Volga River Basin (Russia)
The Volga River is the largest and longest river in Europe, with a length of 3,500 km and a basin area of about 1,360,000 km2. The Volga River basin is located in European Russia, is inhabited by 57 million people and harbors half of the country’s industrial and agricultural production. The Volga River basin is characterized by a variety of biomes: coniferous, deciduous and mixed forest, steppe, semi-desert and desert, as well as wetlands, largely conditioned by the wide variety in climate conditions. The average total annual discharge of the Volga River at Volgograd is 252 km3 (8,076 m3/s), showing large inter-annual variations and long-term trends of change related to climate variation. River flow and related sediment and material transport has been significantly changed due to reservoirs constructed throughout the basin, free flow conditions remain only in the river’s headwaters and its most downstream section. Water resources are used in agriculture, for industrial production, transportation, energy generation and as drinking water for the population. While in the Volga basin still significant areas of biodiversity importance remain, with a rich and typical variety in terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna diversity, human activities throughout the basin, mainly agriculture, industry and urbanization, have significantly impacted upon ecosystems and biodiversity. A large network of protected areas has been designated at the national and provincial level, including important wetlands, aiming to conserve the Volga basin’s natural landscapes and rich biodiversity. Challenges for the future include addressing remaining and present pollution from solid and liquid, point and diffuse sources, improving water quality and water use efficiency, to be addressed through an effective and efficient integrated water resources management approach, including appropriate legal reforms, intersectoral and interregional coordination and cooperation, monitoring and enforcement, for the benefit of people and nature.
KeywordsVolga Rivers Europe Regulated flow Freshwater
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