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Excursion from the Ems origin along the river Ems

May 14th 2017


Ems origin in the Senne with some impressions from April and May 2017.

Tiere im Wasser nahe der Emsquelle

A few hundred meters below the spring lie stones and stones in the water. It is home to planarians, bug fly larvae and small snails.

Zusammenfluss von Schwarzwasserbach und Ems

At the confluence of Ems and Schwarzwasserbach, the water is already markedly brown.

An der Ems

"An der Ems"

ein Emsteich

This pond is located above the NSG Steinhortster Basin. Its water level is dependent on the amount of precipitation.

Steinhorster Becken

The weir dams the waters of the Ems and causes a constant flooding in the Steinhorst basin.

Teich im Skulpturenpark

Pond in Sculpture Park with pond stub and Koi. the picture below shows fish spawn at the roots of the bank plants on the Ems.


In many areas, the Ems is dammed by weirs. Not all weirs are passable for fish.
The river
human influences
waste water

Visited locations
Ems origin
Inflow of the Schwarzwasserbach
"An der Ems"
"Am Teich"
NSG Steinhorster Basin
Sculpture Park in Rietberg
"Kuhstraße" in Harsewinkel
Neumühlenstraße in Greffen
lea at Einen
water messurements


Participants of the excursion on May 14, 2017.

The Ems rises in North Rhine-Westphalia at the foot of the Teutoburg Forest in the nature reserve Moosheide at "Hövelhof" in the Senne. It flows through North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony and then, after 371 km, joins the North Sea about 27 km northwest of Emden. The lower 206 km are navigable. The Ems is considered the smallest electricity Germany.
A current is because it flows directly into the sea and absorbs many other fluids on the way from the source to the mouth.
The course of the Ems is built on the whole length of the man. By straightening river sections, the Ems has been shortened by a total of about 70 km. There are numerous weirs, crevices and high sole swell sites which are difficult or even non-permeable to migrating fish. In addition, the emwater is heavily polluted. With a salary of II to III, it is already considered to be critically under pressure in the upper reaches.

The river

The Ems is a pure lowland river From source to mouth, the river only traverses 135 meters of altitude. The source of the Ems is a typical source of seepage, in which the water in a larger area differs Make swells from the sandy bottom and then quickly forms a shallow little forest stream.
As upper reaches of the Ems the area from the source to the Emswehr Hanekenfähr near Lingen is considered. Here, the Dortmund-Ems Canal meets the Ems and follows its riverbed for a few kilometers. In this area, the river bed is at a height of 21.80 m above sea level. So far, the Ems has flowed 155.9 km through North Rhine Westphalia and 30.4 km through Lower Saxony.
On the banks of the upper Ems there are 69% of utilized agricultural land, 17% are forest and forest land, 13% are cultivated land. 128 flats and rooms drain into the upper ems. The first named creek, which merges with the Ems, is the Schwarzwasserbach, which flows together neatly from Espeln with the Ems.

The middle Ems lies between Lingen-Hanekenfaer hr and Papenburg at the Meyer shipyard. In this area, the Dortmund-Ems Canal partly runs along the riverbed of the Ems, but it keeps on cutting off river loops.

lower ems is the area between Papenburg and the Mouth. Here you can find brackish water on the last 55 km.

Larger tributaries of the Ems on the left bank are the Werse and the Mammalian Aa. From the right, Hessel, Bever, Grosse Aa, Hase, Nordradde and Leda join the Ems.

human influences

Originally, there was a diverse floodplain landscape along the river which, after heavy rainfall, flooded to become large, shallow lakes. In the period between 1900 and 1950, the entire river was straightened and channeled in several stages of expansion. Old arms were cut off and floodplains were drained. An artificial trapezoidal river bed was laid out and secured with stones. In this way, the course of the river was shortened by about 70 km and the flow rate of the water was increased. As a result, the groundwater level in the catchment area of the Ems dropped sharply. In order to slow down the water, the water is now damned by means of fixed and mobile weirs.
The entire upper reaches of the Ems and their tributaries are technically advanced until Rheine. In the upper reaches of the river Ems in North Rhine-Westphalia there are 27 weirs. In the transitional area between the upper and middle reaches between Rheine and Gleesen the water level of the Ems is regulated by 4 locks, 2 fixed weirs and 1 sole sill. In the Middle Ems, the water level of the Dortmund-Ems Canal is regulated by 8 locks. The lower Ems was straightened until 1950 and then gradually deepened from the mid-1980s until the year 2000, to make them navigable for the newly built ships from the Meyer shipyard.

waste water

There are many industrial companies along the river Ems, and sewage treatment plants also introduce wastewater into the river. According to the wastewater management report of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (2012), 45 industrial companies are managing their wastewater at the headwaters after cleaning in a separate facility directly into the river. With a volume of water of 3 million cubic meters of water, 130 tonnes of nitrogen and 1 tonne of phosphorous in the form of phosphates reach the Ems every year. Other industrial companies are discharging their wastewater indirectly via municipal sewage treatment plants into the river Ems. 41% of the wastewater in the sewage treatment plants on the Ems and its tributaries comes from industry. The water from a total of 82 sewage plants flows directly or via tributaries into the Upper Ems. In addition to nitrogen and phosphate, the waste contains arsenic and heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead and zinc. The Ems is considered one of the most polluted rivers in Germany.

Ems excursion of the "Wasserpflanzenfreunde"

On May 14, 2017, the Regional Group North Rhine-Westphalia visited the Working Group on Aquatic Plants nine different position on the Upper Ems. We searched for aquatic plants and animals and sampled water at various points.

Ems origin

The Emsquelle lies 135 m above sea level. It is fed by rainwater that goes down over the threshing floor and then seeps into the ground as far as an impermeable clay layer. In the area of the Ems springs, the water comes out of the sandy bottom and forms a shallow brook with clear water.
White and yellow marsh marigolds bloomed right by the main spring in March. The entire creek bed is covered with watercress ( Nasturtiun officinale ). Somewhat below the source, the stream widens slightly. Here, in addition to watercress, there is also a narrow-leaved Merk ( Berula erecta ). Amongst rocks and deadwood we found larva, planaria and brown-throated crayfish. In addition, we found a 6 mm sludge ( Galba truncatula ) Flycatch larvae spin a silk thread with which they glue together sand grains, pieces of wood, or plant remains into a living room haulm. The type of building material is not typical of a species or genus but alternates depending on the supply of the building material and the larval stage or the size of the larva. Some caddisail algae do not build a quiver, but instead feed food from the stream with the help of self-spun nets.

Inflow of Schwarzwasserbachs at Espeln

Between the source and the tributary of the Schwarzwacherbachs the Ems in Hövelhof is dammed up to a pond and a little further down the ponds feed a trout farm and fishing ponds. In addition, the sewage treatment plant Hövelhof starts its sewage treatment. The place where the Schwarzwasserbach flows is about 12 km below the source. The Ems runs parallel to the road and the Schwarzwasserbach flows from the left to it. Together, the streams then flow under a road bridge. In the area grow water plague ( Elodea canadensis ), hornwort ( Ceratophyllum demersum ) and water star Callitriche .

road "An der Ems"

The place is about 15 km below the source. The Ems flows under a bridge. Behind it, the banks are unpaved for about 100 m. There is a flooding area where marsh marigolds and frothy grasses grow. The brook is about 40 - 50 cm deep here. Amongst the stones you can find crayfishes, flukes and stonefly larvae. Between the stones, water plague ( Elodea canadensis ). Thereafter, the Ems, in a canalized river bed, will walk several hundred meters parallel to the road.

"Am Teich" above Steinhorster Beckens

Above the tributary to the Steinhorster basin, about 25 km below the source, the Ems is dammed to a shallow pond. The road ("At the pond") leads along the nature reserve to a lookout tower from where water birds can be observed Ducks, gals and swans can be found at the pond. According to an angler, trout, carp and red feathers are in the water. In the area of the overflow of the pond, upright Merk ( Berula erecta ). On the shore are marsh marigolds.

There are quite a few ponds along the Ems. Many are designated as nature conservation areas.

Nature reserve Steinhorster Becken

Due to the course of the Ems and other waterways, there were frequent flooding in the cities Rietberg and Rheda-Wiedenbrück in the district of Gütersloh. In 1972, a water retention basin was built in Steinhorster Bruch to protect Rietberg and Rheda-Wiedenbrück from flooding from the river Ems. With dikes, an area was rebuilt, which should absorb the water of the Ems at high risk of flooding. For that, a weir can be closed.
In a trial, it was found that the waders and water birds settled in this basin. The decision was made to permanently water the water, thus providing shelter, amphibians and waterborne insects. From 1986 to 1990, there were created artificial ponds, ponds and islands in the area. Now there are 36 hectares of water and 18 hectares of humid grassland. Surrounded is the area of a 3 km long dike and up to 1.8 m deeper and up to 20 m wide ring trench. Since 1991, the Steinhorster basin nature reserve.

Sculpture Park in the Torfweg in Rietberg

The Sculpture Park is located directly opposite the Gartenschau Gelaunder in Rietberg. The Ems flows along the gel wall and supplies water to ponds and lagoons in the park. In the middle of the park is a large pond where koi carp can be seen. Here is a larger stock of mumps. On the banks of the Ems, the roots of the trees grow into the water. Here we could see fish (probably bream) spawning. Along the shore grow different sweet grasses. There is also a relatively large amount of wild garlic.

Kuhstraße in Harsewinkel

For long stretches, the Ems walk like a dead-straight canal in a fortified bed. In the upper reaches, the water is dammed up with the help of weirs. The "Kuhstraße" passes over such a weir. Part of the weir is designed as a sohle guide and allows fishes to pass. Waterwort (Callitriche), Mummeln ( Nuphar lutea ), Thousandleaf ( Myriophyllum ) and Quellmoos ( Fontinalis antipyretica ) grow at this location. In the Quellmoos on the stones live caddis fly larvae ( Hydropsyche contubernalis ). This species does not make any holes, but nets made of a fine web. The three body segments are sclerotized and dark brown. The first pair of legs is shorter than the other two and a bit more cramped. Typical is the oval head with the bright drawing. Under each abdomen segment, the animals wear harness straps. At the far end are fan-shaped hair tufts. Hydropsyche species are considered as pointer species for waters with a saprobic index of 2. They live in waters of Class II (moderately polluted).

Greffen "Neumühlenstraße"

As with Harsewinkel here, the Ems is dammed with a weir. There is no sohle guide, so the weir is not passable for fish. Here, too, Fontinalis stands on the stones.
At this point begins the nature reserve Emsaue, which extends to behind Telgte.

Emsaue bei Einen

The lea at Einen belongs to the areas of the Ems that have been renatured. The fortifications of the river bed were removed, old arms re-connected and artificial river loops created. The area is home to, among others, three-tailed duckweed ( Lemna triculca ), water star and glossy spawn Potamogeton lucens .

water messurements

In the course of the excursion we took water samples at 6 different points of the Ems and at the tributary to the Ems from the Schwarzwasserbach. These samples were examined by conventional water tests for aquaria. The accuracy of the tests is limited and it is not easy to assess the color nuances of the eye-popping tests with the naked eye. Another problem is that the tests may be inaccurate. To make sure that I do not create any phantasy scores, I tested my test for their validity.
For pH testing, a pH meter and JBL drip tests were available for the pH ranges 3.0-10.0 6.0-7.6 and 7.4-9.0. First, I tested the pH of a calibration solution (pH 7). The pH test (6.0-7.4) of JBL showed a pH of 7, the measurement 7,03. If the conductance gauges and my interpretation of the drip test differed for the samples, I noted the minimum and maximum values In testing for ammonium, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate, I've always tested a sample of diluted tap water to make sure that the test reagents in fact react to the substances sought. However, I have not made any calibration series to determine the accuracy of the measurement results. The staining of the water samples in the nitrate test was approximately the same for all samples. The inaccuracy of the test does not permit differences between 16 or 25 mg / L to be identified.

Standort pH-Wert KH Ammonium Nitrit Nitrat Phosphat
Quelle 7,2 - 7,4 3 n. n. 0,05 mg/l ca. 20 mg/l 0,01 mg/l
Ems am Zufluss vom Schwarzwasserbach 7,12 - 7,2 5 n. n. 0,2 mg/l ca. 20 mg/l 0,05 mg/l
Schwarzwasserbach 6,6 - 6,8 6 n. n. 0,1 mg/l ca. 20 mg/l 0,1 mg/l
An der Ems 7,0 - 7,4 5 - 6 n. n. 0,1 mg/l ca. 20 mg/l n. n.
Teich vor NSG 7,18 - 7,2 5 n. n. 0,05 - 0,1 ca. 20 mg/l n. n.
Unterhalb NSG 7,28 6 n. n. 0,05 - 0,1 ca. 20 mg/l n. n.
Kuhstraße unterhalb des Wehrs 7,4 - 7,6 8 n. n. 0,05 mg/l ca. 20 mg/l n. n.

The water is soft with a slightly alkaline pH. For fishweighers, the limit for nitrate is 20 mg / l. Weighted at a nitrate value of between 2.5 and 5.0 mg / l are considered to be contaminated with molybdenum. Accordingly, the Ems is critically burdened to heavily polluted. For the phosphate values, 0.1 mg / l is still considered good. Strains of 2.0 mg / L or more are critical.