Elbe Case Study

Case Study Leader

Valentina Krysanova, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), email: krysanova[AT]pik-potsdam.de

You are very welcome to contact the case study leader for more information on the Elbe River case study.

Elbe River Basin

The Elbe River with a length of 1,091 km drains a basin with an area of 148,268 km² to the North Sea. About 2/3 of the drainage basin area is located in Germany, 1/3 in the Czech Republic, and a negligible part in Austria and Poland. About 25 million people live in the basin, thereof about 7.5 million in the five largest cities Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Dresden and Leipzig.

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The Elbe River in its middle- and downstream parts is a comparatively low human influenced stream with natural river banks and flood plain forests and without any locks and weirs in a length of more than 600 km. The Czech part of the river has 19 weirs to assure inland navigation and irrigation. Since 1990 water quality is improving, though nutrient pollution is still quite significant. Many endangered species (beavers, black and white storks, cranes) survived here and their populations start to increase slowly. The Elbe basin includes the largest floodplain forest area in Central Europe “Flusslandschaft Elbe”, which is protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1979.


The Elbe Basin in Germany and in Czech Republic

Major water-related problems in the Elbe basin

Both land use change and climate variability affect water resources availability and quality. The Elbe basin is experiencing all three major water-related problems: from time to time having too much water (floods), quite often in summer season having too little water (droughts), and having water of inadequate quality. In the last three years, extreme hydrological situations were observed in the Elbe basin - a destructive flood in August 2002, and a severe drought only one year afterwards. Besides, the Elbe is a major contributor of nitrogen and phosphorus loads to the North Sea. image

Priority issues to consider during research work

Stakeholder participation

Stakeholder participation is a crucial part of the Elbe case study. It is realised by forwarding questionnaires to stakeholders in the region, organizing interviews and workshops to discuss water related problems and transition to adaptive water management.


workshop in October 2005 with stakeholders in the Jizera catchment (Czech Republic)

Questionnaire evaluation

In order to define major research issues in the Elbe basin, the “Questionnaire on major water-related problems and research needs in the basin” was distributed to stakeholders both in German and Czech parts of the basin. All major groups of stakeholders were involved in the action: policymakers; water managers; people working at the water supply and sewage water treatment enterprises; representatives of agriculture enterprises and farms, mining and water transport; people involved in spatial planning and nature protection, representatives of NGOs and scientists involved in water resources research.

Besides, the questionnaire was distributed among 100 randomized private households of the village Glindenberg in Germany affected by the flood in August 2002. Altogether, 376 questionnaires were sent in Germany, 242 in the Czech Republic, and 100 were distributed to the villages’ citizens. From 718 distributed questionnaires, 240 filled questionnaires were obtained back (approximately 33%), providing 387 responses. The obtained filled questionnaires were evaluated separately for every of three groups (German, village, Czech) and for every stakeholder group.


The results of evaluation are summarized in two articles:

Scientific work

The Case study work is divided into different steps and tasks


Case study research and modelling areas


  1. The whole Elbe basin (~ 150,000 km²)
  2. Subbasin Jizera (Czech Republic, ~ 2,000 km²)
  3. Subbasin Malše (Czech Republic, ~ 490 km²)
  4. Subbasin Rhin (Germany, ~ 1,700 km²)
  5. Subbasin Saale (Germany, ~ 24,000 km²)

In these areas the modelling focus will be first on hydrological processes and in the next step for selected subbasins on water quality for different agriculture and sewage treatment management and climate scenarios. The framework for transition to adaptive management IWRM will be developed for the whole basin.

Participatory Process in the Elbe Case Study

see also Stakeholder Workshop in Prague 2007


Partners and Contact

Case study research team



Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), PF 60 12 03, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

Dr. Valentina Krysanova – project coordination, E-mail: krysanova@pik-potsdam.de

Dipl. Geoecol. Cornelia Hesse, E-mail: cohesse@pik-potsdam.de



T. G. M. Water Research Institute (WRI), Podbabská 30, 160 62 Prague 6, Czech Republic

Ing. Šárka Blažková, DrSc., E-mail: Sarka_Blazkova@vuv.cz

Mgr. Marta Martínková, E-mail: Marta_Martinkova@vuv.cz



Institute of Hydrodynamics (IHAS), Pod Patankou 30/5, 166 12 Prague 6, Czech Rep.

Doc. Ing. Josef Buchtele, CSc., E-mail: buchtele@ih.cas.cz

Ing. Romana Košková, E-mail: koskova@ih.cas.cz



Institute of Environmental Systems Research (USF), Dept. of Mathematics & Computer Science, University of Osnabrück, 49069 Osnabrück, Germany

Sabine Möllenkamp, E-mail: smoellen@usf.uni-osnabrueck.de

Support from the GLOWA-Elbe project:


Dr. Frank Wechsung et al., www.glowa-elbe.de

Dr. Fred Hattermann, www.glowa-elbe.de

Support from the Czech National Elbe project:


Ing. Šárka Blažková, DrSc. et al.