In the mid-nineteenth century the citizens of Augsburg had a better supply of water than those of most European cities, and some of the means of delivering that supply dated from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
From 1416 artesian wells were sunk at the Rotes Tor (red gate) in the city, together with wooden tours that maintained pressure in the water main. One such tower built by Hans Felber was replaced by a stone one, which was altered in 1669 and again in 1746 when it took its present form. A smaller tower alongside it dates from 1476, but incorporates alterations of 1556 and 1672. In 1599 a tower that had been part of the city fortifications was raised in height and adapted as a water tower. Nine more water towers were added in the eighteenth century together with new pumping plant.
With the aid of steam engines, iron pipes and scientific research most cities in Europe came to have a supply of clean, healthy water by 1900. Fifty years earlier Augsburg was remarkable because it was, in the words of the author of the most authoritative English guidebook of the time, ‘one of the first cities in Europe in which water was supplied to the houses, even to the upper stories, by waterworks still existing’.
The city of Augsburg's water management system, developed in several phases from the 14th century to the present day, with its technical innovations, was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 2019 in recognition of Augsburg's pioneering role in hydraulic engineering. The World Heritage Site includes a network of canals, water towers from the 15th to 17th centuries that housed pumping machines, a water-cooled butcher's hall, a system of three monumental fountains and hydroelectric power plants that still provide sustainable energy today.