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Vienna is unique by water

Not long ago, the 2022 list of the most livable cities in the world was released, and Vienna, the capital of Austria, once again topped the list. Compared with many cosmopolitan cities known for their fashion and fast pace, Vienna’s simple and natural way of life is unique, and the most proud of the locals is their daily drinking water. With the sparkling blue Danube, the Alps covered with snow all year round, and the beautiful Salzburg Lake District, Austria has extremely rich and weekly quality water resources.

spring water from the alps

Today, more than 1.8 million Viennese get their regular drinking water mainly from two natural sources that originate in the Alps. From the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the century, Vienna No. 1 and No. 2 alpine water diversion systems were successively built. The former starts from the “Emperor Spring” in Lower Austria, which is adjacent to Vienna, with a total length of 150 kilometers. The latter originates from the Salza River Valley in the southern Austrian state of Steinmark, with a total length of more than 180 kilometers, connecting more than 100 viaducts, aqueduct bridges and 19 underground pipelines.

Interestingly, neither of the two systems is equipped with a pump, and most of the water transmission lines are directly reinforced by digging mountains. The natural drop of nearly 400 meters is used to transport spring water to the water supply system in Vienna. Today, a total of more than 400,000 cubic meters of water starts from the Alps every day and travels over the mountains to the water pipelines of thousands of households in Vienna, just like the large arteries that continuously supply blood to the heart.

The Vienna city government has built the “Water Museum” and “Alpine Spring Water Museum” in Kaiserbrune and Verdarpen, the birthplaces of the two water diversion systems. Operated and maintained by the Vienna Water Authority, the museum displays and commemorates the history of these two monumental projects to the present day.

In addition, the city of Vienna has developed two “water” themed hiking trails along the Alpine Water Diversion System No. 1, which pass the scenic Vienna Mountains and wine estates, ideal for a day trip for the whole family. In 1985, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the construction of the Alpine Water Diversion System No. 2, Austria Post also issued a special edition stamp with the image of the Hunder Sobach Aqueduct in the Steinbach Valley.

Tap water meets baby drinking standards

There are thousands of free public drinking water places in Vienna, most of which are located in parks, playgrounds, squares and other places with high traffic. In summer, I don’t need to bring water or buy water when I go out, but I can also drink convenient, safe and healthy tap water. The temperature of the spring water from the high mountains is low and the taste is sweet. Drinking a sip of ice water in hot weather is really cool and refreshing. These on-street public drinking fountains are usually open from April to September and are closed in winter to prevent freezing temperatures from damaging the pipes. In some neighborhoods, townspeople will also dress these drinking fountains in beautiful “sweaters” to add a splash of color to winter.

During the European Football Championship held in Austria in 2008, dozens of new “mobile drinking fountains” were unveiled in Vienna. This three-meter-high stainless steel drinking device, which was called “European Fountain” at the time, was displayed to tourists from all over the world. Vienna’s proud “water culture”. In 2020, Vienna conducted an online public solicitation for the new name of the mobile water dispenser. Nearly half of the citizens who participated in the vote chose to name it “Brunhild”, the Valkyrie in Norse mythology, and “Brun” in German. Li means “spring”. Mobile water dispensers are generally used for short-term or temporary use during popular tourist attractions and large-scale events. They not only provide drinking water, but also have a spray function for cooling and cooling, which is very practical and popular.

Many environmentalists and social organizations suggested that tap water should be used instead of bottled water and filtered water to reduce production, packaging, transportation and other links and achieve the purpose of energy conservation and environmental protection. The whole process is strictly monitored and protected to ensure that no contaminants are mixed in, so the water quality of the tap water can meet the “baby drinking standard”, and the hygiene status even exceeds the effect of bottled water and the use of filter devices. During the years I worked in Austria, the author has soaked up all the large and small cafes in the inner city. Like many locals, almost every order is standard – coffee, cake and a glass of tap water. In recent years, Vienna has launched the “Primary School Students Direct Drinking Water” project, where each child can receive an exclusive water bottle to encourage children to drink tap water at school. Parents do not need to prepare drinks specially for their children, which is conducive to reducing sugar intake, preventing tooth decay and obesity, and developing good drinking habits from an early age.

The old water tower turned into an education base

There is a striking old water tower (pictured above) on the top of the top of Vienna’s 10th district. It was built in the 19th century and closed in the middle of the 20th century. It is an important historical building in the industrialist style. Standing on the top of the tower, you can overlook the whole scenery of Vienna. In 2005, the municipal government transformed the old water tower into a “water-themed” education base and a cultural and art space. This special “water school” has set up a half-day experience course with four themes, including “global water resources”, “Vienna’s water supply system”, “historical water supply system” and “effective protection of water resources”. Primary and secondary school students can make an appointment to visit for free. And learn encyclopedic knowledge about water through experiments, discussions, games, etc.

The old water tower is usually not open to tourists, but the venue will be used for cultural and artistic activities such as exhibitions, concerts, theater performances, and film screenings. If the event is planned with a theme related to “water”, the venue rent and labor costs on the opening day can be waived. Citizens who are interested in architecture can also download the mobile app and listen to the audio guide called “Vienna Water Tower”, as well as introductions to Vienna’s Alpine Water Diversion Project, the city’s water supply system, and the city’s public drinking water and sightseeing fountains.

Since 2011, Vienna has held a one-day “water theme” cultural festival in the old water tower every summer. The 2022 Cultural Festival has attracted more than 6,000 citizens to participate in various forms of activities: complete various tasks related to “water” at the game experiment station, get the level clearance in exchange for surprise gifts, and learn about interesting water stories through quizzes. “Teen firefighters” learn “fire fighting” techniques, and there is always water at the drinking fountains under the slogan “Bring Your Bottle”.

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