The Donauinsel is a multifunctional project at the Danube with the ostensible purpose of regulating the Danube in the urban area of Vienna. To this end, a discharge canal for the Danube was built, providing a recreation area close to town for the Viennese in the form of an island in the river.
In addition to social functions, the planning phase, which started in 1975, also allowed for ecological and economical functions. The following technical measures were implemented: The construction of a discharge canal parallel to the left riverbank; today referred to as “New Danube”.
The excavation material was used to raise the Donauinsel, a freestanding island between the main stream and the discharge canal. The “New Danube” gets a water supply only during times of flooding, for the rest of the year the water surface on the New Danube remains even, comparable to a lake.
The recreation area encompasses 270ha water surface and 390ha public green space. The Donauinsel is best accessed via Underground which takes 7 minutes from the city centre. In addition, both tram and bus have their stops on the 5 bridges of the Danube. The high-speed railway stops very close-by. In summer, around 300,000 people frequent the island for bathing, sports and recreation on regular weekends. On special weekends – such as during the famous “Donauinselfest” organised by the Vienna Social Democrats in early summer – or during concerts, there are considerably more visitors. The island itself is divided into several zones which serve differing purposes: The whole area consists of sports fields, multiple large meadows, restaurants, other premises and barbecue areas (except the very outskirts of the south and north of the island which rather resembles a “wilderness”), is crossed by wide foot and bicycle paths. Private car traffic is prohibited on the entire island. In the south, some of the bayous of the Danube were retained as small sheets of water. They now make up a water-meadow-like habitat. The mature poplar forest adds to the effect. With the construction of the Danube power station “Freudenau”, another hydraulic engineering project was integrated into the existing plant.
The following projects were merged into the Donauinsel:
flood control measures;
ground water management for the 2nd and 20th district, the power plant Freudenau also serves that purpose amongst others;
a new sewage system for the northern districts;
recreation area in the city centre;
reduction of the weekend traffic into the areas surrounding the city;
recovery of the natural habitat of flora and fauna;
hydroelectric power station “Freudenau”;
water supply for the nearby Lobau, a water-meadow and wildlife sanctuary;
an urban project with the intention of at last integrating the Danube into the city itself, since Vienna had been perceived rather as being situated next to the Danube;
proceedings of civic participation where theconstruction of Feudenau power station was subject to a referendum at which 62% of the people were in favour.
The major works were completed in 1988, yet there will always be changes in the recreation area. Today, the Donauinsel and the New Danube are not only of importance to the Viennese urban population, but also to the entire region.
By now, the Donauinsel has developed into a popular recreation area close to the city for the Viennese population. Furthermore, in the northern and southern parts, naturist beaches are situated, which are among the largest such beaches in close proximity to any large city. Since the 1980s a multifaceted bar scene developed in the area at the bank opposite, located at the Reichsbrücke, also known as Copa Cagrana (named after the nearby district called Kagran) as well as on the Donauinsel (which has various changing names, at present: “The Island”). Since 1984, the Donauinsel has hosted a festival called the Donauinselfest, which takes place on an annual basis on a weekend towards the end of June (initially in May). There was, however, a smaller “cultural spring-time festivity” as early as 1983 in the already completed area around the Floridsdorfer Brücke. It was considered the predecessor of the Donauinselfest and was initiated by the SPÖ-politician Harry Kopietz. At first a small festival, it grew over the years into a three day event with more than three million visitors and remains one of the biggest open-air concerts in Europe with free admission. The festival grounds stretch along several kilometres; from the Reichsbrücke to the Nordbrücke.
The leisure island
Free access to sports and recreational activities.
Swimming bays with flat beaches.
Extensive path network for walkers, joggers, cyclists and skaters.
Picnic and barbecue areas.
Camping and playing fields.
Sports fields with competition equipment.
Beach volleyball pitches
Water ski lift.
Pedal-, rowing- and electric boat hire.
Restaurants and catering businesses.
North and south: sailing boat harbour with slipway
Rowing- and canoe world championship in the year 1991: for this purpose, the New Danube was extended downstream from the Steinspornbrücke (rowing: eight lanes at 13.5 metres, canoe: nine lanes at nine metres). Goal tower, boathouse, infrastructural facilities and grandstand construction in the region of the Steinspornbrücke
Inspection of the bathing freshwater of Vienna
During the bathing season, a total of 17 EU swimming areas are monitored by the Institute of Environmental Medicine (nine at the New Danube, seven at the Old Danube and one at the Mühlwasser). The inspections are carried out at intervals of two weeks. After a flooding in the New Danube, additional checkups are undertaken. At the inspection site, water transparency, pH-value and oxygen saturation are measured and the beaches are examined for visible contamination. In the laboratory, bacteriological and virological examinations of the water samples taken from the New Danube are carried out. The results are published regularly on the internet.