Greece has a land area of 131,944 km2 and a population of 10,3 million (1991) of which about 90% live along the Mediterranean coastline. Greece consits of the northern peninsula and about 3,000 islands in the Aegean, Ionian and Cretian Seas. The major river systems of Greece are located in the northern part of the country and generally run from north to south. The largest rivers are the Axios, the Aliakmonas, the Achelos, the Pinios, the Evros, and the Strymonas. The major lake areas are located in the western part of Greece, 14 lakes having a surface area exceeding 8 km2. Greece is surrounded by the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Aegean Sea to the east, both having a jagged coastline and many gulfs. The coastline of Greece is 15,000 km, which is one third of the total Mediterranean coast.

Monitoring of surface waters

The Water Section (WS) within the Environmental Planning Section of the Ministry of the Environment is the general coordinator of all monitoring activities on surface water quality.

Inland surface waters

Two national monitoring programmes focus on inland surface waters: one programme (R1) has been in operation since the early 1980s and is performed by the Laboratory of Soil-hydrology and Geology (L.S.G.) of the Ministry of Agriculture, and a second programme (R2) is currently being established with the six General Chemical State Laboratories (G.C.S.L.) being the responsible institutions.

The objectives of the R1 programme are to determine the level of pollution and the chemical composition of surface water used in agriculture. Analysis of general chemical and physical variables and heavy metals is performed on monthly water samples taken in rivers and lakes all over Greece (approximately 250 sampling sites, primarily in the six largest river systems). The data collected by L.S.G. are reported to the Water Section.

The six laboratories in charge of the R2 programme monitor physico-chemical and microbiological variables in surface and coastal waters of their districts (Prefectures) within the framework of national monitoring networks and in accordance to EU directives. These laboratories take the samples, carry out the analyses and report the information to the Ministry of the Environment. The monitoring programme was initiated in 1993 and is not in normal operation yet.

Transboundary surface waters

The rivers Axios, Strymonas, Nestos and Evros are located in northern Greece and originate from former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The monitoring of their water quality is accomplished by automatic sampling stations located at the points of their entrance to the Greek territory. The continuously monitored variables (pH, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and water level) are registered automatically in databases and teletransmitted to the competent prefecture as well as to the Ministry of the Environment in Athens. Furthermore, alarm signals are also teletransmitted when the variables exceed the limit values. The stations also have at their disposal a pre-programmed automatic sampler for taking samples to be further analyzed in the laboratory.

The lakes Megali Prespa and Mikri Prespa are located at the boundaries of Greece and Albania and former Yugoslavia, respectively. They are protected by the RAMSAR convention. Also the Doirani is situated near the Greek-Former Yugoslavian border. The above-mentioned lakes are monitored within the framework of the National Monitoring Programme for Surface Waters (R2).

Marine waters

The National Monitoring Programme for Surface Waters (R2) also includes monitoring of coastal waters.

The National Centre for Marine Research (N.C.M.R.) has participated in the Mediterranean Pollution Monitoring and Research Programme (MED POL/UNEP) since 1976, both including the monitoring of coastal waters and in related research activities. Currently, it carries out an extensive programme of monitoring pollution variables in the Aegean and the Ionian Sea and the Saronic Gulf (M1). This programme has been in operation since 1985 with approximately 4 samples per year and includes measurement of general water quality variables and heavy metals in biota.

The Institute of Marine Biology of Crete (I.M.B.C.) is in charge of comprehensive research and development programmes and for national and regional programmes on the marine environment covering the littoral as well as the deep sea, according to which the physical and chemical variables and the impact on living organisms are examined. The M2 monitoring programme is a part of the MED POL monitoring covering the Cretian waters and has been in operation since 1988 with approximately 3 annual samples.

Table 3.7: Greek national surface water monitoring programmes.

No. Name Responsible institution Variables Period of operation &

Sampling Frequency (SF)



Data &


Inland surface waters
R1 Monitoring of surface water quality L.S.G. organic & inorganic chemical variables
physical variables
since early 1980s
SF: monthly &
Greek surface waters Database; L.S.G.
annual reports, WS
R2 National Monitoring Programme for Surface Waters G.C.S.L. physico-chemical variables not in operation yet surface waters of the corresponding district Database; G.C.S.L.
annual reports, WS
Coastal and marine areas
M1 MED POL in the Aegean and Ionian Sea
MED POL in the Saronic Gulf
N.C.M.R. organic & inorganic chemical variables,
biological & physical variables
since 1985:
SF: seasonally, 4/yr
Saronic Gulf, Aegean & Ionian Sea Database;
biannual reports;
M2 MED POL, Cretian marine waters I.M.B.C. organic & inorganic chemical variables since 1988:
SF:seasonally, 3/yr
Cretian marine waters Database; I.M.B.C.
biannual reports;WS
M3 Bathing waters
Determination of possible pollution problems
WS biological variables since 1988:
SF: fortnightly
Greek bathing areas Database & annual reports; WS

WS: Water Section, Ministry of Environment; L.S.G.: Laboratory of Soil-hydrology and Geology, Ministry of Agriculture;

G.C.S.L.: General Chemical State Laboratory; I.M.B.C.: Institute of Marine Biology of Crete; N.C.M.R.: National Centre for Marine Research


Geographic coverage


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Filed under: surface water
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