Augsburg water management, Augsburg water management system, UNESCO World Heritage since 2019, was created in the 14th century and has been continuously developed to this day. It combines technological innovations in the field of water management with artistic diversity in architecture and the fine arts.
The Augsburg water management system includes water towers with pumping systems from the 15th-17th centuries. Century, a wide network of canals, three monumental renaissance fountains for the drinking water supply as well as several hydropower plants, which still deliver sustainably generated energy today.
Augsburg water management: facts
|Augsburg water management
|Ensemble of 22 objects from technology, industrial archeology, architecture and visual arts from over seven centuries of Augsburg city history. These include medieval canals, waterworks from the early modern era, three artistically outstanding Renaissance fountains, modern hydroelectric power stations from the 19th century and the world’s first artificially created white water course
|Testimony to the diverse changes in technical developments in hydraulic engineering over a period of 800 years; sustainable use of water as a resource
Water is the economic engine
The city of Augsburg, founded more than 2000 years ago, is located at the confluence of the Wertach and Lech rivers. The Augsburgers used this location, which is not only convenient in terms of transport, for several centuries with a remarkable spirit of invention, pioneering and engineering. They first tamed the hydropower and then used it for the economic development of the city. Even if it was the craft that ultimately made the city and its citizens rich, water management played a central role in this: thanks to a sophisticated canal system, first mentioned in the city books in 1276, industrial and drinking water have been strictly separated from one another since the 16th century. Good hygienic conditions and excellent drinking water were the result. Both ensured an unmistakable location advantage, which was supported by the clever use of hydropower.
The ensemble of canals, wells and hydropower plants is unique in the world in its technical diversity that has survived to this day. And this diversity – also in the continuous development – is what makes this system so fascinating. The Augsburg World Heritage Water Management System consists of 22 individual objects and structures, but must be viewed as a whole. It is a grown ensemble of elements that do not stand on their own in isolation. Today, all objects form a successful functional unit as components of a cooperating system.
Lech canals have probably been running through the city of Augsburg since the 8th century. They were derived from the Lech and transported water into the city and back again, in their fine ramifications comparable to our human blood circulation. More than 500 bridges cross this 77 kilometer long canal system – more than in Venice.
Industrial and drinking water
Since the 13th century, process water has been fed into the Augsburg canals via a river tap at the Hochablass. According to computerannals, Germany’s oldest existing waterworks has stood at the Red Gate since 1416. At this point, the water, which was fed into the city via an aqueduct, was transported onwards via several water towers to provide drinking water. The widely ramified pipes (the dykes) were primarily made of wood, were connected with metal sleeves and also supplied the three monumental wells of the water management system with drinking water: Merkurbrunnen, Herkulesbrunnen and Augustusbrunnen were created by the Dutch sculptors A. de Vries and H. Gerhard as works of art in the style of mannerism designed. In 1599, the box tower at the Red Gate was built specifically to supply these wells with water. At the beginning of the 16th century, the gallows drain was added, a water crossing in the city forest, through which drinking and service water could now be transported separately into the city.
A technical masterpiece was the supply of drinking water to the higher part of the historic city center of Augsburg via piston pumps and the principle of the »communicating tubes«. One of the most important inventors of this “art of lifting water” was the well master Caspar Walter (1701–69), whose ideas and knowledge were also used in other European cities.
In the “Stadtmetzg”, the central slaughterhouse built by E. Holl in 1606-09, aesthetics meet functionality: the Vordere Lech was channeled through the basement of the Renaissance building to cool the meat stored there and collect the waste Dispose of – a prime example of premodern hydrotechnology, which at the same time set new standards in terms of hygiene.
The art, perfected in Augsburg over several centuries, of not only taming hydropower, but also making it usable via pumping stations, finally grew into an industrial location factor in the 19th century. Turbines generated electrical energy from water power, which made Augsburg a center for textile and paper production. In 1879 the waterworks at the Hochablass was put into operation. The castle-like monument of industrial culture, designed by the architect Karl Albert Gollwitzer (1839–1917), has since ensured Augsburg’s supply of safe drinking water and represents modern hydraulic engineering in the 19th century. A fundamentally important component of Augsburg’s water management system is the hydropower plant on the Wolfzahnau, which has been in operation since 1901 and which reliably supplied electricity for the machines of industrial companies.
The ice channel is further evidence of Augsburg’s creative and inventive use of water as a resource. Originally built to keep the drift ice out of the city, the world’s first artificial whitewater trail was built here in 1972 for the Olympic Games.