What is the Joint Danube Survey?

The Joint Danube Survey 3 (JDS3), is the world’s biggest river research expedition of its kind in 2013, the UN International Year of Water Cooperation. JDS3 catalyzes international cooperation from all 14 of the main Danube Basin countries and the European Commission. The JDS is carried out every six years – JDS1 was in 2001 and JDS2 in 2007.

For six weeks between 13 August and 26 September, the JDS3 ships will travel 2,375 km downstream the Danube River, through 10 countries, to the Danube Delta. The JDS3 is coordinated by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). An international Core Team of 20 scientists is responsible for sampling, sample processing, on-board analyses and all survey activities.

Leading laboratories across Europe will carry out chemical analyses. Corporate partners, such as the Coca-Cola System and Donauchemie, support the JDS3 through financial contributions and by sharing their knowledge about water management from a private sector perspective. Public events and the website danubesurvey.org will ensure that everybody can get involved with JDS3.

Why is the JDS3 so important?

In 1994, Danube countries signed the Danube River Protection Convention (DRPC) to work towards joint management of water in the Danube’s catchment area. In 2000, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force. All countries of the ICPDR endorsed the WFD.

The WFD requires surface waters to achieve `good chemical and ecological status´ by 2015, basically meaning that the water should be clean, and provide good conditions, such as routes for migrating fish and suitable habitat for natural species to live healthily. It also required countries to develop a first River Basin Management Plan until 2009 and to identify measures they should take to achieve good status generally until 2015.

JDS1 and JDS2 provided essential information to help identify the main issues in the region and their causes, and assisted Danubian and European decision-makers in selecting the right measures to solve problems. The JDS3 follows up on this past work to determine if the status of waters has improved or deteriorated, as some key measures have already been put in place by countries. The results will feed directly into the next Danube River Basin Management Plan and the Joint Program of Measures to be adopted at the end of 2015.

The JDS3 will also raise awareness for water protection and the work of the ICPDR towards river basin management and sustainable development in the Danube River Basin - through active communications, media relations and public events during the expedition. 

What will be tested and how?

Two ships will lead the expedition. Serbia´s Argus, the main laboratory ship during both previous surveys, was recently refurbished and includes instruments such as a centrifuge, sieving machine, microscope, incubators and refrigerators. Romania’s Istros is a coastal and river research ship with six cabins, a lab and dining room. In addition, two Austrian vessels, the Wien and Meßschiff IV, will be used for fish sampling.

A total of 68 sites will be sampled, with one or two sites daily on average. All sample containers will be prepared, labelled and pre-packed before the survey. Each sampling site takes about four hours. Many samples will be tested on-board the ships, while others will be shipped to participating laboratories throughout Europe.

Sampling at JDS3 stations may include up to five different sample types – water, sediment, biology, suspended particulate matter (SPM) and biota (fish). The experts will conduct numerous tests, looking for animals and plants, from larger shellfish to microscopic bacteria, and chemical and hazardous substances. They will monitor physico-chemical parameters such as temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH, as well as radioactive contaminants. The study of hydromorphological characteristics will include activities such as sediment testing, creating inventories of harbours, sand bars and gravel banks, and measuring water velocity.  32 sites were chosen for monitoring fish. Non-lethal electro-fishing will be used to stun fish for collection. The river bottom will be sampled for fish with an electrified bottom trawler net. On-board experts will also remove fish blood and liver samples for toxicological analysis.

What are the results from JDS1 & JDS2?

For JDS1, positive findings included high levels of biodiversity and rare species. Negative results included concern over organic and microbiological pollution, heavy metals, oil from ships, pesticides and chemicals.

For JDS2, the findings again confirmed that cooperation among Danube countries was bringing positive results, with progress made in many areas since the JDS1. For example, water quality was generally improving, although more work was needed. People could swim in parts of the Danube River Basin, but not everywhere. People could eat fish without health risk, although further investigation of mercury concentrations was needed. And the Danube still had significant natural populations of plants and animals and large areas that remain in good natural condition.

The JDS3 will continue to sample, test and assess many of the same locations and parameters from JDS1 and JDS2. Hopefully, the results will again confirm that cooperation in the basin continues to reap rewards, and that the waters and life within them are progressively becoming healthier and safer for all.


  • application/pdf Joint Danube Survey Flyer (988.57 KB)
    Information flyer on Joint Danube Survey 3: objectives, measures and background at a glance.


  • JDS 2
    Website of the Joint Danube Survey 2