Albania is a small country in Europe with many rivers, streams, lakes, and springs. The network of inland waterways in the state consists of 150 tributaries and 11 major rivers. More than 200 springs feed the tributaries and provide clean water for household use. The most important rivers in the country are the Drin River in the north and the Seman and Shkumbin Rivers in the south. Deep gorges created by rivers in the Albanian mountains provide water for hydroelectric power generation and irrigation of vast lands. The following are the longest rivers in Albania.
Longest Rivers in Albania
The Drin River is the longest in Albania with a course of 177 miles. It flows through Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The river's catchment area extends over Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece. It has two distributaries; the Large Drin that drains into the Buna River and the Small Drin that empties into the Gulf of Drin. The river is essential for the economy of the state specifically for hydroelectricity production considering that the four hydropower facilities on the river generate over 1200 megawatts of electricity.
The Aoös River flows for 169 miles from northwestern Greece to southwestern Albania. Fifty miles of the river are in Greece while 119 miles are in Albania. Several tributaries including, Sarantaporos, Voidomatis, Shushicë, and Drino. The Albanian government is seeking to construct eight hydroelectric power plants along the river to increase the country's hydroelectric power production by over 400 megawatts, but conservationists have strongly disagreed with the mass project.
The Devoll River is a major tributary of the Seman River. It rises from the wetlands of Devoll Municipality along Albania's border with Greece and flows through Miras, Bilisht, Progër, and Pojan. Devoll River merges with the Osum River in Kuçovë to form the Seman River. In 1970, channels were constructed to divert water into the Prespa Lake, but filtration forced authorities to suspend the project. The construction of two hydroelectric power dams to generate 242 megawatts is ongoing.
The Shkumbin River rises from Valamara Mountains in southeastern Albania and flows for 112 miles to the Adriatic Sea. It receives significant inflow from Gur i Kamjës and Rapun streams. Historically, the river demarcates the boundary between the Gheg and Tosk dialects. It served as the natural boundary of the Epirus region, and the cultural boundary of the Greek and Illyrian worlds between the 5th and 6th centuries.
Water Quality in Albania
In 2016, the European Agency for Environment reported that the water quality in Albania was far below the recommended EU level, especially at the Albanian bathing sites. The construction of dams for irrigation and hydroelectricity limit the movement of fish species and increases siltation. Water quality in water bodies along major urban settlement is even worse as untreated industrial and household waste finds its way into rivers.