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Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Water / European waters / Rivers / Major European river catchments

Major European river catchments

Although there are numerous European river catchments, they are relatively small and their rivers are short. About 70 European rivers have a catchment area which exceeds 10 000 km2. Only rivers arising deep inside the continent are relatively large.

Europe’s three largest rivers, the Volga (1), the Danube (2) and the Dnepr (3), drain one quarter of the continent. However, they are relatively small by world standards; their catchments ranking 14th, 29th and 48th, respectively.

Major river catchments

Major catchment areas

Europe’s 31 largest rivers (all of whose catchments exceed 50 000 km2) drain approximately two thirds of the continent and include:   

  • The major rivers flowing north into the Barents Sea and White Sea  - the Severnaya (Northern) Dvina (5) and the Pechora (6).
  • The Volga (1), the Ural (8) and the Kura (10) drain into the Caspian Sea while the Dnepr (3) and the Don (4) drain south into the Black Sea.
  • The largest river to discharge into the Black Sea -  the Danube (2). Its catchments lie in 16 countries of central Europe and the Balkans. The main rivers  discharging into the Baltic Sea are the Neva (7), the Wisla (9), the Oder (13) and the Neman (15).
  • Ten rivers with catchments larger than 50 000 km2 drain into the Atlantic and the North Sea - the Rhine (11), the Elbe (12), the Loire (14) and the Douro/Duero (16) being the largest.
  • The European rivers draining into the Mediterranean -  the Rhone (17), the Ebro (20) and the Po (26).  

Over half of these rivers have their catchment area in the European part of the former Soviet Union.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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