The Danube River

From the Bavarian Black Forest to the Black Sea, the Danube travels around 2,800 km, making it Europe's second-longest river.

The Danube, Europe's second largest river, is the most important source of energy for VERBUND's hydropower plants in Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Vienna. It provides enormous amounts of environmentally friendly electricity from sustainable water power. The manifold use of the Danube means growing responsibility for us humans today: On the one hand, with the aid of the Danube we want to intelligently and cleanly satisfy the energy appetite of our modern lifestyle, and on the other, we want to infringe as little as possible on the Danube in order to preserve its natural beauty for coming generations.

The Danube covers our basic electricity needs

In our Danube power plants, such as Melk or Ybbs-Persenbeug, the constantly flowing river propels the turbines. The so-called run-of-river power plants cover our basic electricity needs. They cannot store the water, but rather are dependent on the amount of water flowing through. The water volume and hydraulic head are the essential factors in determining the energy yield of a run-of-river plant. If too little or too much water is flowing through the Danube, than all or most turbines stand still.

Lifeline, waterway, ecosystem and leisure area

The Danube is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people, is a waterway for shipping, and with its shores and backlands, it forms a unique ecosystem. Many residents and tourists spend their leisure time here. This is why VERBUND has stepped up its investments in the environment in the Danube area. In the past years we have established many new biotopes to help maintain biodiversity. In the next few years we will construct more fish by-passes, to make it easier for fish to detour around the power plants. And incidentally, at the hydraulic power stations we remove vast amounts of floating refuse and waste from the Danube – in Lower Austria alone around 3,000 tonnes annually, from tree trunks to plastic bottles to wrecked cars.

Current information on the Danube water levels

Information about inflows and flood warnings on the Danube and its tributaries can be found on the sites of the Water Level News Service Bavaria and the Offices of the Upper and Lower Austrian Provincial Government:

Water Level News Service Bavaria

Hydrographic Service Upper Austria

Water Level Information Lower Austria

What do power plants do in the event of flooding?

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

The Supreme Water Authority, the relevant authority in the Ministry of Life, confirmed in their summary of the flood that the Weir Operating Regulations were complied with.

Link: Final report of the Supreme Water Authority

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

Arbeiterzeitung, 21.7.1954

Linzer Volksblatt, 21.7.1954

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 (PDF). Published by Österreichischen Donaukraftwerke AG, publishing house Alfred A. Koska Vienna, Berlin 1975.

Cleaning up after the flood

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Florian Seidl Florian Seidl

Media Spokesperson for Generation

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