Why should we care about this issue
Albania has plentiful water resources but often their quality is a problem due to pollution, especially in low-lying areas where most of the population lives and most industrial and agricultural activities take place.
General renewable water resources in Albania are about 13 300 m3 per capita per year. These are used for urban, industrial and agricultural purposes as well as for hydroelectricity.
Surface waters are a major asset for the economy of the country. They are very important for many uses such as electricity supply, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, industry as well as drinking water supply.
Albania also has rich in groundwater resources. The renewable resource in seven main geological strata is 1 250 million m3 / year.
Towns and cities as well as industrial, agricultural and farming areas are sources of pollution of surface waters and groundwater.
The management and protection of the aquatic environment is an important activity for the country. To achieve sustainable development, it is particularly important to develop and implement efficient methods and technologies for the rational use of natural resources, taking both their quality and quantity into account, and to control the impacts of resource use on the environment.
The state and impacts
Evaluation of the state of surface waters in rivers and lakes and control of their pollution is carried out by monitoring in compliance with the National Programme on Environmental Monitoring. Based on the Decision ( of the Council of Ministers DCM no. 103, dated 31.3.2002] ) On environmental monitoring in the Republic of Albania, institutions are contracted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Water Administration to monitor the quality of surface water, bathing water, groundwater and wastewater discharges.
Wastewater discharges in the main cities are monitored to measure their impacts on rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Monitoring in urban and rural areas is carried out for some cities. Studies on surface water quality are based on information provided by sampling at the 30 stations of the national river water quality monitoring network and monitoring at six lake stations.
During the period 2001-2008, Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD5), a measure of organic pollution) remained at a more or less constant level, indicating continuing organic pollution, caused by regular urban water discharges into rivers. The highest level of BOD5 is found in the Ishem River.
Concentrations of ammonium in rivers show clear changes from year to year and there is a rising trend, notably for 2003-2006, with concentrations apparently decreasing in period 2007-2008.
The annual mean concentrations of nitrate in all rivers have decreased, but levels have stabilised in 2006-2008.
The concentrations of total phosphorus (P-tot) have been relatively stable in all monitored rivers excepting the Ishem.
The phosphorus content of 0.006-0.01mg/l, the high content of dissolved oxygen, and relatively high values of transparency, indicate that the water in this lake is oligotrophically stable.
The other indicators of pollution such as nitrate content, although at low levels, should not be ignored because the trends are rising compared with previous years.
The oxygen and phosphorus contents show that the lake is already at a mezotrophic tending towards a eutrophic level. The ecological system of the lake requires a detailed study but that will necessitate collaboration between Albania, Macedonia and Greece.
The water in the lake is relatively saturated with oxygen; the phosphorus content values are low and decreasing at the bottom of lake; the electrical conductivity of water is rising due to different discharges into the lake.
Shkodra lake, monthly mean value for chlorophyll-a, 2009
Groundwater is a vital source of drinking water for Albania’s people. In low-lying western and south-eastern parts of country, where about two thirds of its population is concentrated, drinking water comes mainly from groundwater. Intensive exploitation of groundwater often creates hydrodynamic and hydrochemical disequilibriums that result in a permanent pollution risk to nature and human activities.
Groundwater monitoring is carried out in the Drini, Mati, Ishëm-Erzen, Shkumbini, Seman, Vjosa and Zona Jonike basins. Groundwaters generally have good physical and chemical properties, meeting local pollution standards, with no massive pollution of ponds. Some nitrogen dioxide and ammonium is found in some special drilling sites but these are isolated occurrences resulting mainly from poor implementation of rigorous exclusion areas and sanitary protection around the drilling.
Fig.1 Annual mean value for NO3 2008-2009
Fig.2 Annual mean value for NO2 2008-2009
Groundwater is found to be neutral or alkaline. No acid water has been found in the monitored ponds and drillings.
Monitoring results during the period 2002-2008 indicate that in all basins general mineralisation, nitrate and nitrite content are within the permitted levels and the pH of groundwaters is within the permitted levels for drinking water. However, the required standards for ammonium content are not met ,
The key drivers and pressures
Rivers run near many towns and cities, industrial areas and areas with agriculture including livestock and discharges from all of these are the main sources of surface water pollution in Albania.
Urban wastewater and other industrial discharges directly deposited in watersheds and channels end up in rivers, lakes and coastal areas.
Most cities have common sewage systems for wastewater, rainwater and industrial activities.
Because of poor maintenance of wastewater sewers and small pipe dimensions, leaks from these sewers often carry the risk of pollution of the drinking water network.
Suburban areas and rural cities lack sewage systems and wastewater is collected in septic tanks. All industrial activities located near rivers discharge wastewater directly to them without pre-treatment. The uncontrolled dumping of urban waste in the banks of rivers further increases the problems of surface water pollution. Wastewater treatment plants are being built in Kavaja, Vlora and Pogradec and are under construction or design in other cities.
The 2020 outlook
The National Water Council and its technical secretariat have created structures for the management and protection of water quality.
Strategies have been adopted for the water supply sector and the sanitation sector for rural and urban areas. Some investments have been made, but more needs to be done first to stop the decline in the quality of surface water and then improve it.
The existing legislation needs to be improved and expanded in order to serve as a basis for management and protection actions.
The institutional structures also need to be reinforced in order to properly implement the legislation. In the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, Albania is in the process of bringing legislation for water in line with EU legislation.
The main sources of water pollution in Albania are urban and industrial wastewater discharges. In order to reduce water pollution from urban wastewater discharges new wastewater treatment plants are under construction in cities including Durres, Tirane Lezhe-Shengjin, Sarande and Korce, with more in the planning stages.
The construction of new treatment plants should improve wastewater management and also the state of water quality. As such, it should have a significant impact on the environment and human health.
Existing and planned responses
Albania has produced two strategic documents related to the protection and management of water: the National Water Strategy, 2004 and the Water and Sewerage ?Strategy, 2004.
Moreover, the creation of regional agencies for River Basin Management and the National Water Council has resulted in the establishment of an administrative structure for planning the utilisation and management of river basins. Legislation in the area of water consists of laws, international agreements and bylaws, such as the Decisions of the Council of Ministers (DCM) and the National Water Council.
Primary legislation for the water problems in Albania includes:
- Law No. 8093 dated 21.3.1996 on Water resources (as amended);
- Law No. 8102 dated 28.3.1996 on Regulatory framework of water supply sector and waste water removal (as amended);
- Law No. 8905 dated 6.6.2002 on Protection of Marine Environment from Pollution and Damage;
- Law No. 9103 dated 10.7.2003 on Protection of transboundary lakes;
- Law No. 9115 dated 24.7.2003 on Environmental Treatment of Polluted Water;
- Decision No.145, date 26.02.1998 for approval of Hygienic-health regulation on
- control of drinking water quality, design, construction and supervision of supply drinking water systems;
- Decision No. 796 dated 16.10.2003 On approval of national strategy of water supply and sanitation;
- Decision No. 273 dated 7.5.2004 On approval of National Water Strategy;
- Decision No. 177 dated 31.3.2005 On the allowed norms of liquid discharges and zoning criteria to host aquatic environments;
- Decision no. 103, dated 31.3.2002 On environmental monitoring in the Republic of Albania.
- State of Environment Report 2008, Agency of Environment and Forestry
- National Environment Strategy 2006, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Water Administration
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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