Management of Rain and Waste Water 2001


In Berlin, precipitation and waste water from private households, public institutions, industry and trade, as well as run-offs from public road areas generate large quantities of rain and waste water. These need to be piped away and treated, if appropriate. In 2003 the local sewage plants treated some 690,000 m³ of waste water from private households, trade, industry, public institutions as well as rain water from Berlin and its suburban area every day. This quantity is equivalent to a little over 8 m³/s or one third of the Spree river run-off, given medium water flow. The amount of waste water generated in Berlin would be sufficient to fill the Grosser Wannsee lake within a week.

Waste waters are carried in a sewerage network with a total length of 9,228 km with 226,000 service lines. The sewerage network is operated by the Berliner Wasserbetriebe (Berlin Water Works). It was implemented in two different systems, i.e., combined and separate sewers, and consists of a total of 4,100 km of waste water drains, 1,894 km of combined water drains, 3,166 km of rain water drains and 68 km of special drains. It also includes numerous special structures, such as rain water overflows, rain water retention basins and culverts. Waste water collected there is pumped along a network of 1,100 km of pressurised sewage pipes to the sewage plants by 146 pumping stations.

In 1873 Berlin’s combined sewage canal system was built to a design by James Hobrecht to drain Berlin as it was then. However, towns and communities surrounding Berlin, which retained their independence until 1920, mainly employed the separate sewerage system. After incorporation, their facilities were amalgamated into the present system. Drainage areas are oriented towards river courses and shipping canals and they also follow different altitudes. The boundaries of drainage areas do not follow the borders of Berlin’s districts. Some three quarters of Berlin’s drained areas are operated under the separate sewers system, the remaining quarter uses the combined drains system.

The separate system

In a system of separated drains waste waters and rain waters are carried by two different systems of pipes. Waste water drains carry domestic, trade and industrial waste waters to the pumping stations. From here, pressurised pipes are used to take it to the Ruhleben, Muenchehofe, Schoenerlinde, Wassmannsdorf, Wansdorf, and Stahnsdorf sewage treatment plants. After treatment, sewage plants discharge purified water into water bodies. Two other sewage treatment plants – those at Marienfelde and Adlershof – have been decommissioned as of 1990, and the Falkenberg facility was closed in 2003.

Table 1: Capacities, quantities of treated waste water and receiving water bodies of the large sewage plants of Berlin and its suburbs in 2003

Table 1: Capacities, quantities of treated waste water and receiving water bodies of the large sewage plants of Berlin and its suburbs in 2003

Rain water drains collect precipitation from sealed surfaces, cooling water from factories as well as water from drainage ditches. This is carried directly into larger or smaller surface waters. In part, considerable city areas drain into very small receiving water bodies. Altogether, some 37 million m³ of rain water are drained by the separate sewerage system into water bodies every year. To clean these quantities, rain water basins and retention soil filters operate at the main discharge points. 21 facilities for rain water treatment were commissioned until January 2003.

There are some areas situated on the inner city boundaries which originally operated a combined sewer system but later received a rain water drainage system (a modified combined sewerage system). Rain water there is drained into the rain sewage overflow drains of the combined sewerage system.

The combined system

This system is found within the old inner city of Berlin and also in the area surrounded by the inner circle line of the S-Bahn. In this combined drains system, domestic, trade and industrial waste waters as well as rain waters are collected by one drain, from where they are taken to the next pumping station. Afterwards, and as a rule, combined sewage waters usually follow the same route as the sewage flowing through separate sewage drains. The combined sewerage system includes rainwater discharge canals, rain water overflows, drainage canals, water retention canals and rain water basins to store combined sewage during periods of rainfall to delay its run-off to the sewage treatment plant. There are exceptions for situations of heavy rainfall. Once water reaches a certain height in the drains or in case the pumping stations can no longer cope with water coming in, the combined sewage – which in case of such downpours consists mainly of rainwater (at a ratio of about 1:9) – flows untreated into the water bodies via rain water overflow canals. In 2000 and at the total of about 530 rain sewage overflows, about 2.8 million m³ of such combined sewer overflow water reached the water bodies untreated.The occurrences of such overflow situations as well as the quantitities discharged fluctuate as they depend on the frequency of strong rainfalls.

Also, most pumping stations are equiped with emergency discharges. In situations of technological malfunction, combined sewage will be discharged into outlet ditches. Of the 74 emergency discharges, 35 discharge into the Spree river, 13 into the Havel river, and 18 into the Teltowkanal. 5 discharge into standing surface water bodies and the remaining three emergency discharges take waters via waste water drains to other pumping stations. Emergency discharge operations also heavily fluctuate over the years. The average annual quantity involved is something like 20,000 m³. Retention basins were built in the immediate vicinity of large pumping stations and at the most important sites of the combined sewer system. These may cope with excess quantities of combined sewage during brief periods of high-intensity rainfalls. Sludge and suspended solid particles will be deposited in these retention basins.

Areas without any connection to the sewerage network

Despite considerable efforts by the Berliner Wasserbetriebe, not all settled areas have been connected to the sewerage net yet. In those built-up areas of Berlin without house connections, sewage will be collected in collecting tanks without discharge, from where it will be taken to sewage treatment plants by authorised transport companies. The waste water management of allotment gardens operates along the same lines.

In areas without rain water drains rainwater will percolate into the ground.

Rain waters from separate sewerage systems are heavily polluted by dust, air pollutants, rubbed-off road surface and tire particles, leaked oil, leaves, animal faeces, road grit in winter etc. After more intensive rainfalls fish die off again and again in smaller standing water bodies and canals carrying relatively little water. This is the result of oxygen-depleting processes, resulting from the oxygen-consuming decomposition of drained substances that sets in immediately after the latter reach a water body.

A separate map was worked out to document the drainage situation. This shows the catchment areas of the rain water drains (02.09.2). Every built-up area connected to the storm-water drainage system is matched to the water body receiving these discharged amounts of rainwater.

To reduce the polluted rainwater loads of water bodies in the area of the separated system, rain water purifications plants were built (21 until the year 2004). Some of them were provided on the Tegeler See lake, on the Hohenzollernkanal, on the lower Havel river, on the Teltowkanal, on the Biesdorf dredger lake, and on the chain of Grunewald lakes. Others are in the design stage or are already being built.