Revitalization of the upper Drau River in Austria

National Id
Site name
4 specific sites: Obergottesfeld, Rosenheim, Amlach/St. Peter and Feistritzbach
At three different sections of the Austrian Drau the river bed was enlarged and restoration works have taken place. Moreover, 25 ha of riparian forest were created as well as meadows, lakes and several river branches.
The in-depth description of the case study
Location description
The project side lies close to the Italian border in the west of Klagenfurt. The revitalized parts of the Drau are between Spittal i.Dr. and Oberdrauburg.
RBD code
Data provider
Sabine Tutte, ACTeon
Climate zone
cool temperate moist
Mean rainfall
Mean rainfall unit
Average temperature
Mean runoff
Mean runoff unit
600 - 750 mm
Actual Test Site
Light or indepth?
Average slope range
Vegetation class
In the surroundings of the upper Drau one can find a big variety of different landuses: forest, meadows, fields.
Monitoring location
Administrative annual costs
Administrative annual cost information
costs for the running monitoring programme
Monitoring parameters
The monitoring is still ongoing for the riverbed. It is controlled whether bedload balance is reached and whether the erosion of the bed is stopped. Given that the Drau is let more freedom to form its river bed monitoring is done how the shape of the river develops. The biological monitoring is accomplished. The number of fisch, amphibian and insect species were counted
Performance impact estimation method
Catchment outlet
Performance impact estimation information
-Assessment of aerial photos
- Geodetic survey of cross profiles (echolot)
- Laserscanning with drones
- Steel plates are on the bottom of the river in order to measure the transported load in size and volume with ultrasound
- Life space mapping
Application scale
River Basin
Installation date
Performance timescale
5 - 10 years
Area (ha)
Size unit
The availability of land determines which measures can be used and how expensive the implementation of the measures will be.
Favourable preconditions
The erosion of the river bed should be stopped. This goal determined the choice of measures.
Public consultation
Contractural arrangements
Design contractual arrangement
Arrangement type Responsibility Role Comments Name
Design consultation activity
Activity stage Key issues Name Comments
Implementation phase
Implementation phase
Implementation phase
Design phase
Implementation phase
Implementation phase
public inaugauration feasts e.g. for the new dam or the different enlarged riverparts
Implementation phase
information day for school children
Implementation phase
tree planting event for children
Design phase
tourism concept, guided routes within the national park
post card showing before after pictures of the drau
Implementation phase
VIP event: Mimi Hughes (marathon swimmer and environmental activist swam through the drau until danube
Design land use change
Land use change type
Design authority
Authority type Role Responsibility Name Comments
National water authority
Initiation of the measure
Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, represented by the Carinthian State Government, department 8- Competence Centre environment, Nature and Water conservation, subdivision water management
Torrent and avalanche control, section Carinthia, regional management supervision 4 Upper Drau Valley and Mí¶ll Valley
reconstruction of the open check dam
Carinthian State Government, department 8, competence centre environment, water and nature protection, subdivision Nature Conservation and National Park Law
supervision of nature conservation measures
University of Vienna
Analysis of the river bed before and after the LIFE Project, Study of the composition of the fish fauna, calculation of the transported bedload in the Feistritzbach
search for indicator species in order to document the improvement of the ecological state
Agrarian Regional Office of Villach
Purchase of land
LIFE Natur
Project Control for the EU
REVITAL Ziviltechniker GmbH
Project Coordination
DI Dr Peter Mayr and team
geodetic survey of the river
National water authority
Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (rural development section) department II/4
Key lessons
By adapting open check dams the bed load balance of a river can be improved. The reconnections of side arms, the creation of riparian forests and meadows support a greater biodiversity.
Financing mechanism
Financing difficulties
Success factor(s)
Success factor type Success factor role Comments
Attitude of the public
main factor

Since the revitalization measures on the Drau are a subsequent project to former projects and measures, much less publicity had to be done. The responsibles hadn't to face the fears and worries of farmers and citizens.

Existing staff and consultant knowledge
main factor

20 years of experience exist on restoring the river to a more natural state. Moreover, there is good cooperation between the different stakeholders for nature conservation and hydraulic engineering.

secondary factor

The regional touristic department supported the measure and furthermore helped to merchandise the Drau project. They looked amongst others at the following questions: How to design picnic areas? Where are the best places for information boards? How can we conduct tourists through the region?

Attitude of decision makers
main factor

The purchase of land was combined with a reallocation of land process. Lots were exchanged between farmers. There were a lot of farmers willing to give land for the project and there was also political support of the action. A company constructing/operating hydropower plants had bought lots in the 90s. After their project of building 4 new power plants on the Drau was refused they were nevertheless ready to give their lots to the project partners for a fair price.

Financing type Comments
EU-funds: LIFE+
1.5 Moi €
Sub-national funds
Carinthian State Government: 0.2 Million €; Torrent and Avalanche Control: 0.2 Million €
National funds
Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management 2.7 Mio €
Barrier type Barrier role Comments
main barrier
The project had to be replanned several times since farmers didn't want to sell ground or sell it for very high prices. Others changed their opinion suddenly and new possibilities openend up.
Lacking coordination between authorities
secondary barrier
There is always tension between the disciplines agriculture, nature protection and hydraulic engineering which have different priorities.
Driver type Driver role Comments
main driver
Erosion of the river bed was observed (becoming deeper and deeper). There was furthermore a risk that floodplains fall dry and can't operate anymore, as well as a risk of a falling ground water table.
Financing share
Financing share type Share Comments
European funds
National funds
Policy description
WFD pressure: physical alteration of channel/bed/riparian area/shore of water body for agriculture and transportation.
Bed load balance shall be achieved. Due to missing pebble supply the Drau river bed became deeper and deeper. Thus the groundwater level decreased, bank stabilization became insecure and flood plains inoperable.
Part of wider plan
Policy target
Target purpose
Runoff control
Improved Biodiversity
Increase Water Storage
Policy pressure
Pressure directive Relevant pressure
Policy area
Policy area type Policy area focus Name Comments
Policy impact
Impact directive Relevant impact
Policy wider plan
Wider plan type Wider plan focus Name Comments
water body-development-concept
Plan made in the middle of 90s (93 or 94). Programme for the whole river Drau.
Policy requirement directive
Requirement directive Specification
Direct benefits
Direct benefits information
Total expenses for the implementation of the project given to regional companies, planning offices.
Ancillary benefits information
The tourism department definitetly benefitted from the Drau project but this cannot be quantified yet.
Costs investment
Costs investment information
longlasting infrastructure goods (measuring instruments, gauge installation)
Costs capital
Costs capital information
Costs land acquisition
Costs land acquisition unit
€ (total value)
Costs land acquisition information
purchase of land and compensation
Costs operation maintenance
No special, project-linked expenses.
Every few years maintenance has to be done as on every other river like cutting grass or trees.
Costs total
Costs total information
total costs of the project
Economic costs other annual
Ecosystem improved biodiversity
Information on Ecosystem improved biodiversity
Number of amphibian species multiplied by six.
Number of insect and fish species increased as well. Until mid 2011 28000 km3 were mobilized by the open checked dam and 16000 km3 arrived at the Drau. As consequence the bedload balance could be improved and the riverbed stabilized.
Ecosystem provisioning services
Information on Ecosystem provisioning services
no information available
Ecosystem impact climate regulation
Increased permanent biomas
Information on Ecosystem impact climate regulation
Given that buffer strips, riparian forests and meadows were created/restored permanent biomas has increased.
Information on retained water
No quantitative data. However riparian forests were planted and buffer stripes installed along the river shore. These measurements favour an increase of water storage capacity.
Information on increased water storage
No quantitative data. Side arms were reconnected to the main channel and the riverbed itself was enlarged. As a consequence storage capacity must have increased.
Information on runoff reduction
no data available
Water quality overall improvements
N/A info
Information on Water quality overall improvements
Riparian forests may act as buffers for diffuse pollution input for water from fields (nitrogen, phosphorous, herbicide flux).
Soil quality overall soil improvements
N/A info
Information on Soil quality overall soil improvements
No monitoring is done on this aspect since it was not targeted in the project.


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