Waterlands

By felling trees which cover the tops and slides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water.”

 

Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America: During the Years 1799-1804.

As part of reshaping the landscapes of German Lusatia, mines are restored and transformed into lakes. Already, 25 000 hectares of lakes have been created, the lakes being connected with canals and hundreds of kilometres of bicycle tracks. Sometimes entire recreation resorts are created, thus re-inventing the once tranquil retreat known for its water canals and forests for city people from Berlin and Dresden.

But the landscape has to be made clean enough for tourism. One of several challenges is to raise the pH-level of the pits to make it safe for animals and people, which is done by flushing them with river water. The volume of excavated coal will be replaced by the same volume of water. Which calls for another question: is there enough water?

Several cities including Berlin depend on water that flows through Lusatia. Therefore, the new water system needs to store water when in excess and release it when scarce. In the river Spree however, the water is already low and sinking back – all the while acidic water from the open mines is still being pumped back into the river.

Part of the region once again has become an enormous laboratory for geologists, economists, and then, tourists. History, current events and landscape converge in the reshaping after the end of mining. It is a gigantic landscape reconstruction infused by nostalgia and an expression of man’s strive for re-invention – the landscape of German Lusatia is a land restored and simultaneously re-shaped to fit our image of what we want that landscape to be.

 

This map shows the natural water resources (dark blue) and the water landscapes created by the brown coal mining industry (light blue) when filling up the open pits with fresh water after closing the mines.

5.1%  of the German Lusatian surface is covered by water, of which

2,9 % of the German Lusatian surface consist of natural fresh water and dams.

2.2% are lakes originating from mining.