A Transboundary Water Management Organization: the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe River

  • A. H. Schumann
  • M. Simon
Conference paper
Part of the Nato ASI Series book series (volume 7)


The Elbe River is the third largest stream (behind the Danube and the Rhine) in Western Europe. Its catchment covers an area of 148.268 sq. km (Fig.1). It belongs to the international river basins, since it is shared between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) (65.4%) and the Czech Republic (33.8%) (the area parts of Austria and Poland are less than 1% and can be neglected). The population living within the river basin totals 25.7 million people. The average population density is 173 per sq. km. Within the catchment, three cities with more than one million inhabitants are situated: Berlin (3.4 mio), Hamburg (1.6 mio) and Prague (1.2 mio). The national importance of the Elbe river can be demonstrated by the percentage of citizens living in both countries within the river basin: 60.9% of all Czechs and 24.6% of all Germans. In the past, the water policy was orientated to waste water removal instead of treatment and purification. As a result, the load of the Elbe river with organic nitrogen, heavy metals, slowly biodegradable and toxic substances damaged the ecosystem significantly and reduced the possibility for drinking water supply and irrigation along the river. In 1989, the water quality was comparable to the quality of the Rhine river in the early seventies, during its maximum pollution. The Elbe River can be seen as a victim of socialist environmental policy. The extensive utilization of this river as a sewerage for non-treated wastewater by the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic damaged the river seriously.


Water Quality European Union Chemical Oxygen Demand German Democratic Republic Waste Water Treatment Plant 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. H. Schumann
    • 1
  • M. Simon
    • 2
  1. 1.International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe RiverUSA
  2. 2.Ruhr-UniversityBochumGermany

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