The Danube

The Danube is Austria’s most important source of energy. Europe's second largest river supplies electricity for generations.

What do power plants do in the event of flooding?

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Danube power plants and flooding

Due to heavy precipitation along the entire northern edge of the Alps, a century flood wave rushed through the Danube valley, causing widespread damage. The Eferdinger Basin, which does not have any flood protection, was hit by a flood such as occurs statistically only every 250 years. The water masses surpassed even the amount from the century flood of 1954. And yet, the high water levels of 1954 were not reached.

In the event of flooding, Danube power plants do not have any means of holding water back. Power plants do help regulate the water level in accordance with officially specified guidelines, the Weir Operating Regulations. The main goal is to protect the dams and the people who live behind them.

Assessments and analyses

In the official flooding report, the Supreme Water Authority (part of the Ministry of Life) confirmed that VERBUND's personnel did everything in their power during the flood to minimise damage as much as possible.

In cooperation with the hydrographic departments of the individual provinces, the Ministry of the Environment presented a detailed analysis of the flooding in June 2013. Besides official data on the event, there is also a comparison with previous catastrophic floods.

Link: The flood in June 2013 – the hydrographic analysis (German only)

In July 1954, a catastrophic Danube flood shocked the young, still occupied Austria. Back then, aid transports from all over Europe alleviated the worst needs. Contemporary media describe vast destruction, particularly in Upper Austria. The Oberösterreichischen Nachrichten newspaper lamented the loss of "50,000 hectares of fertile ground". The farm land was transformed into a "desert of mud", as the Arbeiter-Zeitung newspaper wrote; and the Linzer Volksblatt newspaper reports a "sand desert from Eferding to the Danube".

Oberösterreichische Nachrichten, 12/7/1954 (German only)

Arbeiterzeitung, 21/7/1954 (German only)

Linzer Volksblatt, 21/7/1954 (German only)

Deliberations on how the construction of power plants should work with respect to Danube flooding governed the technicians' discussions. In the chapter "Planning, history and policies of the Danube power plants", the author Kurt Liewehr notes: "Therefore, the Donaukraftwerke AG may not safeguard flood plains through its construction projects. On the contrary, it must attach great importance to maintaining these retention areas, which are of paramount importance for collecting and holding back the flood torrents and for moderating flood peaks."

From: The Danube as a Hydropower Route (German only) (PDF). Published by Österreichischen Donaukraftwerke AG, publishing house Alfred A. Koska Vienna, Berlin 1975.

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Portrait Florian Seidl Florian Seidl

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