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GREAT-ER – Geography-referenced Regional Exposure Assessment Tool for European Rivers

GREAT-ER (Geo-referenced Regional environmental Exposure Assessment Tool for European Rivers) is a model for environmental risk assessment and management of chemicals in river basins. The GREAT-ER model is designed as an advanced environmental exposure model for chemicals in river basins, for use e.g. in the European chemicals risk assessment process (REACH), and in the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The model is implemented as part of a software system that combines a GIS (Geographic Information System) with fate models to produce a simple and clear visualisation of predicted chemical concentrations and water quality along a river.

GREAT-ER is a tool to study the impact of chemicals emitted by point sources into rivers by calculating GIS-based equivalents of ‘PEClocal’ and ‘PECregional’ for the aquatic environment. It is most suited for modeling chemicals that are emitted down the drain from wide dispersive consumer use, or from defined point sources such as waste water treatment stations or industrial production plants. The use for modeling the exposure of ingredients of detergents, personal care products and pharmaceuticals is well documented.

GREAT-ER is currently implemented for a variety of European river basins: 5 in the UK (Aire, Calder, Went, Rother, Exe), 1 in Italy (Lambro), 6 in Germany (Itter, Unter-Main, Main, Rur, Rhine in Northrhine Westfalia, and Elbe), 1 in Belgium (Rupel), 1 in France (Mayenne), 1 in Spain (Llobregat) and 1 in Switzerland (Glatt). The applicability of the model is however generic and not limited only to European river basins.


The most current publicly available version is GREAT-ER 3.0 Desktop (2011), designed for Microsoft Windows XP and 7*. The entire system is based on open source software and can be installed without any license fees under the GNU Public License. Most notably the database has been replaced by the Open Source Software PostgreSQL. This development was done under CEFIC-LRI in collaboration with Intevation GmbH. This version of GREAT-ER is available for free under the GNU Public License to anyone involved in environmental research, risk assessment, management or education via schowanek.d@pg.com.

The original GREAT-ER 1.0 model was released in 1999. It was designed for use with Microsoft Windows® NT 4.0 Operating System, and ESRI ArcView® 3.0a, 3.1 or 3.2 GIS Software. This project was an initiative of the Environmental Risk Assessment Steering Committee (ERASM) of the Association Internationale de la Savonnerie, de la Détergence et des produits d’Entretien (AISE) and the Comité Européen des Agents de Surface et de leurs Intermédiaires Organiques (CESIO), in cooperation with the UK Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and ECETOC.

The GREAT-ER 2.0 Desktop version for Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP, released in 2003, replaced the previous Arc-View GIS implementation. It was based on the platform-independent and free GIS data viewer ‘THUBAN’. This system also required the use of an Oracle® v. 8.1.7.database. A web-based version with more limited functionality was released at the same moment for easy public access. GREAT-ER 2.0 Desktop and GREAT-ER web software (2003), as well as an additional Sediment plug-in module (2006) were developed as part of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) Long range Research Initiative (LRI), in collaboration with Intevation GmbH, Technidata AG and Cranfield University.

The most recent version is GREAT-ER 4.0 (Kehrein et al., 2015) running under MS Windows as Add-In of ArcGIS Desktop 10 (ESRI®). It is hosted by the Institute of Environmental Systems Research at Osnabrück University and is under continuous development for different end-users (e.g Bavarian Environment Agency, North Rhine-Westphalia State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection) and various research questions. A publicly available test version (GREAT-ER 4.1) is in preparation, but not yet completed. Currently, implementation of new catchments for use with the system is done by a semi-automatic routine that requires trained personnel. For more information, you can contact Dr. Jörg Klasmeier (jklasmei@uos.de).

*Compatibility with more recent Windows operating systems cannot be guaranteed.


Kehrein, N.; Berlekamp, J.; Klasmeier, J.; Modelling the fate of down-the-drain chemicals in whole watersheds: New version of the GREAT-ER software. Environmental Modelling and Software 64(1), 1-8, 2015.

Koormann F., Rominger J., Schowanek D., Wagner J-O., Schröder R., Wind T., Silvani M., Whelan M.J. (2006). Modeling the fate of down-the-drain chemicals in rivers: An improved software for GREAT-ER. Environmental Modelling and Software. 21(7) 925-936.

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