Drinking water was always readily available in Freiburg and it was also conveniently presented – water pipes and fountains had been there since the 13th century, we find out in an interview with Joachim Scheck, the responsible operator of Vistatour.

The non-profit society Vistatour offers interesting and educational tours on the subject of water in Freiburg. Together with the community education centre, Vistatour takes up unusual, historical and cultural topics in the city and offers expert lectures and tours.

The speakers are predominantly academically trained experts who guide in a knowledgeable and entertaining manner. The specialist knowledge guarantees a special quality standard of the tours. Nicolas Feil is responsible for hydrology, and his knowledge of water is supplemented by geographers, historians, archaeologists, art historians and garden specialists, to name just a few examples.

Water in Freiburg can be presented in 3 areas with special, historical components:

1) Drinking water supplies since around 1200

2) Bächle (small, artificial streams)

3) Channels

Ref. to 1) Let’s continue with the above-mentioned, easy access to drinking water in the city. Since around 1200, drinking water has been brought into the city from sources at higher altitudes via wooden water pipes and fed into the city’s wells, from which the population supplied itself with drinking water. The wooden pipes were not replaced by iron pipes until the middle of the 19th century. From around 1870 the city grew rapidly and from then on used drinking water from the large source area of the Dreisam river with storage of the water in the so-called Wasserschlößchen. The pressure was initially generated without electricity using only the clever use of the gradient, until it was no longer sufficient and an elevated tank had to be erected on top. Electricity was then used to pump the water up the tower. Old fountains – partly made of sandstone or limestone – in the city still provide the finest drinking water from spring to autumn. During the winter months the fountains are out of service. Information and background information on the drinking water fountains can be found here (in German only): https://wasser.badenovanetze.de/ueber-uns/trinkwasserbrunnen/

Ref. to 2) Typical for Freiburg are the “Bächle”, open watercourses in the city center, with a total length of 11 km. They, too, have existed since the 13th century and were used by the population to supply them with service water. The necessary water was fed into the city via the commercial canal and distributed across the entire area via the Bächle where it was needed for fire-fighting water, drinking troughs for cattle and for water disposal.

Today, these little streams have an enormous experience value for the city and characterize the cityscape. Children let boats swim, you meet friends and cool your feet in summer. There are all sorts of accessories to buy, such as felt cushions for comfortable sitting on the stone steps. Open water in the city is used for cooling and has a psychological calming and refreshing effect. The Bächle are also a very timely factor for balancing the heat in the city.

Ref. to 3) Another unique facility are the canals in Freiburg, the so-called “Runzen”. These are older than the city itself and were derived from the Dreisam river as side arms to operate adjacent mills, sawmills and hydroelectric power plants. Some of these facilities still exist, and they still have their historical water rights today.

There is a separate cooperative for the canals, the Runzgenossenschaft (the word Runzen is used only for this context in Freiburg)

Quoting Wikipedia:

“Runzgenossenschaften are cooperatives in Freiburg im Breisgau that operate artificially created watercourses (Runzen) for joint economic use (e.g. irrigation, mills, energy). This distinguishes them from historic drinking water cooperatives which have been known since the 16th century. ……

“The Alemannic word “Runz” comes from “running” and is used for a watercourse created by humans. The cooperatives guaranteed and controlled the amount of water, the water distribution, the introduction, and passage of the water diverted from a natural stream, for example into the industrial canal. A fair distribution of water was important for the medieval city economy. The Runzmeister (Master) appointed by the Runzgenossen (associates) is responsible for the Runzen belonging to the cooperative.

He employs a servant who has to check, clean and maintain the facility every day and, if necessary, activates the weirs. The comrades and users pay a water rate for this service. “

With the changing awareness of energy supplies and climate crisis, some of the local residents have remembered their historical rights and are running small power plants for their own use.

Since the canals are artificial bodies of water, they depend on the inflow of the Dreisam. During hot summers as in 2022, some of the canals were not fed to ensure the protection of the river and the fish there.

More information at www.vistatour.de

Responsible: Joachim Scheck

The fountains of the city of Freiburg (in German only): https://wasser.badenovanetze.de/ueber-uns/trinkwasserbrunnen/


Freiburg CVB shares content about water-related research, organizations, initiatives in their Green City with the meetings’ industry. The goal is to bring water and SDG 6 related action into the awareness of business events’ planners, as an innovative approach for meeting organizers to think in systems and to learn how to connect important sustainable development goals (like SDG for water) with the planning of meetings and events.

The global meetings industry has a strong voice and can use it to close gaps between awareness and action. Impact and  purpose can be achieved through events. To directly intervene in the development of an SDG like No 6 through behaviour change, new on-site programs, governance, legacy, and demonstration of change across all sectors, is a practical step into sustainability for any conference. Use “Water” as your anchor to demonstrate engagement.


If you plan a conference and want to discuss water (or other) legacy concepts, contact:

Christina Fritsch, Project Head Freiburg Convention Bureau / MICE / Netzwerk

Tel.: +49 761 3881-15 25 • Mobil: +49 151 22 507 198  • Christina.Fritsch@fwtm.de

See you in Freiburg! https://youtu.be/pO7t6P8AQM8


More Ideas and Inspiration for ESG / CSR applications for Corporate & Association conferences

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Johanna Fischer, ecomice /FrauBlau SDG 6 showcasing practical measures for climate adaptation in the city of Freiburg

Germany, 30.01.2023