Personal tools


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment


SOER Country

Freshwater (Romania)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010
Key message

water resources

Fresh water resources – performance of aquatic systems

Romania’s water resources present a particular feature: 97.8 % of the rivers are collected by the Danube which flows for 1 075 kmover Romanian territory or along the national border, out of its total length of 2 860 km. The long-term annual average (LTAA) available freshwater resource is 125 billion m3, of which 40 billion are in interior rivers and 85 billion are the Romanian share of the average annual flowof the Danube, plus an annual availablegroundwater resource estimated at9.6 billion m3.

Consequently, usable water resources, including the Danube, amount to 2 660 m3 per person per year, which, compared to the European average of 4 000 m3/person/year, placesRomania among the countries with relatively scarce usable water resources.

Interior rivers are supplied mostly by snow and rainfall, and to a lesser degree from underground springs, which makes the water supply highly dependent on weather conditions.

Water resources are unevenly distributed throughout the country, with large seasonal and year-to-year variations.

In the medium and long-term, it will not be possible to meetwater demand for householdconsumption, industry, agriculture and other uses without undertaking large-scale projects to redistribute water resources over time and space – dams, reservoir lakes, inter-basin transfers, etc.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011
Key message



For many years, human activities have affected the quality of Romanian surface and groundwaters.

In termsof the current national classification scheme for physico-chemical and biological water quality assessment, between 2005 and 2008 there wasan increase in the length of rivers classified as havingvery good (Class I) or good (Class II) quality water and a decrease in the length of rivers with moderate (Class III), weak (Class IV) or bad (Class V)qualitywater.


Compared to the faster evolution of water quality from the physico-chemical point of view, the evolution of water quality from the biological point of view shows slower improvements in quality, because the natural aquatic systemsare taking a longer time to recover.  


Nitrates in rivers and lakes

            In the pastdecade there has been a decrease in concentrations of nitrates in rivers. Agriculture is the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution, and, due to the abatement measures, nitrogen pollution from agriculture has been reduced in some regions over the past10 years, and this is reflected in lower river nitrate concentrations. Trendanalysis is based on the resultsof nitrate determinations from WISE – SoE 119 monitoring stations in the period 2001-2008.

            Nitrateconcentrations in inland surface waters vary between different river basins.Its average concentration in rivers at 47 % of the stations varies between 0.8 and 2 mg/l N-NO3;at43 % of the stations the average concentration is below 0.8 mg/l N, and at about 10 % the average ishigher than 2 mg/l N-NO3. The differences in nitrate levels in the regions reflect the differences in agricultural pressures, which are highest in the eastern and northeastern partsand lowest in the southern, western and northern partsof the country.


Regarding the trends over timeof nitrate concentrations, around 15 % of WISE –SoE monitoring stations on Romania's rivers show a statistically significant decreasing trend for the whole period 2001-2008, and 10 % of the stations show a weakly decreasing trend, indicating a partial success of legislative measures to reduce nitrate pollution. Most of the stations, 68 %, have no cleartrend and 7 %have an increasing trend. Figures3 and 4 showthe average nitrate concentrations in the period 2006-2008 at WISE –SoE monitoring stations for some river basins – Bega-Timis in the western part, Arges-Vedea and Danube in the southern part, Siret in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country).


Phosphorus in rivers and lakes

            The concentrations of orthophosphate in rivers has decreased during theperiod2006-2008, but less markedly than in lakes. The decrease is due to the measures introduced by national and European legislation, in particular the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, which requires the reductionof nutrients. Agricultural sources of phosphorus are still important and need increased attention to achieve good water status in lakes and rivers. The improvements in some lakes have generally been relatively slow despite the pollution abatement measures taken. This is at least partly because of internal phosphorus loading from phosphorus stored in the lake sediments and because the ecosystems can be resistant to improvement and thereby remain in a poor state.

            The average orthophosphate concentration in rivers varies between 0.05 and 0.1 mg/l P-PO4at 20 % of the WISE – SoE stations.50 % of the stations have an average concentration below 0.05 mg/l P, and about 30 %an average higher than 0.1 mg/l P-PO4.

            Around 26 % of the monitoring stations onrivers show a decreasing trend of orthophosphate concentrations for the period 2001-2008.Most of the stations, 70 %, have no trend. Only 4 %show an increase in the same period. These trends reflect the partial success of legislative measures to reduce emissions of phosphorus,such as those required by the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

            Figures5 and 6 showthe average orthophosphate concentrations in the period 2006-2008 at WISE – SoE monitoring stations for the same river basins in the country (Bega-Timis, Arges-Vedea, Danube and Siret).


Oxygen-consuming substances,Organic matter and ammonium


            The most important sources of organic waste load, expressed as biological oxygen demand – BOD, in Romania are: household wastewater, 76 %; industries such as paper or food processing, 8 %; and silage effluents and manure from agriculture, 4 %)

            The average BOD concentration in rivers varies between 3 and 4 mg/l O2at 20 % of the stations,54 % of the stations have an average concentration below 3 mg/l O2, and around 26 % of stations an average concentration higher than 4 mg/l O2.

            Regarding the trend of BOD concentrations, around 19 % of WISE – SoE monitoring stations on Romania's rivers show a statistically significant decreasing trend for the whole period 2001-2008, and 3 % stations show a weakly decreasing trend, indicating a partial success of legislative measures and infrastructure works for urban wastewater collection and treatment to reduce organic pollution. Three-quarters the stations have no cleartrend and 3 %an increasing trend. Figures7 and 8 showthe average BOD concentrations in the period 2006-2008 at WISE – SoE monitoring stations in some river basins in the country (Bega-Timis, Somes, Arges-Vedea, Danube and Siret).


The average total ammonium concentration in rivers at 18 % of the stations varies between 0.2 and 0.4 mg/l N-NH4. At58 % of the stations the average ammonium concentration is below 0.2 mg/l N-NH4, and at about 24 % it ishigher than 0.4 mg/l N-NH4.

            Regarding the trend of ammonium concentrations, around 52 % of thestations show a statistically significant decreasing trend for the whole period 2001-2008, and 9 % show a weakly decreasing trend, indicating a success of legislative measures to reduce organic pollution. The economic recession of the country after the 1990s also contributed to this fall, as there was a decline in heavily polluting manufacturing industries.

            Many of the stations, 37 %, have no evident trend and 2 %an increasing trend. Figures9 and 10 showthe average total ammonium concentrations in the period 2006-2008 at WISE – SoE monitoring stations for some river basins in the country (Bega-Timis, Somes,  Arges-Vedea, Danube and Siret).


As regards groundwater, from analysis of processed data from monitoring the physico-chemical parameters by drilling into the groundwater, most of the exceedances of the current limit valueswere recorded for the following indicators: organic substances, nitrates, nitrites, ammonium, chlorides, total hardness, iron, and phosphates.   

Most of the groundwater has beenaffected, from timeto time, by contaminationby nitrates.  Exceedancesfor this indicator were recorded, on average, in 10-15% of all monitored drillings. However, pollution is distributeddifferently, because there are areas in the aquifer where the concentrations are above the admissible value of 50 mg/l.

            Pollutionof groundwater is usually irreversible which has serious consequences for using the groundwater reserve forfreshwater supply. Removal of pollution from groundwater is extremely difficult, or even impossible.


Concerning wastewaters, only 30 % of allwastewater installations function according to normal parameters. In 2008, 70 % of wastewater coming from the main pollution sources was discharged,untreated or insufficiently treated,into the natural receptors, mainly rivers, compared with 79 % between 2005 and 2006.

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011
Key message

Drivers, pressures


Drivers and Pressures


Waterdemand for households, industry and agriculture decreased considerably between 1990 and 2008, from 20.4 billion m3 in 1990, to 9.44 billion m3 – about 24 % of the usable water resource

The reasons for this included: reduction in industrial activity, reduction in water consumption in technological processes, reduction of losses and implementation of an economic mechanism for water management. 

The existing water supply systems cover only 65 % of householddemand. The quality of water supplied by the 1 398 water treatment installations – mostly equipped with obsolete and ineffective technologies – are in 10-25 % of them below the requiredstandards from the chemical parameter point of view, depending on the size of the settlement and the technologyused.

Also, 25 % of the public water supply systems servingsettlements with 50 to 5 000 inhabitantsprovidewater which does not comply with bacteriological and silt contentparameters, or with ammonium, nitrate and iron contentlimits.Ten percentof the public water systems for settlements with more than 5 000 inhabitants supply water thatis inadequate from the point of view of oxidation, silt content, taste and smell, and content of ammonium, iron, and nitrates.


Only a little above 50 % of the country’s population of 11.5 million, of whom 10.3 million live in urban areas, benefits from sewage systems . Inthis respect, 52 % ofthe total population has access to both running water and sewage, 16 % only to running water but not to sewage systems, and 32 % have access to neither.Only 33 % of rural area inhabitants are connected to running water supplysystems, and just 10 % to modern sewage systems.

The main sources of wastewater are the generation of thermal and electric power, 51 %; public utilities, mainly sewage systems, 36 %; and other activities, 13 %.



Water conservation, reuse and saving are encouraged by economic stimuli, mainly for those demonstrating a constant concern for protecting water quantity and quality, as well as by applying penalties for those who waste water or pollute the water sources. 

Penalties are applied to users who ignoreprovisions regarding excessive use of water, as well as those who dischargepolluting substances into water sources.

The specific requirements for water management are differentiated, in order to achieve economicstimulation for sustainable useof water resources, according to source type and users groups, and pollutantsin discharged wastewaters.

Bonuses are granted, in line with the legal provisions, for users who constantly demonstratea care for the rational use of water and protection of water quality by only discharging wastewaters with a content ofpollutant substances belowthat specified in the water management permit.

            Water management in Romania complies with the provisions of the Water Framework Directive 60/2000/CEE and those of other European Directives in the water field:  Council Directive 75/440/EEC concerning the quality required of surface water intended for abstraction for drinking; Council Directive 76/464/EEC on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment;Council Directive 91/676/EEC concerning pollution with nitrates from agricultural sources;Council Directive 78/659/EEC on the quality of freshwaters needing protection or improvement in order to support fish life; and Council Directive 91/271/EEC regarding urban wastewater treatment plants.

The quality of waters in Romania – surface waters, groundwater, wastewater, etc. – is monitored according to the methodological principles of the Romanian Integrated Water Monitoring System (RIWMS/SMIAR), restructured in compliance with the provisions of European Directives, and which became operational in 22 December 2006.  

The national water monitoring system comprises two types of monitoring, according to the provisions of Law 310/2004 which modifies and amends the Law on Waters no. 107/1996, transposing the provisions of the Water Framework Directive 60/2000/CEE, as well as the other European Directives. Thus, surveillance monitoring is carried out, with the aim of assessing the state of all water bodies in the river basins, as well as operational monitoring, integrated into the surveillance monitoring, for water bodies presumed not to achieve the water protection objectives.

            Regarding implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban wastewater treatment plants, the whole Romanian territory is a sensitive area and this requires a longer transition period, 12 years. The current stateof the infrastructure for urban wastewater collection and treatment, especially in rural areas, requires a large huge costs and considerable work for implementation, taking into account the commitment to comply with this Directive for all agglomerations of more than 2 000by 31 December 2020. The Ministry of Environment of Romania, together with other institutions, is responsible for monitoring the quality of surface waters and of natural receivers into which urban or industrial wastewater is discharged, and controlscompliance with the legislation in force and the elaboration of an Action Plan for the rehabilitation, modernisationand construction of urban wastewater collection and treatment systems.

            The legal document in Romania, including all the requirements of the Council Directive 91/676/EEC concerning pollution with nitrates from agricultural sources, is the Governmental Decree no. 964/2000 to approve the Action Plan for water protection against nitrate pollution from agricultural sources. Surface and groundwatersare regularly monitored, but the laboratory equipment is obsolete and insufficient. Farmland is only partly monitored for nutrient levels in the soil and quantities of fertiliser applied.  Mostfarms and farming operators have manure and liquid animal waste storage facilities, but most require rehabilitation and refurbishment. There are many traditional animal breeding areas in rural communities, but the communes do not maintain storage platforms for manure and liquid animal waste. Urine and the liquids resulting from the decomposition of cattle and horse excrement in individual holdingsare usually collected in unsealed pits in the ground that allow nutrients, especially nitrates, to leachinto groundwater. In the case of pigs, this effluent seeps directly into the soil, without collection into a special sewer.

            Vulnerable zoneswere first designated in 2004 by an Order of the Minister of Environment. In 2008 the vulnerable zones were redesigned, to includepotentially vulnerableones.Together they now accountfor 58 % of the country’s territory.

            After 1989 the state-owned agricultural and livestock breeding operations were phased out. Their disappearance caused a strong regression in agricultural practice, which is still manifest.Many of these farms use manure as the main fertiliser, as it is the cheapest and most readilyavailable.That is why the use of chemical fertilisershas dropped toa quarter of thatin 1989.

            The River Basin Management Plan, the main implementation tool of the Water Framework Directive, will be ready at the end of 2010. It will contain a summary of the measures required under Article 11 of the directive.These measures are envisaged as necessary to bring the water bodies progressively to the required status by the extended deadline, setting out the reasons for any significant delay in making these measures operational and the expected timetable for their implementation.

            The River Basin Management Plan for 11 river basins in Romania, will be included in the Danube River basin District Management Plan, implementing the new concepts of the Water Framework Directive, whichprovide for an innovative approach towater management based on river basins and set specific deadlines to produce programmesof measures. The Water Framework Directive addresses inland surface waters, rivers and lakes; transitional waters; coastal waters; and groundwater. It establishes several integrative principles for water management,including public participation in planning and the integration of economic approaches, and also aims for the integration of water management into other policy areas. EU Member States should aim to achieve good status in all bodies of surface water by 2015and groundwaterby 2027,at the latest.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100