Rhine river

Longest river in Germany

The river Rhine originates in Switzerland and flows through four countries until it empties into the North Sea after passing the Netherlands. It is the largest tributary of the North Sea and with its length of 1320 km also the longest river in Germany. The river basin of the Rhine has a size of about 200,000 km2 and spreads over nine countries. The sampling area covers the 865 km-long German section of the Rhine and extends from Lake Constance to Bimmen at the German/Dutch border.

Further characteristics of the stream are:

  • The Rhine is one of the most important rivers in Europe and used in many ways. It is Germany’s main waterway.
  • About 50 million people live in its catchment area, thereof 34 million in Germany.
  • The Rhine supplies drinking water for about 20 million people.
  • In Germany, the dynamics of the water flow of the Rhine have been strongly modified. Numerous barrages were installed and straightening of the watercourse has diminished the retention areas.
  • Despite reduced pollution through wastewaters from households and industries, the Rhine still carries high burdens of heavy metals and chemicals, e.g. pesticides that affect the drinking water quality of the Rhine residents.


Oberrhein Study site immediately downriver of Basel's chemical industries
Raum Seltz/Iffezheim Last study site in the dammed Rhine before the German-French border
Oberhalb Moselmündung At the exit of the Rhine from the Rhenish Slate Mountains and upstream of the Moselle confluence at the German Corner at Koblenz
Niederrhein Area situated along the German-Dutch border


Zebra mussel Common mussel species as invasive animal in rivers and lakes with high information level for water pollution
Bream Bioindicator in rivers and lakes
Suspended particulate matter Fine insoluble mineral or organic particles in the water phase


Metals Eighty percent of all elements on earth are metals
Nonmetals Only eighteen elements in the periodic table
Organometallic compounds Organic substances with at least one metall atom
Chlorohydrocarbons Group of organic compounds with at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom
DDT and metabolites Toxic and persistent organochloropesticide
Hexachlorocyclohexane Several isomeric compounds among the group of chlorinated hydrocarbons
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Group of organic compounds with at least three condensed six-membered rings
Biocides and plant protection products Chemical agents against harmful organisms and for plant protection
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds Organic compounds which are fully (per-) or partially (poly-) fluorinated
Polycyclic musks Class of synthetic fragrances
Alkylphenol compounds Class of non-ionic surfactants and their degradation products
Stable Isotopes Atoms of one element with different weights
Flame Retardants Flame retardants reduce the flammability of objects
UV-Filter and antioxidants Proctection for humans and products
Supplementary parameters Additional information for the interpretation of contamination data

Sampling period

1995 - 2019