Concern about (drinking) water quality

Agriculture & Fishery

Stadtarchiv Paderborn, Zeichnung der „Stadtwasserkunst“ an der Börnepader, 1705, A5253, p.359; Reproduktion des Kunstwerkes:, Fotografie und Design Ansgar Hoffmann

With the densification of settlements in the urban headwaters, the water quality of the Pader probably also deteriorated over the course of six centuries. Contemporary observations or even measurement data that objectively describe the quality of the river water before industrialisation have been available since the 1820s at the earliest. For the older periods, there are only sporadically recorded indications, from which, however, early modern ideas of quality can be read.

As early as 1573, the tanneries, fur tanneries and red tanneries working in the Pader spring area were relocated from the city centre to the periphery, specifically to the outlet of the Pader at the „Wassertor“ (water gate), due to alarming water pollution.[1] A good 40 years later, an early hymn of praise to the excellent quality of the Pader water appears, admittedly poetically exaggerated. Father Johannes Horrion expressed himself quite effusively in his “Panegyricus” (1616), which he wrote for the inauguration of the Paderborn Jesuit University:

„What should I say about our barley juice, for which our fat fields provide the grain, our blessed springs the water in abundance? Whoever drinks it does not ask for […] Falerner. It quenches the thirst better and is not at all inferior in its power to warm the stomach and strengthen the body. Should the large number of sources be meaningless? It is doubtful whether one should be more pleased with their tasty, wholesome water or with the pleasurable sight they afford. […] What pleasure to contemplate only the water, which is more transparent than crystal.“[2]

Only eight years later, Jakob Hein, an engineer and master organ builder from Fritzlar, paints a picture that takes a more critical look at the hygienic situation in the spring area. In the autumn of 1624, the designer of the „Jesuitenwasserkunst „ (Jesuit waterworks) admonishes his employees not to use the polluted Börnepader for the drinking water supply of the college in the upper town, but to have a new spring set in stone:

„So that pure water may always come to the kitchen [of the Jesuit College]:/ the waste which is poured daily into the same stream [Börnepader] is turned back, […] and as far as I understand, no loca [privies] are used in the same place but the same wide stream p. which waste can bring neither the art nor the house any benefit, a clean well [separate source of the Pader] must therefore be dug and led into the art [,] which is brought up without the [dirty] brook[water].”[3]

According to this, as can already be proven for the 13th century, at the beginning of the 17th century the inner-city Pader water was polluted by the discharge of solid and liquid substances such as street sweepings, rinsing and washing water as well as faeces.[4] An effective remedy could therefore only consist in the development and supply of pure spring water. This was to be collected in a „clean well“ and fed to the pumps of the waterworks in an underground channel. The drive energy for the water wheel, on the other hand, should still be supplied by the polluted Börnepader.

Paderborn City Archive, drawing of the „Stadtwasserkunst“ (city waterworks) on the Börnepader, 1705, A5253, p.359; reproduction of the artwork:, photography and design: Ansgar Hoffmann

Anthropogenic water pollution of this kind was also evident in the 18th century in the upper town. In 1738, the council forbade the bourgeois servants to wash clothes in the „Neptunkump“ on the market. This was because the Börne water pumped up by the town waterworks was to serve as clean drinking and kitchen water for the inhabitants.[5] Up to the beginning of the 19th century, there was apparently little change in the quality of the water in the town centre. In June 1808, the Royal Prussian building inspector Ganzer drew up a cost estimate for the repair of the dilapidated town waterworks. The official casually reported the hygienically precarious condition of the Börnepader to Münster:

„The Pader water, which is distributed by the waterworks into the city […] is so polluted at this distance by the much washing and the unavoidable pouring in of many impurities, that the use of this water becomes not only very disgusting, but detrimental to health itself.”[6]

Just like master builder Hein in the 17th century, Ganzer again proposed the „capture“ of a „very rich and always pure“ Pader spring. Its fresh water was to be conducted parallel to the open-flowing Börnepader „by means of [iron] pipes to the pumps of the Wasserkunst“.

In Castle Neuhaus, at the outflow of the Pader into the Lippe, people were also concerned about the water quality of the river early on. Apart from the excellent water quality of the „Padulusquelle“ (Padulus spring), whose source pot Prince-Bishop Ferdinand von Fürstenberg had specially set in marble to the north-east of the Nepomuk Bridge in 1665,[7] the actual flowing water became increasingly polluted in the 19th century due to the increase in population. Thus, in August 1825, the Royal Prussian District Physician and Medical Councillor Dr. Schmidt, commissioned by the Neuhaus garrison administrator Trettner, examined the „nature of the water that supplies the barracks buildings at Neuhaus and from which people and animals enjoy.“[8] In addition to the „main stream“, he also walked the „smallest outlets and canals“ in the town itself – and came to a sobering conclusion: „As rich in water as Neuhaus is, the town is all the poorer in terms of cleanliness in the areas where the poorer class of people live.“ Especially „towards the west side of the village“ the doctor discovered vegetal impurities. This included the „amount of water plants that had turned into must, of which the canals were flooded“. Their remains were deposited as green mud „completely covering the surface of the water ditches“. Deposits of this kind disqualified the Pader as a drinking water supplier, also because Schmidt found the water „not pure enough“ in terms of taste and appearance after drinking it.

In addition to decaying plant remains, it was the metabolic products of humans and animals whose discharge significantly reduced the drinking quality of the Pader water even before industrialisation. The „inner quality of the excellent Pader springs in the city“ deteriorated noticeably at the end of the short river in Neuhaus. This was mainly due to sewage from within the town, which came „from the houses and the stalls, dung heaps [and] flowing cesspools“. The physician considered the „Ringgraben“ to be particularly polluted.

This open canal supplied the southern and western quarters of the town with service water from the „Mühlenpader“ before it flowed into the Schlossgraben. This also served the residents as a reservoir for the town’s fire-fighting water. Here, in the immediate vicinity of the barracks square, the quality of the Pader water probably deteriorated to such an extent that it was unsuitable for human and animal consumption.[9] But the inhabitants of the southeastern settlement area of Neuhaus, through which two branches of the Pader flowed, were also affected by water pollution. District physician Schmidt explicitly mentions the discharge of industrial wastewater caused by the blue dye works of master Henrich Münder in Neuhaus. According to the original cadastre (1832), his house garden was located directly next to Heinrich Bodenstab’s grain mill on the western bank of the „Mühlenpader“.[10] Therefore, „washed-off paint substances“ from the dye works reached the eastern side of the barracks island via the first metres of the Lippe. [11] The Minden district government had therefore instructed the Paderborn district administrator von Elverfeldt, as early as July 1825, to prohibit Master Münder from discharging the dirty water flowing off his property directly into the river – a requirement that was apparently only temporarily complied with in Neuhaus.[12]

In the course of Paderborn’s industrialisation, new questions about the water quality of the Pader arose in the second half of the century. In 1878, for example, the city investigated whether the river was suitable as a water supplier for steam engines. In a report by Paderborn’s „Wasserbaukommissar“ (water construction commissioner) and engineer R. Dullo, the quality of the spring water was again confirmed:

„The quality of this service water is a completely clear one, its temperature 9 ¼ Reaumur, and the same may well even now be called an excellent good one for drinking and for domestic purposes.“[13]

To Dullo’s surprise, a chemical analysis of the Pader water also proved that, despite its hardness, it was also suitable for operating steam locomotives. A water sample taken from the river at the „Promenadenbrücke“ near the city revealed that the Pader had only one third of the maximum permissible level of „scale formers“.

View from the „Promenadenbrücke“ to the „Stümpelsche Mühle“ and Gerberhütten, around 1960 (Stadt- und KreisA Pb, photo H. Ertmer, S-M4D, No. 6959)
View from the „Promenadenbrücke“ to the „Stümpelsche Mühle“ and Gerberhütten, around 1960 (Stadt- und KreisA Pb, photo H. Ertmer, S-M4D, No. 6959)

These internal limescale deposits in pressure boilers, valves and pipes were feared by engineers because they could successively destroy machine parts.[14] With this positive finding, Dullo was confident that Paderborn would gain in economic attractiveness thanks to the natural water quality of its river.

Despite the suitability of the Pader water for industrial operations, the Pader itself was only of limited use as a drinking water supplier, which is also reflected in the pre-industrial water supply in Neuhaus. Due to favourable hydrogeological conditions – a water-bearing gravel layer led sufficient groundwater into the village – households are likely to have drawn their drinking water from domestic and municipal wells since the Middle Ages.[15] Around 1900, only a few wealthy private households were initially connected to a first modern long-distance water pipeline, which was fed from the waterworks on Trothastraße. Until the 1940s, the main consumer of the clean groundwater was the military with its horses, which had been quartered on the former castle grounds since the 19th century. The first central water supply, which supplied the entire town, was only built by the Paderborn public utility company between 1955-57. Until then, outside of private well communities, several community pumps, which were publicly accessible on streets and squares, covered the population’s basic needs for drinking and service water.[16]

[1] Cf. Ehrenpreis/ Horstkämper, Paderborn, p. 82.

[2] Quoted after Schröder, Franz: Geschichte der Wasserversorgung der Stadt Paderborn, Manuskript masch. Paderborn 1981, p. 13.

[3] Cf. Report of Jakob Heins to the principal Paderborn Jesuit college, o. D. [1624], EAB Pb, Studienfonds Paderborn, Akten I, Nr. 30, fol. 26r.

[4] Heinrich Schoppmeyer mentions two complaints from Paderborn bishops to the council for the years 1281 and 1412, in which the „overbuilding“ of the inner-city arms of the Pader with „stalls and pigsties“ was criticised. Schoppmeyer, Paderborn, p. 293.

[5] Cf. Schröder, Geschichte der Wasserversorgung, p. 59.

[6] Cf. quotation, 9 June 1808, StadtA Pb, A 888, fol. 29r-34v, here 29r. The contamination of the Pader with washing water probably comes from the „washhouse“ of the seminary (Jesuit college until 1773), which it maintained right next to its „Jesuitenwasserkunst“ (Jesuit waterworks) on the so-called „Pickelei“. Cf. Ströhmer, Michael: Strukturkonservativismus in Umbruchszeiten – Von der jesuitischen „Theodoriana“ zum (fürst)bischöflichen „Universitätshaus“ 1773-1819, in: Meyer zu Schlochtern, Josef (Ed.): Die Academia Theodoriana. Von der Jesuitenuniversität zur Theologischen Fakultät Paderborn 1614-2014, Paderborn 2014, p. 207-236, here p. 214; 218. Cf. also Hohmann, Klaus: Die Wasserkünste der Jesuiten und der Kapuziner an den Paderquellen, in: Die Warte 164 (2014), p. 23-28.

[7] Cf. Santel, Gregor G.: „Fons Padulus“ – Die Entdeckung des Ortes der Padulus-Quelle in Schloß Neuhaus, in: Die Residenz 85 (1994), p. 1-6.

[8] Cf. his assessment from Paderborn of 31 August 1825, LA Detmold, M 1 III E, Nr. 151, unfol.

[9] In 1892/93, the Ringgraben was lined with cement troughs to improve the water quality, but this did not help much. In 1935, the inlet of the polluted Ringgraben in front of the Burggräfte was finally filled in. Cf. Kandler, Ekkehard/ Krieger, Karla/ Moser, Marianne: Archäologische Bestandserhebung in Nordrhein-Westfalen: Paderborn – Schloß Neuhaus, Köln 2003, p. 37. Friendly hint by Dr. Sveva Gai, Stadtarchäologie Paderborn.

[10] Cf. Kataster Gemeinde Neuhaus, Mutterrolle v. 1832, LA Detmold, M 5 C, Nr. 1470. House garden and residence were located in Flur V, Parzellen 14 and 15.

[11] Cf. Instruction of the District Government of Minden to District Administrator von Elverfeldt, 19 August 1825, LA Detmold, M 1 III E, Nr. 151, unfol.

[12] The district government itself expresses doubts in its instruction to the Paderborn district administrator „whether our order is fully complied with“. LA Detmold, M 1 III E, Nr. 151, unfol.

[13] Quoted after Schröder, Geschichte der Wasserversorgung, p. 148.

[14] Cf. Report R. Dullo, quoted after Schröder, Geschichte der Wasserversorgung, p. 156. The sample in the section of the „Promenadenbrücke“ resulted in a total of 464 g hazardous substances/ cbm river water.

[15] Cf. Berhörster, Anton: Die Wasserversorgung im alten Neuhaus, in: Die Residenz 18/24 (1985), p. 29-37. Upscale households later afforded a brightly polished copper house pump that drew its groundwater from an older, often covered well shaft. Friendly hint by Mr. Michael Pavlicic.

[16] Berhörster lists the following locations: 1. well pump on „Eckardtstraße (at the former fire station)“, 2. corner of „Buse- and Immedingerstraße“, 3. „in front of the house Reißmeier“, 4. on „Bielefelder Straße“ at the house Böhle, 5. „Padulusstraße“ former „Ninive“, 6. „Auf dem Koksplatz“, today “Marienplatz” directly on the street. Berhörster, Wasserversorgung, p. 31.

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This is an excerpt from an essay by the historian Prof. Dr. Michael Ströhmer. The original title of the essay is: "Wirtschaftsregion Pader - Eine geschichtswissenschaftliche Skizze (1350-1950)". Should you have further interest in the economic history of the Pader, we recommend downloading the complete essay (PDF file).

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