World Cultural Heritage Site Oberharz Water Management

Visit the Oberharz Water Management System during your holiday in the Harz Mountains - a unique water management system that was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in August 2010. The Committee recognised the Oberharz Water Management System as one of the world's largest pre-industrial energy supply systems. The World Heritage Site "Upper Harz Water Management System" consists of 107 historic ponds, ditches with a total length of 310 km and watercourses with a total length of 31 km.

More than 800 years ago, Cistercian monks in the Harz Mountains created this water channel system to utilise water power for mining in the region. Without the intensive utilisation of water energy, the Harz Mountains would probably not have been able to develop into one of the most important mining regions. Today, the Oberharz water management facilities are listed as historical monuments, but some of them are still used to extract drinking water.

Oberharz Water Shelf - what is it?

The Oberharz water management system is often referred to as the "Oberharz Water Regal". However, this does not refer to the stepped ponds and ditches on the Harz mountainsides. Rather, the term originates from the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, regions held certain royal sovereign rights, known as regals. As the Oberharz region had the right to utilise the region's water sources, the Upper Harz water management system is also known as the Oberharz Water Regal.

Monks built the first facilities of the Oberharz water management system

In the early 13th century, the Cistercian monastery Walkenried a part of the Oberharz mining areawas transferred to the monastery. The monks of the monastery thought about how they could utilise water power to mine ore and developed the first installations of the unique water management system. The Oberharz water management system created by the monks was further expanded by Harz miners between the 16th and 19th centuries.


WasserWanderWege - Hiking along the Oberharz Water Regal

The 22 Water Hiking Trails of the Harz Waterworks take you past both still utilised and disused ditches of the Oberharz water management system. You walk along the pond chains of the water management system and discover old wheel pits, tunnel mouths and pings (depressions). On 300 heraldic panels and 100 information boards, you will learn lots of interesting facts about the Upper Harz water management facilities. The network of Water HikingTrails covers a total of almost 113 kilometres. The individual hiking trails are between 0.3 and 11.5 kilometres long.

©irottlaender –

Oberharz Water Shelf" exhibition


Experience the Oberharz Water Management UNESCO World Heritage Site on several guided tours until the end of October. Certified World Heritage Guides will lead you through the Oberharz Water Management System. Further information is available at

©Vanessa Lader