Quality of Surface Waters (Chemistry)


Taking a sip from the Landwehrkanal might not be the best idea. Even bathing in the Spree is – still – a little risky. But how much ammonium, nitrate and phosphorus are really contaminating Berlin’s waters? And how much oxygen can be found in lakes and rivers? Regular samples are taken at a myriad of measuring points across the city to answer these questions. Stationary measuring stations provide additional data. These methods are used to monitor relevant physical-chemical, bacteriological and biological parameters.

In a countrywide comparison, the Spree appears to be on the smaller side; rivers Elbe and Oder carry nearly ten times as much water. However, the quality of Berlin’s natural and artificial watercourses stands and falls with the Spree. A thriving Spree has a positive effect on the rivers Dahme, Panke and the Tegeler Fließ as well as the Teltowkanal and the Landwehrkanal canals.

Sewage plants and the sewage system influence the quality of water greatly. During heavy rainfalls, part of the untreated wastewater spills over from the canals of the inner-city mixed-sewage system into the Spree etc. The waterworks are installing underground reservoirs as temporary storage to avoid this in the future. Pollutants such as heavy metals or pesticides are seeping into Berlin’s waterways also from industrial areas and strip-mines. A study from the early 1990s established how many pollutants lay accumulated in river sediments. The overall aim of these measures is of course to improve the quality of water. Discover here how the pollution of water developed up until 2001