City of Duisburg, Germany

Water – Duisburg’s  life line, past, present and future

Throughout history Duisburg’s geographic location at the intersection of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers has made the city unmistakeable and dominated its development up to the present day. Today, in 2011, nearly half a million people live in Duisburg at the heart of the Rhine-Ruhr agglomeration which in turn has an overall population of eleven million.  One tenth of Duisburg’s surface area is water, the waterfront amounting to 114 kilometres in length. Indeed, Germany's most important waterway, the Rhine, flows from south to north - via Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf - dividing Duisburg into east and west on the one hand and joining the city with the Benelux North Sea ports on the other. Flowing from its source in the east to its estuary in the Rhine in the west at Duisburg-Ruhrort, meanwhile, the Ruhr divides the eastern parts of the city into north and south whilst joining it with the other cities in the Ruhr Delta, the likes of Essen and Dortmund.

Being home to the largest inland harbour in the world, it is hardly surprising that Duisburg has developed into the continental transport hub for Europe’s largest seaport in Rotterdam: two-thirds of Germany’s imports and exports by container pass this way. Thus, Duisburg has become the distribution hub for goods of all kinds that can be transported not only along the waterways but add to these the intersecting of Europe’s major motorways and railways in the city, plus Düsseldorf International  Airport on its southern doorstep and Düsseldorf Lower Rhine Airport just a short drive away in the north and one has the recipe for one of Europe’s most accessible cities. In fact, 30 million people live within a radius of 150 kilometres around Duisburg. Against this background, infrastructure measures with the help of private investment on the one hand and local, regional, national and European Union funding on the other, have turned Duisburg into a highly competitive transport and logistics player in the global market.

Water was also decisive in the establishment and the rapid economic rise of the city, based on coal-mining and steel manufacturing. For, at the time of industrialisation, the Rhine and the Ruhr were already important trade routes. Still today, Duisburg is Europe’s largest steel manufacturing city. Yet, having settled at the waterfront for easy access to transport and water, industry had severed the link between the Rhine and the population. In many places in the city people still cannot enjoy a walk along the river banks. Consequently, water has become the key to enhancing quality of life. The recent conversion of a derelict industrial site at Duisburg-Hochfeld into the spacious Rhine Park re-introduces the Rhine to the people. A further prime example of successful structural change from a heavy-industrial to a services-based urban economy, can be found in a 89-hectare-large inner-city neighbourhood, i.e. Duisburg's Inner Harbour, which opens up the city centre to the water. It combines high-quality residential and leisure functions with office and various other facilities.
Finally, in the southern part of the city, water again dominates. Duisburg Sports Park and lake district provide people with a meeting point for recreation and sports, ranging from football to tree-to-tree climbing and water sports of all kinds. This attractive lakeside - and forested – sports venue featuring top-class stadiums and other facilities has hosted a broad variety of national, international and world championships.

Contact details:
Robert Tonks
Deputy Director
Office for Elections, European Affairs and Information Logistics, City of Duisburg
Phone: +49 203 283-2058

Organisation website: