail

a number of potential health risks, ranging from
cuts and abrasions to drowning. The water itself
can cause illnesses with fever, vomiting and diarrhoea if certain pathogens often from sewage discharges or agricultural runoff enter the bathing

Nutrients are also discharged together with the

sewage, particularly phosphorous and nitrogen

Water Resource Management in Germany

In order to minimise and control the health risks

associated with waterbodies, official bathing sites
on inland and coastal waters are monitored prior
to and during the bathing season. In Germany, this
is organised at Federal Land level. In the past, the
bathing water regulations of the Lnder were based
on the European Directive concerning the quality
of bathing water (Directive 76/160/EEC). Since the
2008 bathing season, bathing waters have been
monitored in accordance with the new EC Bathing
Waters Directive (Directive 2006/7/EC). In order
to protect bathers from infectious diseases, this
Directive states that two microbiological parameters must be regularly analysed as indicators of
pathogens: The bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli)
and intestinal enterococci. These usually harmless bacteria occur in the intestines of humans and
animals. They enter waters through wastewater
containing faecal matter, and are an indicator of
such contamination. The EC Directive stipulates
that bathing waters must not contain more than
900 E. coli bacteria or 330 intestinal enterococci in
100 ml of water in order to meet an adequate quality (based on a 90-percentile analysis). More stringent limits apply to good and excellent bathing
waters. Quality grading of bathing waters under
the new Directive cannot be carried out until four
bathing seasons have passed. Until then, the following provisional regulations apply: A limit of 2000
E.coli/100 ml, and for excellent bathing waters
guidelines of 100 E. coli/100 ml and 100 intestinal
ennterococci/100 ml.

Better health protection for bathers under the EC

Bathing Waters Directive134

The new Directive contains some important new

features for the improved protection of bathers,
and calls for the comprehensive information and
participation of the general public. One central
aspect is that it calls for the transition from passive
monitoring to active management of bathing waters via the drafting of so-called bathing water profiles, including contamination sources that could
influence the quality of the water, as well as any
potential problems with cyanobacteria. These bathing water profiles must be available for all bathing
waters by 2011. By the end of the 2015 bathing sea-

134 Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 February
2006 concerning the management of bathing water quality OJ L No. 64, p. 37 ff.


son, all bathing waters must have at least attained

adequate quality.

high. On average, 94% of bathing sites on inland

waters met the microbiological parameters of the
old Directive, and 78% the more stringent guideline values for very good water quality. Among
coastal bathing waters, the figure was as high as
98% and 87% respectively for very good quality.

Annual reports on the status of bathing waters135

Each year in May/June, the European Commission publishes a report on the Quality of Bathing
Water for the previous years bathing season,
based on data on the hygienic quality of bathing
waters collated by the Member States. In Germany,
the data collected by the Lnder is collated and
checked by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA),
and forwarded to the European Commission via the
Federal Environment Ministry (BMU).

The new monitoring parameters in the 2008 bathing season coincided with an improvement in the
quality grading for inland waters. In the case of
coastal waters, however, there were significantly
fewer waters with very good quality. This is partly
due to the re-classification of the estuary areas of
the large coastal rivers such as the Elbe, whose water quality is not generally good. Under the WFD,
since the 2008 bathing season they have been managed as coastal waters (WFD: transitional waters),
rather than inland waters, as was previously the
case. In 2008, only 24, i.e. 1% of the 2263 bathing
waters exhibited a poor water quality.

Despite this, bathing bans were imposed on selected areas, particularly inland waters, in order to
protect bathers (Table 18). However, the rapid decrease in the number of such bans compared with
previous years is an encouraging sign.136 137

Constant improvement in Germanys bathing waters

In Germany, a total of 2263 bathing waters were

monitored under the Bathing Waters Directive in
2008, including 373 on the coast. Compared with
the 2007 bathing season, a total of 371 additional
bathing waters were reported.

Between 1992 and 2001, the number of cases where

the guideline values and limits were exceeded, and
hence of contamination of waters, continuously
decreased (cf. Figures 79 and 80). Since 2001, the
quality of bathing waters has remained consistently

135 The most recent report for the 2008 bathing season is available on the website of
the European Environment Agency (EEA):

136 A summarising overview of the quality of each bathing water in Europe may be found
on the European Environment Agency (EEA) website:
137 Many Lnder also publish up-to-date data during the bathing season. An overview of
their offerings can be found on the following UBA Website:

Table 18: Percentage of German inland waters that failed to meet the EC Bathing Waters Directive
Bathing season


No. of bathing sites in inland waters

Proportion of bathing bans
















Water Resource Management in Germany

Figure 75: Quality of coastal bathing waters in Germany, 1991 to 2008

Coastal bathing waters (DE)

% of bathing waters



% compliance with guide values


% compliance with mandatory values

% not compliant with mandatory values


% closed










2000 2001




2005 2006 2007


Source: UBA

Figure 76: Quality of inland bathing waters in Germany, 1991 to 2008

Freshwater bathing waters (DE)

% of bathing waters


% compliance with guide values


% compliance with mandatory values


% not compliant with mandatory values


% closed










2000 2001




2005 2006 2007


Source: UBA

Key to the diagrams:





which met the limits*

which met the guideline values and limits*
where bathing was prohibited during the bathing season
which did not meet the limits*

* Until 2007, parameters were faecal-coliform (E. coli) and total-coliform bacteria; during the transitional period 20082010
the parameters are E. coli and intestinal enterococci, whereby there is only a limit for the parameter E. Coli.

Water Resource Management in Germany



Water Resource Management in Germany

7 Glossary

Caused by man.


Loose (e.g. gravel, sand) or solid stone (e.g. chalk, sandstone), whose cohesive hollows
(pores, chasms) are sufficiently large to allow water to flow through them easily. By contrast, rocks with very small or non-cohesive pores (e.g. clay) are groundwater inhibitors.

Area at risk of flooding/risk area

Areas at risk of flooding/risk areas are areas that extend beyond flood plains or which
could be flooded if public flood protection devices were to fail.


Description of a climate zone in which the potential evaporation exceeds the annual precipitation. This results in a low level of humidity.

Bank filtrate

Groundwater formed by the discharge or seepage of stream and river water (infiltration).


Totality of organisms living on or within the substrate of a waterbody.


Bentonite is often used as a rinse additive to stabilise drilled holes and to seal wells. As
bentonite is readily pumped, it is also used to backfill geothermal heat probes. Bentonite
is capable of binding large quantities of water; water-saturated bentonite will liquefy if the
structure collapses under mechanical movement, and then forms a solid structure again
when movement stops.


Accumulation of substances in organisms, both from the ambient medium and via food.

Brackish water

Fresh water in estuaries that is mixed with seawater, containing high levels of bacteria.


By-catch refers to marine fauna which is caught in the net but is not part of the desired
target catch. Most of these animals die painful deaths in the nets. They include many endangered species such as sharks and sea turtles, as well as seabirds and dolphins.


In a sewage treatment plant, cascades are reactors consisting of reaction rooms through
which the wastewater passes in sequence, and are used, for example, for ventilation in
water processing.

Chemical status

As defined in Directive 2000/60/EC, the chemical quality of bodies of surface water and
groundwater; defined by pollutant limits set by the EU; in the case of bodies of groundwater, other aspects of chemical quality must also be taken into account; the Directive makes
a distinction between good and poor chemical status.

Coastal waters

The sea between the coastal line at mean flood level or between the seaward limit of surface waters and the seaward limit of coastal waters.

Coastal zone

The coastal zone is a dynamic and natural system which extends seawards and landwards
from the coastal line. The boundaries are determined by the geographical expanse of the
natural processes and anthropogenic influences occurring there. In the coastal zone, as a
unique and limited component of the physical environment, there is a complex interrelationship between the land and the sea.


Bacteria that live in human and animal intestines. Evidence of colibacteria in drinking
water is an important indication of contamination with faecal matter and the possible
presence of other pathogenic organisms.


Decomposition of nitrate into nitrogen and oxygen caused by bacteria. The bacteria remove the oxygen, while the nitrogen is absorbed by the air.

Direct dischargers

Direct dischargers refer to all municipal and industrial/commercial operators of wastewater treatment plants (sewage purification plants) that discharge purified wastewater
directly into a waterbody.


Discharge of soil water (dehydration) with artificial hollows or ditches into a body of surface water

Drinking water

Water suitable for human consumption and use that meets certain quality criteria as
defined in laws and other legal standards. The basic requirements for safe drinking water
is that it should be free from pathogens, have no health-damaging properties, be low in
germs, appetising, colourless, cool, odourless, pleasant-tasting, and have a low content of
dissolved substances. Moreover, drinking water must not cause excessive corrosion damage
to the pipe network and should be available in adequate quantities at sufficient pressure.

Ecological status

The structural quality and functioning of aquatic ecosystems relating to surface waters.


Ecology is the science of the natural balance. As well as the interrelations between organisms and their environment, it is also concerned with the reactions and developments of
complex systems containing many different microorganisms, plants and animals.


System of community and dependencies between various types of creatures and their

Water Resource Management in Germany




Procedure whereby substances contained in the topsoil are dissolved in rainwater and diffusely enter surface waters together with the surface runoff.


Release of solid, liquid or gaseous substances which are harmful to humans, animals,
plants, air, water or other environmental media.

Environmental compatibility

Extent of the effects of a project on the protected assets soil, water, air, climate, humans,
fauna and flora, including the respective interrelations.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA)

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a systematic testing procedure to ascertain,

describe and evaluate the direct and indirect effects of a project on the environment at
the planning stage.

Environmental quality standard (EQS)

Environmental quality standards specify limits for priority substances. Environmental quality standards are designed to minimise the occurrence of certain chemical substances in
surface waters that pose a significant risk to the environment or human health.


The study of epidemics or of the spread of diseases or pathogenic organisms.


The wearing away of soil or rock, primarily due to the effects of water


River mouths. Many of the rivers that flow into the North Sea have formed funnel-shaped
mouths (estuaries) under the influence of the tides. On the German North Sea coast, this
applies to the mouths of the Eider, Elbe, Weser and Ems. A natural area of brackish water
and turbidity is formed, in which considerable quantities of sand and dead suspended
matter is deposited and forms sand or silt sediment. Estuaries are transitional waters.

European Water Framework Directive

2000/60/EC (WFD)

Directive in force since December 2000 on the protection of European waters. The aim of
the WFD is to manage the catchment areas of rivers and lakes and groundwater reserves
in such a way that an existing very good or good status is maintained, or a good status
is achieved. The WFD includes a detailed timetable for implementation of the water
management requirements. For example, by 2015 all surface waters must have attained
an ecological (biological and morphological) and chemical good status, and groundwater
must have achieved a good chemical and quantitative status.


Increase in plant production (algal bloom and large populations of aquatic plants) in waterbodies due to a high supply of nutrients. This is caused, for example, by discharges from
agriculture or wastewater discharges.

Federal Water Act (WHG)

Act regulating the water balance with provisions for the management of water resources
aimed at public well-being. For example, it outlines requirements on water abstraction,
water storage and wastewater disposal in order to avoid any impairments. It also defines
the management requirements of the WFD for waterbodies.

Fertilization Ordinance

Regulations governing good agricultural practice with the application of fertilizers, including transposition of the Nitrate Directive into national law.

Flood level (HQ)

A certain flood event used as a basis for planning flood alleviation measures such as tykes.
For example, HQ100 is a flooding event that will occur with a probability of once in 100
years. The variables water level and runoff allocated to this event will determine the
height of a dyke dimensioned according to HQ100.

Flood plain

Areas that flood in high water. Legally designated flood plains must be taken into account
by the local authorities in their zoning plans.

Flood protection plans /

flood risk management plans

Such plans aim to minimise, as far as possible, the risks of a flood expected to occur statistically once in 100 years. For example, the plans may contain measures such as: conservation and recovery of retention areas, relaying of dykes, conservation and recovery of water


According to the Federal Water Act, flooding is the temporary coverage of land not normally covered with water by surface waters or by seawater penetrating in coastal regions.


Generally speaking, freshwater refers to water that can be drunk by humans, i.e. precipitation water, surface waters on the continent, and groundwater with less than 500 mg/l
dissolved salts.

Geothermal energy/geothermia

This term is derived from the Greek words geo = earth and therme = heat, meaning heat
from the earth. Energy stored below the earths surface in the form of heat (synonym:
ground heat).


Underground water in the saturation zone that is in direct contact with the soil or subsoil.
It fills the hollows in the earths crust (pores, chasms etc.) in a cohesive manner. It is at
a pressure equal to or greater than the atmosphere, and its movement is determined by
gravity and frictional forces.

Groundwater body

A defined volume of groundwater within one or more groundwater aquifers.

Groundwater Directive

EC daughter directive on the protection of groundwater from contamination and deterioration.

Water Resource Management in Germany

Groundwater recharge

New groundwater created from the seepage of precipitation.

Groundwater storey

A sequence of communicating groundwater aquifers.


The natural home of a plant or animal.


Description of a climate zone in which the annual volume of precipitation exceeds the
evaporation capacity. This results in a high level of humidity.


The effects of air contamination, pollutants, noise, radiation etc. on humans, animals,
plants, air, water and other areas of the environment.

Indirect discharger

All industrial and commercial operations that discharge wastewater into a public sewer
or public wastewater treatment plant. Pre-treatment may be necessary, depending on the
composition of the wastewater.

Inland waters

All stagnant or flowing waters on the earths surface and all groundwater on the landward side of the base line from which the width of sovereign waters is measured.


Relating to the inanimate part of nature; in the natural sciences in general, refers to bodies derived directly from mineral substances, as compared to substances originating from
the plant or animal kingdom (organic).


The Bund-Lnder-Arbeitsgemeinschaft Wasser (LAWA) is a working body of the Conference

of Environment Ministers (UMK) within the Federal Republic of Germany. Members of
LAWA are the heads of department of the supreme Land authorities for water management and water legislation in the Lnder, and since 2005 the Federal Government, represented by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear
Safety (BMU).


Legionella are rod-shaped bacteria that live in the water. They can occur in both fresh
water and salt water. Because of their natural dispersion, they also occur in small quantities in drinking water. There are various different measures for avoiding legionella, such as
chemical and thermal disinfection.


The study of inland waters, research and study of stagnant and flowing inland waters and
groundwater, particularly substance balance.

Low water

Low water refers to the water level of waterbodies that is below the defined normal level.
It is necessary to distinguish between low water in a tidal area and in inland waters.


Aquatic plants visible to the naked eye.


Invertebrates visible to the naked eye that live on the water bed.

Management plan

Central control element for implementing the WFD; contains an analysis which must be
regularly updated, site-adapted monitoring programmes, and binding programmes of
measures for achieving the management/environmental objectives; from 2009 onwards, a
management plan must be created every six years for every river basin

Mixed water

Wastewater collected in mixed water. This includes household wastewater, commercial

and industrial wastewater, foreign water (groundwater that has seeped into the sewer system) and precipitation water.

Modal split

In transport statistics, the distribution of transport volumes among various modes of transport


Observation or monitoring of natural phenomena to obtain data and knowledge, to test

hypotheses, and to aid understanding thereof.

Morphology, morphological

In general, the study of constellations, forms, shapes and structures. Here: The course of a
river; its width and depth, its bed and banks, and the properties of the adjoining land.


The NATURA 2000 network refers to a transnational system of protected areas within the
European Union. It comprises the protected areas under the Habitats Directive of 1992 and
the protected areas pursuant to the Birds Directive of 1979. Accordingly, NATURA 2000
areas are areas of Community importance or Special Protected Areas within the European
Union that have been designated by the European Union Member States.


Abbreviated term for the exploration of petroleum and natural gas reserves off the
mainland coast, on the continental shelf, and in large inland waters. Around 37 % of the
worlds known oil reserves are located in offshore regions. In the North Sea, some 1,000
exploratory drillings were carried out between the late 1950s and 1978. In order to fully
exploit petroleum reserves, it is thought that several thousand more drillings will be necessary. Such activities pose a constant threat to our seas and rivers.


Belonging to animate nature, produced by living creatures.

(also known as biological passability)

Migration option for fauna in a watercourse. Transverse structures such as weirs interrupt
passability. Diversion streams and fish ladders restore the connection.

Water Resource Management in Germany




Benthic algae, i.e. algae that live on the water bed.


Algae suspended in the water.


In-house purification measures for commercial and industrial wastewater prior to discharging into public sewers or sewage treatment plants.

Priority substances

List of currently 33 pollutants or pollutant groups that the WFD considers relevant for
determining the good chemical status of surface waters. Some of these substances are classified as priority hazardous substances.

Rain basin

Rain basins are artificial basins used to retain and/or treat rainwater or mixed water, such
as rain retention basins.

Rain overflow

A rain overflow is an overflow structure in a mixed water sewer used for rain relief. Sewage treatment plants are generally designed for the inflow of dirty water and for the same
volume of rainwater. As rainwater discharge can be up to 100 times the dirty water outflow in heavy rain conditions, it is necessary to limit the inflow into the sewage treatment

Rain retention basin

A rain retention basin is a form of rain basin used to store precipitation water rather than
allowing it to flow directly into the outfall.

Remote water supply

In the catchment area of certain conurbations, the water supply is no longer sufficient
to supply the local population, industry and commerce with adequate good water. Often,
local water abstraction plants are no longer viable due to growing human settlements
or intensive agricultural use. In many cases, use is instead made of water supplies some
distance away with favourable site conditions. However, such water abstractions can adversely impact the ecology of the area from which the water is taken.


Generally, the restructuring of a developed waterbody into a semi-natural, ecologically effective form. Here: Returning an unnatural river landscape caused by human intervention
to a semi-natural state, particularly by restoring or significantly improving the waterbody


Restrictions are derived from the framework conditions and have a limiting effect on the
potential measures regarding an improvement in the waterbody status.

River basin

An area of land from which all surface run-off from surface waters flows into the sea at a
single river mouth, estuary or delta.

River basin district

A main unit for the management of river basins defined as an area of land and sea, made
up of one or more neighbouring river basins together with their associated groundwaters
and coastal waters, as defined in Article 7,paragraph (5), sentence 2 of the Federal Water
Act (WHG).

River regulation

Correction of the course of a river to benefit agriculture, shipping, human settlements and
hydropower use by means of river straightening, bank reinforcement and riverbed obstruction. Excessive depth erosion is prevented with the aid of transverse structures, low weirs,
drop structures, weirs or dams.


The proportion of precipitation that runs off into rivers and streams. It is measured as the
volume of water per unit of time, and is quoted in cubic metres per second (m3/s). Runoff
is measured indirectly via the speed of the water. Such measurements are carried out at
large intervals with different water levels. From this data, a runoff curve is generated. Via
this runoff curve, it is possible to allocate a runoff to every measured water level.

Salt water

Salt water is generally seawater containing on average 3 % dissolved salts. It is unsuitable

for human consumption. Special forms include spring water and groundwater that has
been in contact with salt deposits and absorbed considerable quantities of salt from them
(brine, mineral springs).


Aerobic, i.e. oxygen-consuming organisms that live in waterbodies and mineralise dead
organic substance, thereby achieving biological self-purification of the water. Saprobia
include certain species of worms, bacteria, fungi and algae.

Saprobic system

The individual species of saprobia are, inter alia, characteristic of a certain degree of
contamination with degradable organic substances. The traditional system according
to Kolkwitz and Marsson classifies saprobes into 4 different levels of contamination in
waterbodies or parts thereof. The traditional system was later refined via the introduction
of interim or transitional stages. For example, the watercourse quality mapping regularly
carried out in the Federal Republic of Germany indicates 8 levels of water quality.


Deposits created as a result of the sedimentation of mineral and/or organic solid particles.
Depending on the type of deposition in waterbodies, we distinguish between sea (marine),
lake (limnic) and river (fluviatile) sediments. Some pollutants (e.g. heavy metals such as
cadmium) can accumulate in high concentrations in sediment, but can also be released
from the sediment, posing a threat to biotic communities in waterbodies.

Water Resource Management in Germany


Refers to the ability of a body of water, with the aid of plant and animal organisms (saprobes), to break down organic substances originating from natural sources or introduced
by humans. This process consumes oxygen. For example, if more unpurified wastewater
is discharged into a waterbody than there is oxygen available for degradation, the selfpurification potential of the waterbody is exceeded. This leads to a lack of oxygen, higher
and lower organisms die, and the water goes off.

Sewage sludge

Term for the sludge from sewage treatment plants that has rotted or been stabilised in
some other manner. Sewage sludge from domestic wastewater contains a wealth of nutrients and humus, and under certain circumstances can be used as a fertiliser. Depending
on the type of wastewater and treatment technique, sewage sludge may contain substances that are harmful to the environment and/or human health.


An area of land from which all surface run-off flows through a sequence of overground
watercourses to a particular point in an overground watercourse.

Substances constituting a hazard to


Chemical substances and mixtures of substances or their reaction products that are capable of contaminating waterbodies or adversely altering their properties in some other
way. These include solvents, residues containing petroleum, pesticides, heavy metals (e.g.
cadmium, mercury), phosphates and halogenated hydrocarbons, acids, lyes and PCBs.

Surface waters

Inland waters (with the exception of groundwater) plus transitional waters and coastal
waters; sovereign waters are exceptionally included for the purposes of chemical status.

Suspended matter

Undissolved, dispersed mineral and organic solids (particles) that are suspended in the
water due to their density and flow speed in the water.

Transitional waters

Bodies of surface water close to estuaries which have a certain salt content due to their
proximity to coastal waters but which are essentially influenced by fresh water flows.

Untreated water / pure water

Water taken by the water plant from a water resource (groundwater, spring, surface water)
for use as drinking water. Where no processing is necessary, untreated water and pure
water are identical.


The water modified by domestic, industrial, commercial, agricultural or other forms of

use, as well as the water that continuously runs off with this in the sewer system, and the
precipitation that runs off from developed or sealed land.

Wastewater treatment plant

Plant for the purification of industrial and household wastewater. Depending on the properties of the wastewater, the design and capacity of the sewage treatment plant, wastewater purification is comprised of a mechanical stage (stage 1), a biological stage (stage 2)
and a subsequent stage (stage 3). Mechanical purification also removes trace and suspended matter. It uses physical properties to retain the undissolved substances contained in the
wastewater. In stage 2, the wastewater which has usually been pretreated mechanically is
purified with the aid of microorganisms. In the subsequent stage, further substances such
as phosphates and heavy metals are precipitated and flocculated via the use of chemicals,
and thereby removed from the water.

Water abstraction fee

The water abstraction fee is levied in certain Lnder for water abstraction and use. This fee
is added to the regular cost of water. The revenues are used to protect drinking water and
water resources.

Water cycle

Water is in a constant cycle due to solar energy. It evaporates on the surface of seas and
land masses. The rising water vapour cools down at altitude and condenses into clouds.
When these clouds cool down further, they discharge their humidity as precipitation.

Water hazard category (WGK)

The potential of substances and preparations to adversely alter the properties of water are
evaluated in a classification system based on biological test techniques and other properties. The water hazard is divided into 3 categories:
WGK 1 = low water hazard
WGK 2 = hazardous to water
WGK 3 = highly hazardous to water

Water properties

The physical, chemical or biological properties of the water in a body of surface water or
body of coastal water and groundwater.

Water protection area

Part of a catchment area or the entire catchment area of a drinking water abstraction
plant in which usage restrictions are imposed in order to protect the abstraction of drinking water. Designation of a water protection area requires a formal procedure.

Water quality

Quality of a waterbody evaluated according to prescribed bio-chemical criteria.

Water use

Defined by Directive 200/60/EC as water services and any form of human activity having
significant impacts on water properties. Water services refer to services such as wastewater
disposal or water supply.


Comprises the waterbody bed and the bank as far as the top edge of the escarpment.

Water Resource Management in Germany




Significant, uniform sections of a surface or coastal water and demarcated volumes of

groundwater within one or more groundwater aquifers (bodies of groundwater).

Waterbody maintenance

Waterbody maintenance refers to the shaping and development of a waterbody and its
banks and flood plains according to biological and landscape management aspects.

Waterbody management

Management of surface and underground waters. The emphasis here is on preserving or

restoring the ecological balance in conjunction with the simultaneous optimum supply of
drinking water and service water to the general public and/or to industry.

Waterbody monitoring

Waterbody monitoring is (usually) carried out by the water management authorities,

either continuously or on a random sample basis. These controls are designed to monitor
waterbody quality and promptly identify any irregularities.

Waterbody structure

The form diversity created by the natural flow process (undercut-slope banks and slip-off
slope banks, meanders, gullies and islands) in a waterbed. The waterbody structure is
decisive for ecological function: The more diverse the structure, the more habitats are
available for fauna and flora.

Waterbody type

Waterbodies of a similar size, altitude, morphology and physico-chemistry in the same

region are distinguished by similar aquatic communities. This allows individual waterbodies to be grouped together into waterbody types. The reference status which forms the
reference point for biological evaluation is defined by the biological, chemical and hydromorphological properties of a waterbody type.


Significant, uniform sections of a surface or coastal water and demarcated volumes of

groundwater within one or more groundwater aquifers (bodies of groundwater).

Waterbody maintenance

Waterbody maintenance refers to the shaping and development of a waterbody and its
banks and flood plains according to biological and landscape management aspects.

Waterbody management

Management of surface and underground waters. The emphasis here is on preserving or

restoring the ecological balance in conjunction with the simultaneous optimum supply of
drinking water and service water to the general public and/or to industry.

Waterbody monitoring

Waterbody monitoring is (usually) carried out by the water management authorities,

either continuously or on a random sample basis. These controls are designed to monitor
waterbody quality and promptly identify any irregularities.

Waterbody structure

The form diversity created by the natural flow process (undercut-slope banks and slip-off
slope banks, meanders, gullies and islands) in a waterbed. The waterbody structure is
decisive for ecological function: The more diverse the structure, the more habitats are
available for fauna and flora.

Waterbody type

Waterbodies of a similar size, altitude, morphology and physico-chemistry in the same

region are distinguished by similar aquatic communities. This allows individual waterbodies to be grouped together into waterbody types. The reference status which forms the
reference point for biological evaluation is defined by the biological, chemical and hydromorphological properties of a waterbody type.

Water Resource Management in Germany

8 What can each and every one of us

do to help? Tips on Water Conservation

able to effectively protect our rivers, lakes and seas,

since active water protection does not begin with
sewage purification, but with avoiding the creation
of wastewater in the first place!

Buy organic produce!

1. Solid waste such as

Nitrogen discharges and pesticides from agriculture impair the quality of our groundwater, as we
discovered in Chapter 5. Organic farming aims to
avoid substance discharges from agriculture into
groundwater and surface waters by banning the
use of chemico-synthetic pesticides. Nitrogen mineral fertilisers are replaced by cultivating legumes
in conjunction with more diverse crop rotation as
a result of which, problematic nitrate deposits in
the groundwater are a rare occurrence. An intact
soil and soil water balance are a key requirement
of organic farming, and consequently achieve
superior groundwater recharge as well. By buying
suitably labelled organic produce, you can make a
valuable contribution to groundwater protection.

ffDisposable nappies
ffHygiene products
ffCotton wool
ffCotton buds
ffRazor blades
ffCigar and cigarette residue
ffPet sand etc.

should never enter the public sewers.


Never dispose of substances such as lacquers,

paints or pharmaceuticals down the toilet!

Chemical residues, tablets and unwanted

medicines should never be flushed down the
toilet or sink. Take them to collection points,
and bring pills and liquid medicines to any
pharmacy for disposal. If flushed down the
toilet, the chemicals and active ingredients in
pharmaceuticals will enter the sewage treatment plant via the sewer. Sewage treatment
plants are unable to completely remove such
substances. For example, undecomposed pharmaceuticals and their degradation products
will enter surface waters together with the
purified wastewater, and subsequently enter
the groundwater via soil passage or bank filtration.

Foto: Volker Gerstenberg

Avoid using chemical pesticides and biocides in your

own garden, and use fertiliser sparingly!

Even in your own garden, avoiding the use of

chemical pesticides and biocides and using fertilisers sparingly will help to minimise pollution of the
groundwater. Remember: Less is often more!

Minimise wastewater

Each of us can help to protect our water resources, by ensuring that substances that cannot
be removed by filtering or which require costly
treatment techniques do not enter our sewers and
sewage treatment plants. Only in this way are we

Water Resource Management in Germany

Foto: Regina Kaute


Foto: Thorsten Schon


Used household oils and fats should not enter

the public sewers, since they combine with
the ballast of wastewater and solidify into a
glutinous mass. Used frying oil (e.g. chip fat)
and other roasting fats should be disposed of
in the biowaste bin.


Use detergents sparingly. This will save water

and energy, which in turn will save you money. Follow the recommended quantities on the
packaging for the relevant water hardness.
This can vary from place to place; your water
plant or local authority can provide further
information. Use phosphate-free or low phosphate detergents.


Using cleaning products sparingly! Of course,

the same also applies to personal care products.

Foto: Mark Huls

Always clean your car at the car wash!

From an environmental viewpoint, generally speaking it is advisable to always wash cars at designated
car washes, ideally those with the blue angel
eco-label. The wastewater produced from washing
a car contains various chemical substances and
compounds that can damage groundwater even
if you only use clean water for washing. By washing
your car on unsealed ground, you are placing the
groundwater at risk, and usually committing an
administrative offence at the very least.

Foto: Franz Haindl


Water Resource Management in Germany

Avoid land sealing or use permeable surfacing materials!

Ensure that rainwater seepage meets the best available technology!

Decentralised rainwater management in human

settlement and transport areas is considered the
best available technology. There is no good reason
for not applying this principle. For the seepage of
minimally to moderately contaminated precipitation, the best available technology is considered to
have been met if it has an adequately dimensioned
soil zone covered in vegetation, or infiltration facilities with proven substance retention effectiveness.

Further information on rainwater seepage and use

may be found at:

Rainwater normally seeps into the subsoil where it

falls, but in developed or sealed areas this cannot
usually happen. In such areas, only some precipitation water is able to enter the water cycle via the
natural route, while a significant portion is discharged via the sewer system. In order to minimise
impairments to the groundwater balance, the first
step should therefore be to examine the need for
sealed and developed land. In many cases, a usage
no longer applies or a planned usage has failed to
materialise, and these areas may be reconverted
into grassland. In the case of land which needs to
be stabilised due to the way it is used, there are
various opportunities for minimising the extent of
sealing. For example, paths, roads, parking spaces
and terraces may be stabilised with water-permeable coverings.

Foto: Thomas Max Mller

Have your own wells and geothermal installations installed by a specialist!

Have your sewage tanks and private sewer connections

checked for leaks, and upgraded where necessary!

Wastewater can seep into the soil and groundwater

from leaking pipes and sewage tanks if they are
located above the groundwater level, and could
potentially contaminate the soil and groundwater.
Cracks in tanks or pipes, tree roots, faulty connections and leaky seals are potential sources of leaks.
The land owner is responsible for ensuring the
proper operation of wastewater pipes that traverse
private land.

Water Resource Management in Germany

The drilling of wells and the exploration of geothermal heat requires a knowledge of the subsoil.
Proper use of the subsoil for groundwater and
geothermal purposes must be carried out in accordance with the best available technology. In order to
avoid damage to the soil and groundwater and to
the operation of the facility, the planning, drilling
and construction of facilities must be carried out by
recognised experts.


Avoid the use of salt in winter!

Dispose of batteries and accumulators properly!

Batteries and accumulators should never be mixed

with domestic waste or simply thrown away! If this
happens, the pollutants they contain can contaminate the groundwater from waste incineration or
landfill. Batteries containing the heavy metals mercury, cadmium or lead are particularly harmful to
the environment.

In Germany, well over a billion batteries were sold

for use with appliances in 2004. These contained
around 4,700 tonnes of zinc, 1,500 tonnes of nickel,
700 tonnes of cadmium, 7 tonnes of silver and 3
tonnes of mercury. Although the law states that
all unusable accumulators and batteries must be
collected, each year only around one-third of the
volume sold is returned.

For everyday appliances, always choose nickel

metal hydride (NiMH) accumulators or lithium ion
accumulators over nickel cadmium accumulators,
since they do not contain toxic cadmium. Nickel
cadmium accumulators should no longer be sold.

Salt damages the roadside flora and fauna. Salt

water that seeps into the soil can impair valuable
groundwater. As well as contaminating our waterbodies, salt also contaminates the sewage treatment
plants, as melting ice and snow enters them via the
sewers. Salt is also damaging to the paintwork of
cars. Eco-friendly alternatives include salt-free grits
and sands.

Foto: M. Gromann

Collect all end-of-life batteries and accumulators,

and take them to a battery collection point at a
retailer or your local authority, where they will
be accepted free of charge. Further information is
available at:


Water Resource Management in Germany

Federal Environment Agency (UBA)
Postfach 1406
06813 Dessau-Rolau, Germany
Fax: +49 340 2103 2285
Printed on 100 % recycled paper.