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Conference „Bathing in the City“, Essen Germany – European Green Capital

The European Water Association (EWA) invited water experts at the Ruhrverband to discuss the future of bathing in the city.

On 7 September 2017, around 50 water professionals met at the Ruhrverband in Essen to exchange experiences on the topic of safe swimming in urban rivers and lakes. In addition to the requirements that bathing water bodies must meet today, “Best practice” examples from Copenhagen, Switzerland and Essen were presented and in depth discussed. In his opening speech, professor José de Saldanha Matos, President of the European Water Association, emphasized that “the high interest shown in the Conference in Essen is a sign that the growing popularity of swimming in rivers and the wishes of the population have reached the water experts”. The Mayor of the City of Essen, Thomas Kufen, welcomed the participants of the conference.

Lidija Globevnik from the European Environmental Agency set the scene of the conference with a presentation on the status of European bathing waters. Although there has been a big improvement in the bathing water quality, 94 bathing waters have registered improved status from poor to sufficient quality; there is still a long way to go to achieve the goals of the Bathing Water Directive.

Due to poor hygienic conditions of our waters, swimming in the rivers was not possible for decades. Today, thanks to the pronouncedly improved treatment of urban wastewater and urban drainage systems, bathing in the city is achievable. The city of Essen as “Green Capital of Europe 2017” has demonstrated the feasibility of such activities with the opening of a bathing side at the Ruhr river in May this year. Professor Norbert Jardin, Chief Technology Officer at the Ruhrverband explained that “In the research project" Safe Ruhr ", initiated by the Ruhrverband and other project partners, we extensively examined the hygienic situation at potential bathing sides at the Ruhr river and developed from these findings an early warning system which is able to predict hygienic pollution". As the Green Capital of Europe, the city of Essen has demonstrated how this is possible, by opening a bathing place on the Ruhr in May this year. With these prerequisites, it was possible to register the "Seaside Beach" bathing establishment according to the European Bathing Water Directive and to operate it according to the guidelines.

Vlevo: EWA President Prof. José de Saldanha Matos welcomes the participants of the conference, vpravo:City Mayor Thomas Kufen speaks to the audience of water professionals from whole Europe about the bathing in the Ruhr river

During the opening, the Mayor of the city of Essen, Thomas Kufen, emphasized: that: "Bathing in the Ruhr is a unique project, allowing everyone to experience our “blue miracle”." This sentence illustrates on one side, the desire of the population to use the river Ruhr for swimming, and, on the other hand, to raise awareness of our waters among the people.

The project "Swimming in the Ruhr" was regarded as a role model for other European cities. The guidelines for bathing in streams in the project "Safe Ruhr" can be used as a blueprint for potential future bathing areas.

The technical presentations of the conference can be found on the website of the European Water Association


The European Water Association (EWA) is an independent non-governmental and non-profit making organisation promoting the sustainable and improved management of the total water cycle and hence the environment as a whole.

It is one of the major professional associations in Europe that covers the whole water cycle, as well as wastewater and drinking water, water and wastewater treatment related wastes. With member associations from many European countries, EWA includes most of the current European Union Member States as well as Norway and Switzerland. Today, EWA consists of 25 European leading professional organisations in their respective countries, each representing professionals and technicians for wastewater and water utilities, academics, technology providers, consultants and contractors, local authorities and regulators. The Association also has a growing number of corporate members: firms and enterprises, institutes or associations. EWA thus represents about 50,000 professional individuals and specialists working in the broad field of water and environmental management.

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Intensive discussion with the audience about innovative solutions of early warning systems at river bathing sides