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Water management system in Augsburg and Erzgebirge mining region: new World Cultural Heritage sites

Great delight in the Erzgebirge: “We’re part of the World Heritage!”

Great delight in the Erzgebirge: “We’re part of the World Heritage!”, © dpa-Zentralbild

10.07.2019 - Article

Germany has two new World Heritage sites: UNESCO has inscribed the water management system in Augsburg and the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) mining region on the World Heritage list.

Congratulations to Augsburg and the Erzgebirge region! At its session in Baku/Azerbaijan, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee listed the two German sites as part of the World Cultural Heritage.

Sustainable water management in Augsburg

700 years of sustainable water management: the water management system in Augsburg
700 years of sustainable water management: the water management system in Augsburg© dpa

The water management system in the city of Augsburg has evolved in several phases since the 13th century. It comprises a network of canals, water towers dating from the 15th to 17th centuries, a formerly water-cooled butchers’ hall, three monumental fountains and hydroelectric power stations, which continue to provide sustainable electricity today. The technological innovations generated by this water management system have made the city of Augsburg a pioneer in hydraulic engineering to this day: the system testifies to the innovative, exemplary use of water resources over more than seven centuries.

“This inscription on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List not only pays tribute to Augsburg’s hydraulic engineering and fountain design as technological and artistic achievements, but also recognises the sustainable approach to our most valuable resource,” emphasised Minister of State Michelle Müntefering.

Shared mining tradition: Erzgebirge Region

A shared European World Heritage site: the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) mining Region
A shared European World Heritage site: the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) mining Region© ZB

The second World Heritage site is an important signal for European cooperation: it was nominated jointly by Germany and Czechia. Ore has been mined in the Saxon-Bohemian “Ore Mountains” since the Middle Ages. The region became the most important source of silver ore in Europe from 1460 to 1560 and was the trigger for technological innovations. Mining, pioneering water management systems, innovative mineral processing and smelting sites, and mining cities: the cultural landscape of the Ore Mountains has been deeply shaped by almost 800 years of continuous mining.

How does a place become a World Heritage site?

The World Heritage Convention of 1972 states that to be included on the World Heritage List, a cultural or natural site must be of outstanding universal value. A decision is then taken as to whether a site meets UNESCO’s criteria. In Germany, sites are nominated by the federal states. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee then decides whether the site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

This year the World Heritage Committee met in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, from 30 June till 10 July. A total of 29 new sites were inscribed on the list, taking the total number of World Heritage sites to 1121. As of 2019, Germany has 46 UNESCO World Heritage sites – 43 World Cultural Heritage sites and three World Natural Heritage sites.

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