"Water - Not Just for Washing": RWTH Alumni at the Baursberg Waterworks in Hamburg


16 RWTH alumni gathered for their annual get-together on the afternoon of September 20, 2019 – the day of the worldwide climate demonstrations. The event took place at the Baursberg waterworks in the Blankenese district of the city of Hamburg.


We were welcomed by two employees of Hamburg Wasser, Christian Günner, Head of Infrastructure Coordination & Urban Hydrology, who is also an RWTH alumnus, as well as Andreas Hartl, an employee in the W3 area.

Under Mr. Hartl’s expert guidance we got to have a look at both the current water production as well as the historical plants that are still being exhibited. Baursberg is Hamburg's oldest waterworks still in operation. It looks back on a colorful 160-year history, with changing national affiliations: first Danish, later Prussian, and only in 1938, with the district of Blankenese belonging to Altona since 1927, did Altona become a district of the city of Hamburg.

The Baursberg waterworks was commissioned in 1859. It was the first waterworks with powerful slow sand filters. Water from the river Elbe was treated at Baursberg until 1960. Since then, only groundwater has been used for drinking water production. The twelve wells of the Baursberg waterworks pump groundwater at depths from around 100 to 300 meters. In the mid-1980’s, the filter system originally constructed in the building in 1915 was modernized and the slow sand filter basins were shut down. Raw water was treated by adding technical oxygen and subsequent filtration. The waterworks was completely renovated from 2003 to 2010, with six new concrete pressure filters and an open ventilation system being installed.

The water is temporarily stored in tanks with a total volume of 55,000 m³. Their daily output amounts to slightly more than 17,000 m³, and water from other Hamburg plants can also be pumped in if necessary. At 92 meters, Baursberg is the second highest point in the city of Hamburg, therefore, drinking water can flow to residents via the natural gradient, meaning no intermediate pumps are required.

Mr. Hartl particularly emphasized the “drink” part of “drinking water” and urged people to drink water from the faucet instead of plastic bottles, which have often been transported from far away. This get-together therefore also had an unexpected connection to the topic of climate.

The highlight and conclusion to the event was the ascent of the tower of the historic building. Despite cloudy weather we admired the beautiful view over the Elbe into the neighboring Altes Land, the city harbor, and far beyond into the neighboring state of Schleswig-Holstein. After a little over two hours we said goodbye to Mr. Hartl and thanked him very much for his knowledgeable and humorous tour. We would also like to extend our gratitude to alumnus Christoph Schröder for arranging this extraordinary event.

As usual, part of the group met for a pleasant get-together at Falkenstein Restaurant. We discusses current affairs and reminisced a little about our time at RWTH. And we also already made fairly elaborate plans for the next get-together.

Dr. Winfried Sturm