Elbe

Basic information

Name of river basin

The Elbe river basin

Surface area of river basin

238, km2

Length of main river

Elbe 1165 km;  the Orlica river in Poland 118,5 km, (34 km within the territory of Poland)

Length of significant watercourses

146,57 km

Główne dopływy

Orlica

Water regions

Orlica, Izera, Elbe and Ostrożnica, Metuje

Number of water bodies

8 river water bodies

5 groundwater bodies

Main areas of water use

- water abstraction for municipal, industrial and other purposes

Main human activities

- discharge of municipal sewage

- sewage from homes not connected to a wastewater treatment system

Table 1. General description of the river basin

 

General characteristics of the river basin

In Poland, the Elbe river basin takes up a surface area of 238,5 km2 and is located on the Polish-Czech border. The Elbe river basin lies in the dolnośląskie and śląskie voivodeships.

 

A graphical representation of the river basin is presented in Figure 1.

 

The main river of the river basin is the Elbe, with a total length of 11 655 km. The source of the river is located in the Czech Republic, in the Karkonosze mountains, south of Łabski Szczyt. The Elbe river flows into the Heligoland Bight at an elevation of 1387 m a.s.l.

 

The most pressing water management issues in the Elbe river basin are:

-         conflicts of interest among water users,

-         inadequate public environmental awareness and education,

-         inadequate systems of charges and subsidies,

-         lack of adequate financing of water management.[1]

 

The Elbe river basin is represented by the following water regions: Orlica, Izera, Elbe and Ostrożnica, and Metuje[2].

 

The Orlica water region occupies an area of 72,6 km2. Most of the water region is situated in the Bystrzyckie Mountains macroregion, as well as in the southern part of the Orlickie Mountains mesoregion[3]. The region is located in the dolnośląskie voivodeship. The main river of the Orlica water region is the Orlica river with a total length of 118,5 km, of which approx. 34 km flows through Poland.

The Orlica water region is characterised by a nival-pluvial river regime – the average spring monthly runoff is equal to 130-180% of the average annual runoff, and there is a marked increase in runoff during the summer months, equal to at least 110% of the average annual runoff[4].

 

A large part of the Orlica river basin (approx. 66%) is made up of forests, arable lands constitute 33%, and wetlands constitute 1%. Uncontrolled discharge of municipal sewage from homes not connected to a wastewater treatment system, as well as diffuse contamination from agricultural areas bear a detrimental impact on water quality[5].

 

The Izera water region takes up a surface area of 47 km2. This water region is situated in the southern and western part of the Izerskie Mountains mesoregion, which belongs to the Western Sudetes macroregion[6]. This is the westernmost part of the Sudetes, bordering the Karkonosze Mountains and the Jelenia Góra Valley from the east and the south, and the Pogórze Izerskie from the north.

 

The main river of the Izera water region is the Izera river, the length of which is 34 km. The rivers supplying the Izera river in the water region are its left-side tributaries: the Tracznik, Łącznik, Jagnięcy Potok, Kobyła and Kamionek rivers.

 

There is a nival-pluvial river regime in the water region; the average spring monthly runoff is 130-180% of the average annual runoff with a significant increase in runoff during the summer months, of at least 110% of the average annual runoff.  There is a marked prevalence of surface supply, which amounts to 65% of the total runoff[7].

 

The Izera water region is practically uninhabited. Forests and green areas cover almost the whole region (approx. 99,5%). A significant anthropogenic threat to water quality is sewage from point sources of contamination. Discharge of municipal wastewater is also noted in the Izera water region[8].

 

The Elbe and Ostrożnica water region covers an area of 19,4 km2. The water region is situated in the western fragments of the Brama Lubawska and Góra Kamienna mesoregion, which is located in the central Sudetes macroregion. The north-western part of the water region is situated in the Karkonosze Mountains mesoregion, which lies in the western Sudetes[9].

 

The main river of the region is the Ostrożnica river, the length of which is equal to 13 km. The source of the river lies near Mount Śnieżka, at an elevation of 1432 m a.s.l. The Ostrożnica river is supplied by two main tributaries; in Uniemyśl and in Okrzeszyn.

 

The Elbe and Ostrożnica water region is characterised by a nival-pluvial river regime – the average spring monthly runoff is equal to 130-180% of the average annual runoff, and there is a marked increase in runoff during the summer months, equal to at least 110% of the average annual runoff (Figure 1). There is a prevalence of surface supply, which amounts to 65% of the total runoff[10].

 

Over half of the surface area of the Elbe and Ostrożnica water region are arable lands. A relevant anthropogenic threat to water quality is sewage from point sources, municipal sewage discharge from homes not connected to a wastewater treatment system[11].

 

The Metuje water region covers an area of99,4 km². It is located in the Central Sudetes macroregion, on fragments of the Stołowe Mountains and Orlickie Mountains mesoregions and a part of the Pogórze Orlickie mesoregion. The Stołowe Mountains take up the central part of the Central Sudete Basin and constitute an inversion structure with parallel rock formations. The Orlickie Mountains are located along the Polish-Czech border, south of the Stołowe Mountains[12].  The left-side tributaries of the water region are the Żydawka, Klikawa and Oleszanka rivers.

 

The Metuje water region is characterised by a nival-pluvial river regime – the average spring monthly runoff is equal to 130-180% of the average annual runoff, and there is a marked increase in runoff during the summer months, equal to at least 110% of the average annual runoff[13].

 

Forest areas take up the majority of the surface area - 53,2%, agricultural areas 42,9%, anthropogenised areas approx. 3,9% of the water region. The largest town in the region is Kudowa Zdrój, where many businesses, dealing with trade, services and construction are located. There are point sources of discharge of municipal sewage and uncontrolled discharge of municipal sewage from homes not connected to wastewater treatment systems. Water for municipal purposes is abstracted from surface and groundwater inlets.

Surface water

The boundaries of surface water bodies

In the Elbe river basin there are currently:

  • 8 river water bodies,

This information is presented in Figure 2 .

 

All water bodies in the Elbe river basin are natural water bodies.

 

Types of surface water bodies[14]

 

Differentiating surface water types is an obligation resulting from the WFD. Determining typology is essential for the assessment and classification of ecological water status.  Identifying different types of surface water was essential due to the large variety of environmental conditions, which influence aquatic organisms. In conditions unaffected by human activity, water body types differ according to biological characteristics, hence, they constitute a model when assessing the ecological water status. A good status is thus characterised depending on the particular water body types. Environmental conditions are caused by parameters such as: geographical location, elevation, the geology and morphology of the area.

 

In accordance with the WFD, when identifying water body types, “system A” or “system B” was used.  In Poland, surface water types were identified based on system A, supplied with particular parameters in system B.

 

The Elbe river basin lies in the Central Uplands ecoregion.

 

The ecoregion is presented in Figure 3.

 

Types of river water bodies

The river water body types were defined by using system A, as stipulated in the WFD (Annex II). The use of „system A” was differentiated according to particular ecoregions. The following parameters were analysed when assessing the typology of rivers: the surface area of catchments, elevation (m a.s.l.), and type of ground cover.

 

Table 2. River types for the Elbe river basin

Type

Description

Catchment area [km2]

Elevation

[m a.s.l]

Number of water bodies

3

Sudetan stream – rivers with a crystalline subsurface formed by silicate rocks

10-100

>800

1

4

Upland silicate stream with a coarse-grained substrate – western – river on silicate rocks

10-100

200-800

7

 

The typology of the Elbe river basin is presented in Figure 4.

Groundwater

The boundaries of groundwater bodies

The new division of Poland into 172 groundwater bodies is associated with the definition of the hydeogeological system model, accepted by the National Institute of Geology – the National Research Institute. The model describes the system’s structure and indicates the dependencies in its range (activity – process) and occurring between the particular components of the system, as well as the interaction of the system with the environment. In this sense the model is constructed from the following data: [1] geological structure, [2] lithology, the distribution of hydrogeological parameters of water-bearing strata, [3] environmental elements – anthropogenic pressures, [4] factors influencing the course of particular processes in the system.

Hence, a general rule of limiting the number of water-bearing strata to three units in the model (by merging them into water-bearing complexes) was accepted in the new division. This is in accordance with the principle stipulated in the Groundwater body monitoring program in Poland (Kazimierski et. al., 2005), that the following water-bearing strata or complexes are observed:

  • The shallowest confined water-bearing stratum, strongly affected by the impact of pressures from the surface;
  • Exploitable confined aquifers, which are the main source of potable water;
  • Confined aquifers, subject to saline intrusion.

According to the division into 172 groundwater bodies, the first water-bearing complex is water from the shallowest water-bearing stratum, or the main exploitable aquifer. These are mainly partly unconfined aquifers. They are characterised as highly vulnerable to water body chemistry and status, as a result of human activity.

The second water-bearing complex are deeper confined aquifers. They are isolated from anthropogenic pressures by the first water-bearing stratum, as well as partly permeable and impermeable layers. At the regional scale they can be hydrodynamically connected to the first water-bearing complex.

The third water-bearing complex is the deepest exploitable aquifer. It is usually at risk of contamination with deeper mineralised water.

Additionally, with reference to the existing combined surface water bodies and the catchments of particular rivers (in accordance with the Map of the Hydrographic Division of Poland) the course of particular groundwater bodies was verified in order to unify the borders.

There are 5 groundwater bodies in the Elbe river basin (code 106, 122, 123, 137, 138).

The division of groundwater bodies is presented in Figure 5.

Figure 1 ELBE river basin.jpg

Figure 2 ELBE river basin surface water bodies.jpg

Figure 3 Ecoregion.jpg

Figure 4 ELBE river basin.jpg

Figure 5 groundwater bodies.jpg



[1] Przegląd istotnych problemów gospodarki wodnej dla obszarów dorzeczy, KZGW, MGGP, MŚ, Kraków 2008

[2] Rozporządzenie Rady Ministrów z dnia 27 czerwca 2006 r. w sprawie przebiegu granic obszarów dorzeczy i regionów wodnych (Dz.U. 2006 nr 126 poz. 878)

[3] Kondracki J,. Geografia regionalna Polski, 1998

[4] Dynowska I., Odpływ rzeczny. [w:] Najgrakowski M. (red.), Atlas Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. Stanisława Leszczyckiego, Warszawa 1994

5 Szczegółowe wymagania, ograniczenia i priorytety dla potrzeb wdrażania planu gospodarowania wodami na obszarach dorzeczy w Polsce. Region wodny Orlicy, MGGP, Kraków 2010

6 Kondracki J,. Geografia regionalna Polski, 1998

7 Dynowska I., Odpływ  rzeczny. [w:] Najgrakowski M. (red.),  Atlas Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. Stanisława Leszczyckiego, Warszawa 1994

8 MGGP, 2010, Szczegółowe wymagania, ograniczenia i priorytety dla potrzeb wdrażania planu gospodarowania wodami na obszarach dorzeczy w Polsce. Region wodny Izery, Kraków

9 Kondracki J,. Geografia regionalna Polski, Warszawa 1998

 

[10] Dynowska I., Odpływ rzeczny. [w:] Najgrakowski M. (red.), Atlas Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. Stanisława Leszczyckiego, Warszawa 1994

[11] MGGP, 2010, Szczegółowe wymagania, ograniczenia i priorytety dla potrzeb wdrażania planu gospodarowania wodami na obszarach dorzeczy w Polsce. Region wodny Łaby i Ostrożnicy, Kraków

[12] Kondracki J,. Geografia regionalna Polski, 1998

[13] Dynowska I., Odpływ rzeczny. [w:] Najgrakowski M. (red.), Atlas Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, Polska Akademia Nauk, Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. Stanisława Leszczyckiego, Warszawa 1994

[14] Typologia wód powierzchniowych i wyznaczenie części wód powierzchniowych i podziemnych zgodnie z wymogami RDW 2000/60/WE, Konsorcium IMGW, IOŚ, PIG, Instytut Morski, Warszawa 2004

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