Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany next to Berlin. It is also one of the 16 states of the German federation. In this sense, Hamburg is a city as well as a state. Hamburg is located in the northern German lowlands in the lower reaches of the Elbe River, about 100 km from the mouth of the river into the North Sea.

Read more about Hamburg City in case study report TU1206-WG1-006

The city and its needs

Hamburg and its surrounding metropolitan region is a dynamically developing region with a growing population and increasing trade and industry, in particular the port industry. Therefore, precautionary measures must be taken to protect the environment on the one hand and to repair existing damage to the environment from the past on the other hand. It is essential to create and maintain a comprehensive database on regional geological and water resource information for various aspects of land use in urban areas.

The landscape of Hamburg is dominated by the current division of the river Elbe with its low-lying marsh areas and adjacent Geest areas. The broad glacial valley of the Elbe separates the Geest area of arburg Hills in the south from moraine Geest area in the north. Hamburg and its surrounding areas are covered with Quaternary sediments (sand, silt, clay, till). Today’s topography had been formed during three glaciations, respectively the Elsterian, the Saalian and the Weichselian.

Geology and surface information

The Geological Survey as a part of the Ministry of Urban Development and the Environment (BSU) receives geological data from official boreholes, private boreholes (e.g. ground source heat boreholes, private water supply boreholes) and site investigation work associated with urban regeneration and development. Once validated, borehole data are stored within the Geological Survey borehole database and becomes instantly available within other live-linked data portals internally and externally via the BSU and internet website (

City facts

  • With 755,3 km², Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with 1.814.597 inhabitants (2012). The size of the port area is 74,4 km². Hamburg is also economically and culturally the centre of Northern Germany. 4,3 million people live in the metropolitan region of Hamburg – Figure 1.
  • The population density in Hamburg is 2402 Inhabitants per km². The total number of housing is 1.002 million (2012). The number of registered vehicles is 850.335.
  • The length of the road network is 4400 km (thereof are 83 km motorway). Hamburg has 2500 bridges, more than Venice and Amsterdam combined. The route length of the metro and tram is 873 km (281 stops). 13.7 million passengers are carried per year over the Hamburg airport. The Port of Hamburg is the second largest container port in Europe, with a turnover of goods of about 131 million tons.

Project Partners

Urban planning and management takes place in the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment (BSU).  The ministry is comprised of several offices with responsibility for transport, spatial planning, urban renewal, sustainability, resource protection and waste management. The Geological Survey, the COST principle partner at BSU, as well as the Water Department are parts of the office for Environmental Protection. In the field of geology and hydrogeology there is a close collaboration between the Geological Survey and the Water Department. In addition, a good collaboration exists with the state-owned public water supply company Hamburg Wasser.