The input of seven heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb and Zn) into the large river basins of Germany via various point and diffuse pathways were estimated for the period of 1985 through 2000. To quantify the emissions via point sources a nationwide survey on heavy metal data of municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial direct discharges was carried out. The input via diffuse pathways was calculated using an adapted version of the model MONERIS. This model accounts for the significant transport processes, and it includes a Geographical Information System (GIS) that provides digital maps as well as extensive statistical information. For a comparison of the calculated heavy metal emission with the measured heavy metal load at monitoring stations the losses of heavy metals due to retention processes within the river systems have to be considered. Therefore heavy metal retention was calculated according to the retention functions given by Vink and Behrendt. For the large river basins a good correspondence could be found between estimated and measured heavy metal loads in rivers. The total emission into the North Sea decreased for each metal during the period of 1985 to 2000. The reduction varies between 87% for Hg and 41% for Ni mainly caused by the decline via point sources. Today's emissions of heavy metals into river basins of Germany are dominated by the input via diffuse pathways. The most important diffuse emission pathways are “paved urban areas” and “erosion”.

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