Substances hazardous to waters

The map shows the water protection areas of GermanyClick to enlarge
Map of water protection areas
Source: WasserBlick/Bf

Facilities handling substances that are hazardous to waters have to be built and operated in a way that water bodies are protected from pollution and detrimental changes. To this end, the substances need to be investigated regarding their hazardous properties and classified accordingly.

Classification of substances hazardous to waters

All substances already assigned to a water hazard class or classified as non-hazardous to waters can be browsed using the UBA online database Rigoletto.

Operators intending to handle a substance or a mixture in a facility are legally obligated by the Administrative Regulation on the Classification of Substances Hazardous to Waters (General Administrative Regulation under the Federal Water Act on the Classification of Substances Hazardous to Water in Water Hazard Classes; VwVwS) to assigne said substance or mixture to a water hazard class (WGK). The operators shall document their own classification of a substance (self-classification) and submit the documentation-form to the Office of Documentation and Information on Substances Hazardous to Waters (Dokumentations- und Auskunftsstelle wassergefährdende Stoffe) at the Federal Environment Agency. There the documentations of substances are collected and formally inspected for completeness and plausibility. The resulting WGK-classifications are posted online.

Furthermore, the staff at the Dokumentations- und Auskunftsstelle wassergefährdende Stoffe shall respond to queries such as those concerning the classification procedure, the formal and scientifically correct determination of the WGK, the interpretation of test results on aquatic toxicity and fate and current classification of specific substances. Operators may also get support for their self-classification of a mixture. The self-classifications of mixtures are not collected at the Federal Environment Agency. However, the documentation of the said classifications must be made available to the local competent authority of the federal state of Germany where the facility is located. For this documentation a form is available.

The criteria that form the basis to classify a substance into a water hazard class (WGK 1, WGK 2 or WGK 3) or as non-hazardous to waters (nwg) are laid down in Annex 3 of the VwVwS. An important difference between WGK-classification and other classification systems is that substances currently insufficiently investigated, not jet classified or not chemically identified are regarded as highly hazardous to waters (WGK 3) for reasons of precaution.

Supporting documents

The following documents are intended to assist operators in executing their own classifications. However, they cannot cover every individual case and do not comprise any legal force. Unfortunately, the documents are available in German only.

Please note that the appointment of KBwS members expired at the end of 2014.

Guidelines for self-classification
(a classification manual)

LTwS-Schrift Nr. 10
(a comprehensive guidance document also covering some exceptional cases)

Flow diagram for determining the substances hazardous to water
Flow diagram for determining the water hazard class of mixtures
Source: LTwS-Schrift Nr.10 Fließdiagramm als PDF

Substances hazardous to waters

  • Dokumentation form for substances

    Form for the documentation of a WGK classification according to annex 3 of the Adinistrative Regulation on the Classification of Substances Hazardous to Waters (Verwaltungsvorschrift wassergefährdende Stoffe -VwVwS) of May 17th, 1999 and Amendment of the VwVwS on July 27th, 2005

    Document form: Classification of Substances (pdf)

  • Documentation form for mixtures

    Recommendation for a form to document a WGK classification pursuant to annex 4 of the Administrative Regulation on the Classification of Substances Hazardous to Waters (Verwaltungsvorschrift wassergefährdende Stoffe -VwVwS) of May 17th, 1999 and Amendment of the VwVwS on July 27th, 2005

    Dokument form: Classification of Mixtures (pdf)

  • Flow diagram to determine the water hazard class of mixtures (in German)

    Flow diagram