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.


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



Sampling period

1995 - 2022