Project site concept of Elbe


Luftbild mit Blick flussaufwärts auf die Elbe mit der Saalemündung bei Barby, El-km 291. Zu sehen sind Buhnen mit Anlandungen und das ehemalige Naturschutzgebiet Steckby-Lödderitzer Forst.

Welcome to the Overall Strategy for the Elbe - Gesamtkonzept Elbe!

Elbe and GKE

The inland part of Elbe River that runs from the German-Czech border to Geesthacht near Hamburg is both a sensitive river landscape and a major European waterway. It runs from the German-Czech border to Geesthacht south of Hamburg. In 2017, a strategic concept for the Elbe – the so-called Gesamtkonzept Elbe (GKE) – was adopted by the two responsible federal ministries and the nine federal states located in the Elbe River Basin aiming at harmonizing the requirements of water resources management, the conservation of the valuable nature of both the river and floodplains, and the environmentally friendly inland navigation, as well as to positively influence the status of the Elbe. The GKE is the essential basis for the administrative actions of the state and federal authorities serving as a complementary coordination and planning tool to find common approaches to solutions when interests such as water resources management, ecology and inland navigation overlap.

Objectives of the GKE

View of a groyne construction site from the bank of the Elbe. There is a dredger on the groyne, and two ships are moored at its edge. Zustand Stromregelung Elbe, Totholzbuhne Construction of a deadwood groyne. Source: BfG

The Overall Strategy for the Elbe includes guidelines with objectives for the 5 topics:

  • Erosion control and bedload balance (E),
  • Improvement of flood protection, water retention, water balance (W),
  • Reduction of substance inputs (G),
  • Improvement of navigation conditions (S),
  • Conservation and restoration of habitats and habitat types in water bodies, on banks and in floodplains (N).

In order to be able to implement the resulting tasks, 55 options for measures were compiled jointly by the federal government, the states, associations and citizens' initiatives. They are based on existing regulations and directives (e.g. European Water Framework Directive, Flood Risk Management Directive, Habitats Directive with the Natura 2000 network of protected areas).
The options for measures in the Overall Strategy for the Elbe aim to,

  • preserve or restore species and habitats of water bodies, banks and floodplains,
  • improve protection against floods,
  • counteract water pollution,
  • counteract the erosion of the riverbed and the lowering of the water level, and
  • to offer shipping more planning reliability.

Task-related individual measures can be synergistically bundled across the topics and thus mutually promote economic and ecological interests. No measure should lead to disadvantages in any of the other topics.

Implementation of the GKE

Aerial view of Königstein Fortress and Lilstein in Saxon Switzerland. In between, the Elbe flows in a large arc through the image. Wasserwirtschaft Elbe, Festung Königstein Königstein Fortress is picturesquely situated on the Elbe River, El-Km 14-22. Source: WSV, Andreas Hilger

The Overall Strategy for the Elbe specifies consensual options for measures, including for stretches of the Elbe with potential for conflict. A development to improve traffic conditions shall not take place in the future. However, river engineering measures are accepted if they serve ecological, water resources management and transport objectives at the same time and combine these objectives in a reasonable way.

In the so-called Elbe-Reststecke(remaining section) from Damnatz to Hitzacker, navigation is only possible to a limited extent. Irregular sediment transport leads to large migrating alternate bars that constantly require extensive maintenance measures. The initial aim here is to investigate the possibilities for adapting the Elbe in accordance with transport, ecological and water resources management objectives.

In some stretches of the Elbe River riverbed has deepened considerably over time. The so-called Erosionsstrecke, a river stretch that extends over 170 km from Mühlberg to Barby, is particularly severely affected. This occurs due to various human impacts on the river and its catchment area. In a first section, the pilot action near Klöden, specific planning and measures are carried out to stabilize the riverbed and promote natural bedload transport.