Basel Mittlerebrücke crosses the Rhine. (Photo Howard Brundrett Photography)

1. What is a River?

a) The Water Cycle

The Hydrological cycle, or water cycle, shows the movement of water between the atmosphere, land and oceans.
Rivers form part of the hydrological cycle. (Source USGS)
Click on the image to visit the interactive Water Cycle

Task 1: Complete the Water Cycle worksheet using the USGS interactive water cycle.

b) The Drainage Basin

c) The Rhine: From source to sea.

We see many changes in the appearance and characteristics of rivers as they transport water from their source to the sea. The Rhine begins life high in the Swiss Alps as a small stream that flows out of the Tomasee, 2,345m above sea level. By the time it reaches the sea in the Netherlands, it is a large river used by large ships.

An Interactive Map of the Rhine.

The long profile of a river.

Every large river has a similar profile. The length of the river and the altitude of the source may change but the overall form of the river will be roughly the same. The diagram belows shows how a river changes from source to sea. This is known as a rivers profile.

The Rhine’s long profile.

Task 2: Use the information in this section to create your own long profile of the Rhine.

A river changes dramatically as it flows downstream. Compare the photos of the Rhine to this diagram. Does the Rhine show the same features?

Cut out the photographs of the Rhine and place them in the correct order on the Long profile sheet. You can also use the interactive map of the Rhine to help you.

The Bradshaw Model suggests how a river will change as it travels from its source to its mouth.

Task 3: Complete worksheet 4, describing how the Rhine changes as it flows from its source to the sea.

d) The Importance of the Rhine: Benefits of the River.

The Port of Basel, St Johan, 1919. (Source Verschwundenes Basel)

Rivers and humanity:

Nearly 90% of the earth’s population lives within walking distance of a river system. Since the dawn of humanity, rivers have been important sources of sustenance. Throughout history and even today, people have built their settlements by the riverside where they have access to food, water, and transportation. The benefits that rivers have brought to humanity are countless; they have provided irrigation for farms and freshwater for people to drink, bathe and wash their belongings. For farmers, rivers provide a way to feed their herds. Riverbanks are lush sources of food even in the midst of the desert. They are sources of fish and seafood and they make it possible for crops to flourish.

In ancient Egypt, early farmers built homes and planted crops alongside the mighty Nile. In ancient India, the Harappa civilization was founded on the banks of the Indus River. Rivers have nurtured human civilizations for thousands of years and will continue to do so. Through developed irrigation systems, rivers irrigate 62 percent of all irrigated land. This land accounts for 40 percent of global food production, meaning rivers directly support approximately a quarter of global food production.

Globally, nearly 12 million tons of freshwater fish are harvested per year in river fisheries. This provides the primary source of protein for at least 160 million people. River fisheries provide livelihoods for 60 million people, with 55 percent of those being women.

(Source Why Rivers?)

e) Basel and the Rhine.

Around 550 million kWh of electricity are produced annually by hydropower, which corresponds to the electricity consumption of around 150,000 households or 17% of the total electricity consumption in the greater Basel region. 
Production also generates waste heat, thanks to which almost 1,500 apartments in the neighboring district are supplied with heating and hot water. (Source)

Task 4: Use the information from the video and the map below to describe the opportunities that the Rhine offers to the people living in the drainage basin. Complete worksheet 05

f) The Hazards of Living on the Rhine: Floods.

What Causes Flooding:

This is a great video from another Mr B.
A storm hydrograph is a graph to show how and when a rainfall event affects the discharge of a river.
This video shows a complete storm hydrograph. Notice the time difference between the peak rain fall and the peak discharge. This is known as the Lag Time.

Task 5: Use the information from this section to complete the two worksheets below. (07 & 08)

Roads and builldings make the ground imperiable making floods more likely.
Flooding is caused by both physical and human factors.
Impermiable streets prevent the rain water from soaking into the ground. Instead all of the water runs into rivers and streams.

Task 6: Why is Basel at risk. Complete worksheet 09 to gain a better understanding of why Basel is at risk from flooding.

g) How does Basel protect itself from floods?

In 1999 the Rhine almost flooded Basel. The flood protection worked. (photo source

Task 7: Basel Flood protection task.

In this task you are going to learn about the different ways that Basel is protected from floods. To do this you will be using a set of photographs and labels that explain what the form of protection is, how it works and both the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Flood Protection Task Instructions:

  1. Lay out the photographs on the desk and look for links between the photographs. Can you group the photographs together? Do you recognise any of the places in the photograph?
Photographs of the flood protection around Basel.

2. Take out the blue labels. The darker blue labels are the locations of each photo, the lighter blue labels give the name of each type of flood protection. Try to match the labels to the photographs.

3. Check the locations on this map to make sure that you have the correct labels for each photo.

4. Now take the green cards. These are all the advantages that come from the different methods of flood protection. Try to amtch them to the correct photos. Often the labels will fit more than one photo. In this case you can group the photos together. Don’t worry if you do not use all of the labels.

5. The flood protection in Basel is very effective however there are always problems. Take out the red cards and add these labels to the photos.

The Future