Background and Goals


Our main aims are to encourage new research and implementation projects, and promote the exchange of information on urban waters. We offer workshops and other formats, and provide a collection of international good practice examples on our website.

The Research Network Urban Waters puts a focus on the ecological potentials of freshwaters ecosystems and wetlands in cities. How can urban waters be revitalized and their ecological functioning be improved? What role do they play for biodiversity in the city, for sustainable urban drainage and climate adaptation? What environmental functions and ecosystem services do they provide? What is their role for healthy urban environments, for recreation, and in relation to urban design? How can swimming opportunities in lakes and rivers be brought back into the city? How do urban waters add to the quality of life?


Urban waters in particular are subject to a large variety of pressures which in turn also fall into very different areas of responsibility. The future of urban waters and their conservation depend on how these overlapping influences are handled.

Lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, floodplains and wetlands in cities have much ecological potential. Although waters in urban areas are usually modified or completely artificial, they do remain habitats and of a typical fauna and flora, they play a role as ecological corridors, they are part of the river system, part of the urban water cycle and – certainly in Berlin – essential for drinking water supply and cooling of the city. They are also preferred spaces for leisure and recreation, because we are drawn to water. In short: Without urban waters, the city is left high and dry.

Former uses and new demands, obsolete infrastructure and current requirements all have a massive impact on urban waters, their environmental conditions and their ecological functions. In addition, urban waters suffer from stress due to climate change, chemical loads, invasive species and more. However, there are many opportunities for real ecological improvements and social achievements which often might be underestimated.

    Recent quotes

    "Scientific insight into how natural systems function and how they respond to stressors and management is crucial to achieving the goals of sustainability. True to IGB’s guiding principle Research for the future of our freshwaters, our research findings should enable society and decision-makers to face a changing global environment more effectively and to strike the right balance between protecting and using freshwater-based resources and ecosystems, knowing that sufficient protection is often crucial to enable sustainable use."
    Luc de Meester

    “With the resolution of the House of Representatives on March 22nd 2018, Berlin became a member of the international association "Blue Community". The “Blue Community” is committed to ensuring that water is protected as a public good and recognized as a human right. The State of Berlin is committed to the following principles:
    - recognition of water and basic sanitation as a human right,
    - to conserve water as a public good,
    - to protect the quality of urban drinking water and Berlin's rivers and lakes,
    - to promote Berlin tap water versus bottled water,
    - to maintain international partnerships regarding the above-mentioned goals.”

    Resolution of the Chamber of Deputies (March 22nd 2018)

    "The coalition will also ensure that healthy air, less noise, clean water, green spaces, parks, rivers and lakes are accessible to everyone in the growing city ... The banks of Berlin's waters should be publicly accessible in principle... will be designed as close to nature as possible .... The coalition will tackle Berlin's key water management challenges and implement the Water Framework Directive for all rivers as quickly as possible. Bathing in the Spree should be possible ..."
    Coalition Agreement 2016

    „Slowly the awareness arises that metropolises have a special responsibility in ecological urban redevelopment. Berlin has the potential to be an ecological asset, even a pioneer.“
    Flussbad Berlin

    „The citizens of Berlin want to experience and enjoy their river! They demand more public accessibility of the river and its shores. Also the water-oriented recreation should be possible in the city center.“
    Berliner Stadtgespräch