Disclaimer:

Swimming in the Donaukanal is recommended for good swimmers only, that feel secure and comfortable in water at all times. Previous experience in open water swimming is desirable:  in lakes, other rivers or in the sea. Donaukanal swimmers need to be able to assess the changing situations at the Donaukanal and adapt accordingly. Swimming in Donaukanal is at your own risk.


Is swimming in Donaukanal legal?


Swimming is generally allowed in the Donaukanal although it is no official swimming spot. Only in a 100m radius around objects like landing stages of ships or working platforms and the watergates (Nussdorfer Schleuse) swimming is strictly forbidden.

Is the Donaukanal not too polluted for swimming?



Generally the water quality is the same as in the rest of the Danube. No wastewaters go into the canal uncleared. Of course, as with Danube and other waters in Vienna: after heavy rainfalls and in case of high water it is not recommended to swim, as the water quality drops in these situations. There could be overflowing wastewater Kanals and other dirt washed into our rivers. This condition is usually cleared after a few days. As swimming water quality is monitored on qualified swimming spots in Vienna, it is recommended to check the current water quality updates for swimming spots such as Neue Donau and Alte Donau and consider the information as directly comparable to the water quality of the Donaukanal.


But look at the color of water it looks really dirty doesn’t it?



The color of the water is affected by the soil runoff and sediments  that the Danube is carrying,  this is normal for a fast-flowing stream of that size.

If the water color is changing from green to brown and carries leaves and even branches, this is a sign that the water quality changed due to rainfalls and overflow. In this case swimming is not recommended.



Isn’t the current too strong?



The current of the Donaukanal is a risk for inexperienced swimmers. However, good swimmers can easily enter and exit Donaukanal.

As an example the river Aare in the city of Berne in Switzerland is enjoyed by thousands of swimmers on a sunny summer day – even though the current is way wilder than in the Donaukanal.


In fact being carried by the stream is a very pleasurable urban experience. It's a fully immersive experience, a way to explore the city from a completely different eye-level  than in usual everyday activities.



But aren’t there swirls?



In comparison to other rivers that are used for swimming the water is relatively timid – but obstacles in the water can lead to swirls. That’s also why it is forbidden to get close to objects in the water, such as landing stages, working platforms or ships.


As with all natural waters, it is recommended to check the situation carefully and find a spot to enter and exit, before swimming. Swimming in pairs or as a group can be beneficial for emergency situations, and a chance to take part in a shared / communal experience.



But no one has ever been swimming in the Donaukanal!



Swimming in the Donaukanal has a rich history, in the 1920’s,  there were public swimming pools on floats and people enjoyed swimming all along the canal. The banks of the Donaukanal have therefore also been called as “the Riviera of the working classes”. In the pre- and interwar era, there has even been a swimming competition staged in Donaukanal that was called “Across Vienna”. While experienced swimmers competed on long-distance swimming in the cold waters of the Kanal (varying from 11 to 14 degrees celsius), hundred thousands of spectators gathered to cheer on them along the banks. – see our blog archive for historical images



Why should I be swimming in the Donaukanal if I can go to the New or Old Danube or in any other Viennese Freibad?



First, it is a glorious experience to swim in the middle of the city. And why not use every possibility for refreshment in our everyday environment?

Secondly, as many other cities, Vienna is strongly affected by overheating in summer, so it seems logical to use the Danube sidearm that leads directly through the city center as a spot to cool down. The closer these spots are to our living areas, the better the impact is on our life quality and on our environment, from an ecological viewpoint.

Donaukanal as a public space in the city’s center is under strong economical pressure. Swimming offers a positive alternative that opens perspectives on a different development beyond mass tourism and pressure to consume in communal spaces. For swimming in the Donaukanal one does not need to buy a ticket and can just enter in the water wherever it is suitable – this activity should stay free and therefore spontaneous for all of us!

Having this vast amount of fluid/liquid public space 850.000m2 in the center of the city is a rare and precious quality Vienna has. To use the Donaukanal to have a swim on an everyday basis (as like a jog along the banks, but with refreshment) adds to Vienna's citizen's and visitor’s possibilities and brings joy. Swimming in Donaukanal offers a chance to get in touch with urban ecosystems and challenges our perception of nature and urban spaces.



What about the ships?



Even for experienced swimmers, ships can be dangerous. On downstream routes, ships are very fast and have no possibility to stop or evade you – as they have to operate faster than the speed of the current, in order to maneuver properly. From Schwedenplatz upstream, there are the ships of DDSG and downstream, there are the ships of Twin City Liner and DDSG.

It is possible and necessary to inform yourself about the ship schedules: both companies update their monthly schedules online. So one is easily able to prepare before swimming and find times where there are no boats. However, other boats (eg. smaller boats coming in from the Danube) can also pass outside of the schedule, so it’s good to be careful anyways!





Sources:



https://www.geschichtewiki.wien.gv.at/Donaukanal

https://www.derstandard.at/story/1313024695604/hitze-in-wien-schwimmen-im-donaukanal-erlaubt-aber-nicht-erwuenscht


https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/eiskalt-und-gletschergruen.1242.de.html?dram:article_id=260103

https://www.slrg.ch/de/praevention/3x6-regeln/flussregeln.html

https://www.slrg.ch/de/praevention/3x6-regeln/flussregeln.html

https://www.kantonslabor.bs.ch/umwelt/umwelt/wasser/tipps.html

https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt/wasserrecht/benutzung.html

https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=Bundesnormen&Gesetzesnummer=20008374


References:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIe19WhRRJ4&fbclid=IwAR0RH558n-RKog5Y0OWhmZg8lhNOkYx9hzQJhABBO5EgDtHn0ZCK6CNeEe8