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The Drin Basin

The Drin Basin covers a geographical area of about 19,000 square kilometers in the south–western Balkans; it extends in Albania, Greece, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro

About 1.5 million people are relying on the water resources of the basin for drinking water, agriculture, fisheries, industry and hydropower. The Basin is an interconnected hydrological system comprising the transboundary sub-basins of:

  • Lake Prespa
  • Lake Ohrid
  • Lake Shkoder/Skadar[1]
  • The Drin River, including its tributaries the Black Drin[2] and the White Drin[3]
  • The Buna/Bojana[4] River (outflow of Lake Shkoder/Skadar in the Adriatic Sea).


The Drin River is the connecting body of this water system, linking the lakes, wetlands, rivers and other aquatic habitats into a single ecosystem.

Flowing from Lake Ohrid, which itself receives about 50 percent of its waters from Lake Prespa through underground karstic formations, the Black Drin eventually leaves FYR Macedonia and enters Albania. The White Drin rises in Kosovo and flows into Albania where it meets the Black Drin to form the Drin River. Flowing through Albania, one arm of the Drin joins the Buna/Bojana River (a watercourse which drains Lake Shkoder and, shared between Albania and Montenegro forms part of their border before finally flowing into the Adriatic Sea) near the city of Shkodra and the other arm drains directly into the Adriatic Sea south of Shkodra near the city of Lezhe. Each of these water bodies has a number of tributaries, small rivers and streams

Each sub-basin of the Drin system is of vital ecological importance, as they all host unique biotopes with many indigenous species, which are important also from a European and international conservation perspective.

Within the Basin there are diverse and often conflicting and unsustainable management approaches, which have led to the degradation of the Basin’s ecosystems and inhibit sustainable economic development in the region.

Some action towards ensuring integrated water resources management has been taken at the national level, driven mainly by the prospect of European Union (EU) accession. The Riparians sharing the Basin are at various stages of transposition and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Legally binding agreements among the littoral countries form the basis for water resources and ecosystem management-related cooperation in each of the Basin’s three lakes (Prespa, Ohrid and Skadar/Shkoder).

More information about the Drin Basin can be found here.


- Status Paper -Management of the extended Transboundary Drin Basin (GWP-Med, 2008)


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[1] The lake is called Skadar in Montenegro and Shkoder in Albania.

[2] The river is called Drin i Zi in Albania and Crn Drim in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

[3]The river is called Drin i Bardhë in Albania and Beli Drin in Kosovo.

[4]The river is called Buna in Albania and Bojana in Montenegro.

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