Water systems have undergone development since the Neolithic period. From dugout wells to engineering feats such as the Roman aqueducts, humans have devised innovative ways to make access to water more convenient. With thousands of years of human activity, virtually all of Europe’s springs, rivers, and lakes have been sourced for human use. Certain uses of water define many European cultures; picture Sweden’s hot springs, Denmark’s windmills, and Austria's alpine spring water. These cultural characteristics differentiate Europe from North America in both ancient and modern times. Water systems (springs and rivers) in the Old World have been altered by human ingenuity for thousands of years. In the New World, we are still discovering thousands of unmapped springs, even though all of our major rivers have undergone the transformation into, as Richard White calls them, “organic machines.”
In April 2015, Dr. Larry Stevens and Jeri Ledbetter attended the 5th International Multidisciplinary Conference on Hydrology and Ecology in Vienna, Austria. They presented their research, “Springs Ecosystem Inventory, Assessment, and Systematic Information Management: A Global Approach,” to members of the European Union to further SSI’s goal of creating an internationally standardized protocol for managing springs ecosystems.
As part of this international communication, SSI added its first European springs to Springs Online – Kläffer Spring. About 90% of Austria’s population (7.5 million people) source their water from central water supply facilities. The remaining 10% source water from their own domestic wells and springs. Kläffer Spring, a karst springs ecosystem, was first tapped in 1900. The springs ecosystem lies on the north side of the Hoschshwab, in the deeply incised Salza valley. Situated on a steep slope, the springs supplies 53% of Vienna’s water supply by gravity. Pumping out 75.4 million cubic meters per year, the water is also utilized to produce electricity to 50,000 households in the state of Vienna (Plan, L., G. Kuschnig, and H. Stadler 2010). One other alpine springs system supplies the remaining water to Vienna, making Vienna the only city in the world, with a population over 1.5 million, which can supply the daily quota of drinking water exclusively from mountain springs.
SSI is continuing communication with Austria and other European nations to continue developing improved methods of springs stewardship.