Cause for construction
Originally Vienna’s water supply came from domestic wells. Without any working canalisation in place, the quality of the water increasingly worsened, making outbreaks of typhoid, cholera and other epidemics more frequent. The first water pipelines primarily served the Imperial Household, nobility and monasteries. The majority of Viennese had only a few water fountains in the city where they could access better quality water; the ‘water-man’ with his wagon who sold fresh water from a large barrel was a typical sight on Viennese streets. So, at the beginning of the 19th century, the springs in the Vienna Woods to the west and south of the city were more intensively tapped and piped into the city, via the Albertinian Water Pipeline from 1804 and the Emperor Ferdinand Water Pipeline from 1841.
In the second half of the 19th century, the population of Vienna quadrupled. In order to provide the growing city with water it was decided in 1864 that the first Vienna spring water main be built, initiated by the city council and geology professor Eduard Suess. The water was to be piped from the Rax-Schneeberg area in the northern Limestone Alps on the border of Lower Austria with Styria. It would travel from Kaiserbrunn, over 100 km away, and descend naturally to Vienna without a single pump. Valleys and waterways would be overcome with 22 aqueducts and canal bridges, mountains with 29 tunnels. The water flowed from Kaiserbrunn into water containers on Rosenhügel in 16 hours with an elevation difference of 280 m.
Construction began at the end of 1869 and the water main was inaugurated in 1873 with the unveiling of the fountain on Schwarzenbergplatz as the representative end point of the water main. Gradually all Viennese households were connected, as was Vienna General Hospital, today’s University Campus, in 1875.
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Photo: Häferl, 2014