Freshwater - Why care? (Hungary)
Water is an essential requisite for our life, indispensable element of ecosystems, landscapes and an important factor for economic development. It is a renewable, but vulnerable resource in Hungary.
The country’s location (a basin surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, being part of the Danube catchment area) and its spatial/geographical features determine its relief, hydrological and meteorological characteristics. (see Map 1)
The climate is moderate with a strong continental influence. The average yearly precipitation is around 600mm, yet showing an uneven distribution in space and time. Droughts are common, especially in the south-eastern part of the country.
The catchments of our rivers - with a few exceptions – are located in the mountainous areas of the surrounding countries. 96% of all surface water comes from outside our borders. Our surface water resources and the rivers’ flow regime are characterised by high spatial and temporal variability. Two-thirds of the country consists of flatlands, the majority of which is outlet, extremely low-lying and exposed to flooding. The area exposed to flood risk extends to 21 248 km2 (see Map 2).
In addition, there is a substantial risk of inland flooding - the total inundated area can be as high as 44 890 km2 (see Map 3). Thus, river and inland flooding, as well as droughts are key issues in Hungary.
As to our lake waters – including Lake Balaton, the largest shallow lake in Central Europe – these are fully or partially protected as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention (altogether 28 Hungarian wetland habitats are enlisted on the Ramsar List with a total area of 233 000 ha - see Part C Biodiversity for more details).
Oxbow lakes are of special importance, serving diverse purposes (nature protection, fisheries, irrigation) and as a buffer for inland water. Surface waters make up an important component of the National Ecological Network (see Part C Biodiversity for more details).
Groundwater resources in Hungary are substantial and abundant (also in the European context), providing around 95% of the drinking water supply. With regard to the fact that two thirds of public water supply is covered from vulnerable water sources, protection of these is a high priority of water management.
Hungary is well known for its richness in thermal waters (see Box1). A large part of these are recognised word-famous mineral and thermal waters with a favourable composition and therefore are under protection.