The history of Munich’s sewer (Part 1)


Munich’s sewage system is over 200 years old and with its 2.400 km around 100 kilometers longer than all the streets of Munich together. As most sewage systems, it took quite a while to get it started. The first sewage canal was built in 1811. Over the next years, more canals were added inside the city without a final structure in mind. These canals were only allowed to be used for urine. The rest of the peoples’ dirt and garbage was just dumped on the streets. Imagine the smell!

1836 a doctor named Max von Pettenkofer found out that the reappearing of diseases was caused by all the dirt on the streets. He suggested a structured system for fresh water supply and wastewater disposal. His proposal to get the feces of the people off the streets and therefore improve the hygiene of the city was denied by the politicians of that time. The improvement was very expensive and the need for lower deaths rates due to epidemics wasn’t in their focus.

This changed in the year 1854. A big cholera epidemic killed over 3.000 citizens. The most famous one was Queen Therese of Bavaria. The Bavarian government urged the city council to invest in a functional sewage system. A civil engineer and later construction city council Arnold Zenetti was ordered to construct the first sewage system in Max- and Ludwigsvorstadt based on the example from Hamburg. This took place between 1862 and 1887. Later, a British engineer named James Gordon was paid to design a full plan for the sewer of Munich.

The next big step happened in 1885 when the city started an own department for the city drainage. At the beginning their main task was to clean the sewers so that they will not smell. As Max von Pettenkofer predicted, the death rates decreased significantly with the better sewage systems, from 41,7 persons per 1.000 citizens in 1879 to 15,6 in 1910. During that time, no wastewater treatment plant existed, and all the dirty water was just added into the Isar river.

How and when this changed will be posted soon, so get connected and join us for a better resource use.