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Daniel Vischer and Hans-Uli Feldmann:

The first correction of the Jura waters, 1868–1891

Cartographica Helvetica 32 (2005) 17–32


Following a different course than today, the Aare used to meander from Aarberg in a northeasterly direction towards Meienried near Büren an der Aare without ever touching the Lake of Biel. In Meienried the Aare was joined by the Zihl flowing from the Lake of Biel and headed towards Solothurn. During periods of high water the area was frequently flooded, and the backwater in the Zihl caused the Lakes of Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten to overflow. Besides the obvious damages to crops, roads and settlements, the entire lake country was becoming transformed into marshland, a breeding ground for disease-transmitting insects, especially for malaria.

Therefore, various measures were planned as early as 1652. Two particularly devastating floods in 1831 and 1832 lead to the founding of a committee, headed by the local physician Johann Rudolf Schneider. During nearly 190 years, various projects were devised by different well-known engineers before Richard La Nicca finally proposed the only successful project in 1842.

The work on the actual Jura water correction began in 1868 and was completed in 1891. The core of this project was to direct the Aare from Aarberg into the Lake of Biel. This was achieved with the construction of the 8-km-long Hagneck Canal. But first, however, it was necessary to slice through a hill for a length of 900 m and a depth of up to 34 m. The most conspicuous result was that the water levels of the three Jura lakes were dropped to a common level. This decision allowed the entire area to be drained, however, numerous and extensive construction projects were required for harbors, bridges and roads. Thanks to the accuracy of the topographic surveys and their cartographic representation, it is possible to analyse and reconstruct the cultural and natural landscapes of former days.

After a few decades, the drained area had subsided so much as to require a second correction, carried out during the years 1962 to 1973.

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