A conversation with Elisabeth Sötz, biologist and expert on alpine rivers at WWF Austria, about why the water that flows along the Inn river is so clean.
What makes the water in the Inn river so clean?
Elisabeth Sötz: The Inn, like most alpine rivers, has water which is of outstanding quality from a chemical point of view. That is because much of its water comes from melting glaciers. This water is naturally filtered on its way from the mountains down into the valley. It contains low levels of nitrates and phosphates, while at the same time having high concentrations of minerals thanks to the rocks it passes over and through on the way to the river. It is these minerals that give the Inn its eye-catching green colour.
Does that mean that you can drink water straight from the Inn?
Yes. You can also eat fish from the Inn – if you manage to catch any. The only areas where we recommend people do not drink water straight from rivers is close to towns and cities, because in these areas the water can contain traces of pharmaceutical products. Even the best processing plants are not able to remove these traces from the water.
Why is clean water important for the region?
Clean, clear water attracts people down to the river in the evenings for BBQs, picnics and walks. And clean water is of course attractive for a cooling dip on a hot summer’s day. Since 2008 the WWF has been working with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism to restore as many river banks as possible to their natural state. This means creating quiet bays where birds can nest and fish can spawn. These quiet and peaceful places also attract people from the local region as well as tourists. The measures we have taken have led to an increased awareness in recent years of the Inn and its role in the landscape.
What can people do to protect and maintain the natural environment?
Make sure you don’t leave any rubbish on the river bank or in the river itself. People should also refrain from going to the toilet near the edge of the river. And please don’t throw goldfish into the river.
Does that happen a lot?
Yes! It’s a really big problem. What many people don’t know is that goldfish look nice but they are actually really aggressive. They eat the spawn and tadpoles laid by frogs and other endangered amphibian species. This makes them a serious threat to the natural ecosystem.