Romania is located almost entirely within the Danube River Basin, covering 237,391 km² and has a population of nearly 22 million inhabitants. The Romanian section spreads out over almost a third of the surface area of the Basin and over a third of the river’s length flows through the country. Crucially, the Romanian (and also Ukrainian) Danube is the end carrier of all wastewater discharges from all countries into the Black Sea. Over half of Romania’s water bodies show high ecological status, however water quality in much of the remainder was significantly affected by development during the 1960’s-80’s.

Landscape, Climate and Water Flow

With 97.4% of Romania situated within the Basin, the Danube has played a major role in shaping the country. Romania’s relief is split threefold: 31% mountainous; 36% hills/plateaus; 33% plains. It is arranged in a ring and amphitheatre structure. The Carpathian ring is part of the Alpine chain, connected to the Alps in the west and the Balkans in the south. Beyond this and Transylvanian Depression which skirts around it, are hills, tablelands and the Dobrogea Plateau, plus the plains of the Lower Danube and Banat–Crisana. Romania’s climate is mild, temperate-continental with four distinct seasons, most precipitation in the warm season and some Mediterranean influence to the south. Mean annual precipitation is 400-800mm in the main agricultural area and over 1200mm in the Carpathians. Severe drought occurs every 15–25 years. Romania is poor in water resources, ranking 13th in Europe with only 1,700 m³/inhabitant/year. Specific mean flow is under 1 l/ on the Romanian, Dobrogea, Timis and Arad Plains and 40 l/ in the high zones of the Fagaras and Retezat mountains. The river network stretches 78,905 km. Additionally, 6.1% of Romania (14,437.3 km²) has been designated for the protection of habitats/species , when only taking sites where the status of the water resource is a key factor.

Natural highlights include the Danube Delta (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Ramsar and World Heritage site) – Romania’s most important protected area, covering 4,178 km² and home to 5,200 species; the Iron Gates Natural Park - one of the most beautiful natural areas of Europe with a vast biological diversity (SW Romania on the border with Serbia and Montenegro); Retezat National Park - a spectacular landscape of natural forests, alpine meadows, mountain peaks, gorges and glacial lakes, supporting 1,190+ plant species (Southern Carpathians).

Manmade Impacts

Romania has considerable land resources; 62% of which are agricultural, 27% forest, 3.7% waters and 6.9% other uses (2000 data). At 0.6 and 0.4ha respectively, its share of agricultural and arable land per capita is significant and is unevenly spread, with the highest proportion in the plains (80+% agricultural). The major cities are Bucharest (1,929,615 residents), Constanta (Black Sea port), Iasi, Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov, Craiova, Ploiesti and the Danube ports of Galati and Braila.

Romania’s water resources comprise of the Danube (44%), inland rivers (46%) and groundwater (10%). In 2005, 7.8 billion m3 was abstracted for human use. River systems are utilised for: hydroelectric power (29% of the country’s power supply); navigation; drinking water and the expulsion of various waste. 

Flooding is a problem, exacerbated by heavy localised rainfall, increased urban land use, ad hoc floodplain development, reduced river bed capacity and non-rational deforestation of large areas. Hydromorphological pressures affect a large proportion of watercourses. Significant pressures come from reservoirs (255 in number); embankments (80% of the Danube is embanked); regulation works (6,600km); water diversions; 138 significant water abstractions and 147 significant water restitutions.


57% of Romanian water bodies, particularly those from mountainous areas, remain undisturbed by major anthropogenic pressure. However, economic development between 1960 and 1989 resulted in a significant worsening of the water quality of the Danube and inland rivers. This has since improved (due to reduced development and new regulations), but remains inferior to the 1950s. Out of the 2,609 settlements with 2,000+ people equivalents (p.e.), 17% have sewage systems; 263 settlements of 10,000+ p.e require systems with nutrient removal. 51.1% of the population is linked to wastewater collecting systems and 27.3% to treatment plants. However, in rural areas, only 4.1% is connected to sewerage systems - rural wastewater management is the major challenge for the coming years. Navigation poses a significant pressure on the Danube: of 455 incidents involving shipping reported 1983-2003 for example, 30 resulted in serious water pollution.

In reference to point source discharges, 359 significant pollutions have been identified at the basin level, accounting for 80% of total discharges recorded. In 2004, 13,034 tonnes of nitrogen (N) and 3,399 tonnes of phosphorus (P) were released, 98% and 85% of which derive from settlements. Agro-chemical fertilisers are the main source of diffuse discharges. With regard to Priority substances, 582 industrial units have been inventoried as discharging dangerous substances into water resources /sewage systems (2001 data).

The status of the Danube River, Delta and Romania’s coastal waters depends considerably on pollutant inputs from upstream countries (particularly for N and P loads). Diffuse agricultural sources, especially chemical fertilizer use in upstream countries and the improper working of wastewater treatment plants in Central and Eastern Europe is a major input.

For more detailed information and statistics on the above (including impacts of pollution and hydro-morphological alterations to the Danube system and mitigation measures), download the fact sheet below.



  • » Tisza Basin
    The Tisza River Basin, covering a total of 157,186 km², is the largest sub-basin in the Danube River Basin. The Tisza River is the longest tributary of the Danube (966 km), and the second largest (after the Sava River) in terms of flow. The states in the Tisza Basin agreed on a close transboundary co-operation, aiming to achieve integrated management of the Tisza River Basin.
  • » Black Sea
    The Black Sea is the world's most isolated sea. It is connected to the oceans via the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus, Dardanelle and Gibraltar straits, and linked with the Sea of Azov in the northeast through the Kerch Strait. The catchment area of the Black Sea is six times larger than its surface with the Danube being its main tributary. The Black Sea Protection Commission is responsible for the sustainable management of the Black Sea.
  • » Romania bans sturgeon fishing for ten years
    Article in Danube Watch 02/2006
  • » ICPDR Presidency 2007: Romania
    ICPDR Danube Watch: The Danube goes to school


Share this page