The Ruhrverband - as it stands today - is the union of the former Ruhrverband (Ruhr River Association) and Ruhrtalsperrenverein (Ruhr Reservoirs Association). It is one of eleven water associations in North Rhine-Westphalia, which are all responsible for designated river basins. Water demand and water supply do not always correspond in the individual catchment areas. As a result, interdependencies have come into force The Ruhrverband has put supra-regional water management solutions at the heart of its activities. It ensures that the Ruhr River has always enough water - the whole year round - to meet the supply requirements of some five million people, relying on a network of reservoirs it owns and operates in high-rainfall regions. In addition, the Ruhrverband has built and operated wastewater treatment plants for more than 90 years and with that it has markedly enhanced the Ruhr`s water quality.

Company details

P.O.Box 10 32 42 , Essen , 45 032 Germany

Locations Served

Business Type:
Service provider
Industry Type:
Water and Wastewater
Market Focus:
Locally (one state or province)

Our values

The term 'values' refers to the measures of value which determine the way the Ruhrverband handles its tasks and which the association expects to be acknowledged by its employees when interacting among themselves and with third parties. The Ruhrverband act forms the basis for these values, establishing the following key elements.

  • The Ruhrverband is committed to general public interests. 
  • It follows economic principles but doesn't strive for profit.
  • The Ruhrverband is based on democratic structures and functions as a self-governing body.
  • The cooperation of its members is based on cooperative principles. 
  • The Ruhrverband' work is task-oriented and the association develops its goals together with its members.
  • The Ruhrverband is politically independent and regionally positioned. 

Business guidelines
In a joint effort, the Executive Board, senior managers and the staff council have developed business guidelines for the Ruhrverband and its subsidiaries on the basis of the Ruhrverband act. They serve as an orientation for day-to-day work and the interaction between each other.

Members at the centre

  • The Ruhrverband's members are our customers and stand at the centre of our actions.
  • We are committed to the region in which we operate. 
  • Economical solutions and thoughtful approaches for our members lead to recognition - also on an international level.


  • We fulfil our tasks with commitment and as economically as possible.
  • We follow a cost and quality-oriented approach to work. 
  • We assume an active role when it comes to developing and improving operational processes. betrieblicher Abläufe.
  • Everyone of us makes a valuable contribution to the Ruhrverband's success. 


  • Mutual trust and respect are indispensable elements of successful teamwork and for the fulfilment of our tasks.
  • We speak to each other openly and pass on information in a timely manner while observing the confidentiality of certain information.
  • Our actions are characterised by fairness and honesty.
  • We delegate responsibilities and actively assume our own responsibilities. 
  • We treat others in a way we would like to be treated by others. 


  • We stick to our agreements.
  • We are reliable and competent partners in all matters concerning water management along the River Ruhr. 
  • As reliable partners we guarantee the continuous improvement of our technological, technical, ecological, legal and economic competencies. 
  • We strive for utmost safety and the protection of our employees' health at work. 

Equal opportunities

  • It's our duty to enable gender and generation equality as well as the possibility to combine a family with employment. We ensure equal opportunities by assessing possible gender disadvantages already before a decision is being taken.
  • We offer young people prospects for the future.
  • We actively support ongoing training for our employees. 
  • We acknowledge performance and commitment across gender, age or function. 
  • Men and women enjoy equal career opportunities.  


  • We don't rest on our laurels. 
  • We continuously check whether the focus and procedures of our work are still appropriate. 
  • We develop innovative, sustainable and at the same time economical solutions for the benefit of our members and the environment.
  • We identify new developments early on and shape them based on our long-term experience in water management.


The Ruhrverband is a corporation under public law. It looks back on almost 100 years of water management. In 1913, the former Ruhrverband and the former Ruhrtalsperrenverein (Ruhr reservoirs association) were founded based on Prussian special laws. The Ruhrtalsperrenverein already existed from 1898 until 1913 as an association under private law. With the revision of the Ruhrverband act (Ruhrverbandsgesetz) both water associations merged on July 1, 1990 to form today's Ruhrverband.

The association is a self-governing body but subject to the legal supervision of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The supervision lies with the Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection.

Municipalities and districts within the region as well as businesses and industrial enterprises discharging sewage are members of the association, as well as other businesses and public water suppliers and other water abstractors and power unit operators.

Since 1990, the Ruhrverband is based on an internal structure similar to that of a public limited company. The Ruhrverband's bodies comprise the Assembly of Associates, the Supervisory Board and the Executive Board. The rights and duties of these bodies are laid down in the Ruhrverband act, in the Ruhrverband's statutes, in the Executive Board's rules of procedure and in the rules of procedure for the associations's administration.

What are the benefits of the association principle?

  • Self-administration guarantees the participation of members when it comes to fulfilling the association's tasks and laying down the guidelines for the distribution of fees. It's in the members own interest to implement the 'polluter pays principle', the guiding principle of modern environmental law. 
  • Since the Ruhrverband is responsible for the entire Ruhr catchment area, its activities can be based on the natural conditions and are independent of administrative borders. 
  • Working across regions, the Ruhrverband can leverage cost synergies when it comes to planning, constructing and operating its facilities. 
  • As a corporation under public law which can stipulate its own membership contributions, the Ruhrverband enjoys high creditworthiness and access to the favourable credit terms of municipal loans and other low-interest programmes of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Ruhr region is one of Europe's most important conurbation. More than 5 million people live and work here - accounting for around 6.5 per cent of Germany's population.

The region takes its name from the river flowing along its southern boundary - the Ruhr. Judging from its length, its flow and the size of its catchment area, the Ruhr is a rather small river. It is 219 kilometres long and the mean flow at its mouth amounts to around 80 cubic metres per second - much lower than for instance the Rhine's mean flow of 2,510 cubic metres per second at Duisburg. The Ruhr's catchment area covers 4,485 square kilometres, around five times the size of Berlin or double the size of the Saarland federal state. The Ruhr originates 674 metres above sea level from the Ruhrkopf mountain in the Sauerland region (near Winterberg) and flows into the Rhine near Duisburg, 17 metres above sea level. Its most important tributaries are the Lenne, the Volme, the Möhne, the Wenne and the Röhr.

In the industrial area's section to the right of the Rhine and in the Sauerland region, the Ruhr and its tributaries supply 4.6 million people as well as businesses and industrial enterprises with drinking and industrial water. The industrial area features an extremely high population density, which is why water consumption is seven times as high as the national average. This calls for special measures to ensure optimum supply of drinking water and sewage disposal, two aspects which count among the most important foundations for the coexistence of a large number of people. The business and industrial communities as well cannot operate without powerful and reliable water management.

How the Ruhrverband developed

From a sparsely populated agricultural area to the largest conurbation in Europe: There's hardly another region to which industrialisation has brought such radical change in such a short period of time as it did to the Ruhr region. New coal-mining and iron-processing technologies boosted the coal and steel industry in the mid-19th century. More and more coal mines, coking plants and steel works were being set up in the heart of the Rhenish-Westphalian industrial area and attracted more and more workers. The population exploded. Within only a few decades, villages and rural communities grew into large cities with several hundred thousand residents. 

And all those coal mines and industrial plants, all the people surging into the Ruhr region needed water, more and more water. Soon, the old system of water supply from wells was far from covering the demand. The River Ruhr - even though a relatively small river judging from its length and runoff - was and still is today the only suitable main supplier of drinking and industrial water. This fact has over and over again led to water shortages. In the summer months, particularly the large cities of the lower Ruhr valley were left with hardly any water as the waterworks located upstream had already abstracted large quantities of water and mainly exported them into other river basins. Not least the power plant operators along the lower Ruhr were affected by this damaging abstraction as they were increasingly deprived of the 'fuel' for their turbines.

Against this backdrop, the Ruhrtalsperrenverein (Ruhr reservoirs association) was founded in 1899 as voluntary alliance of waterworks and power plants under private law. Already five years after the association's foundation, four reservoirs with an overall storage capacity of 16 million cubic metres were put into operation for the regulation of low water during the dry season.

In the following years, however, dangerous supply shortages still occurred and eventually caused the whole system to collapse in 1911: Weeks of heat and drought coupled with the waterworks' high abstraction levels and the discharge of untreated domestic and industrial sewage into the river - still common practice those days - turned the Ruhr's lower reaches into a blackish-brown, oily sludge. Typhoid broke out in Mülheim, infecting 1,500 people, and eventually the water shortage even disrupted industrial production along the lower Ruhr.

This extreme situation led to a break-through: Based on a Prussian special law, the Ruhrverband was founded in 1913 as a public-law water association designed to operate sewage treatment plants to keep the Ruhr clean. The same law also awarded a public-law status to the hitherto privately organized Ruhrtalsperrenverein. The law stipulated that all users of the Ruhr become members of these associations, including all municipalities and districts that were entirely or in part located in the associations' area, businesses and industrial plants discharging large quantities of sewage as well as public water supply companies and power plant operators. It was a courageous and at this time highly forward-looking decision, allowing the Ruhrverband and the Ruhrtalsperrenverein to manage the Ruhr's entire river basin as an entity across administrative borders, independent of political concerns and individual business interests. 

And even though smaller supply shortages during hot summers did occur until the completion of the Bigge Reservor in 1965 - the conflict about the usage and the quality of the river's water between the users of the upper and the lower Ruhr finally became a thing of the past. On July 1, 1990, the Ruhrtalsperrenverein and the Ruhrverband were merged into one water management association bearing the Ruhrverband's name. This association is responsible for the river basin management, including water quantity and water quality management.