RIVERS OF ALBANIA
Albania is a country that is very rich with rivers, lakes, streams and springs. Although a very small country, Albania is home to a large number of impressive rivers. The network of inland Albanian waters consists of eleven major rivers and their 150 tributaries. Measuring 285 km, the Black Drini River is the longest and it flows from Lake Ohrid to the Adriatic Sea. The Buna River played over several centuries a crucial role for the economic development of Albania’s north and the port of Shkodra at Lake Shkodra. Other large rivers include the Shkumbini, Vjosa, Osumi and Devolli. There are around 200 springs in Albania, each of which gives the earth over 200 liters of water every second. There are many springs that are said to offer medicinal or curative powers and for this reason have been known as the therapeutic spas or the thermal waters or baths of Albania, since antiquity. These spas are located all over the country, but the main spas are located in Leskoviku (Vronomero) Dibra, Elbasani, Bënja, and Fushë-Kruja (Bilaj). The four springs which have astonishing natural beauty and should not be missed are the Blue Eye Spring in Saranda, The Cold Water Spring in Tepelena, Viroi Spring in Gjirokastra, and Syrii Sheganit Spring at Shkodra Lake. Measuring 285 km, Black Drini River is the longest and it flows from Ohrid Lake to the Adriatic Sea. Other large, famous rivers of Albania include Vjosa, Drina, Valbona, Buna, Fani, Mati, Erzeni, Shkumbini, Seman, Osumi, Shushica, Devolli, Langarica, and Bistrica river.
The most important rivers are Drin in the north, Shkumbin and Seman in the south. The Drin River has two springs, one coming from Lake Ohrid and the other from Kosova. The longest river in Albania is Seman, which is 281 km and is divided into two separate branches, Devoll and Osum. The river Vjosa, 272 km long, originates from Smolika mountain, which is the most torrent in Albania. Other rivers to mention are Erzen, Mat and Ishem, however the only navigable river is Buna in the north of the country. Even the largest rivers like Vjosa, the Seman system with Devoll and Osam as well as Skumbin are still not interrupted by dams. Some valleys and canyons created by these ancient flows offer tremendous natural beauty as well. Among these are Valbona and Shala Valleys in the Northern Alps, Tomorica Valley, Këlcyra Outfall on the Vjosa River, and the Bënça and Osumi Canyons. The canyons, in particular, offer a beautiful backdrop for a variety of paddling and rafting sports. Waterfalls are also a part of this vast network, such as those located at Grunas and Thethi, Shoshan and Kurveleshi.
In the Albanian mountains, the rivers have cut deep gorges with near-vertical walls as high as 90 m (300 ft) above the water. The gorges make irrigation difficult, but are well suited for the huge dams that give Albania and the bordering countries cheap hydroelectric power. Along the lower course of the rivers, irrigation is also difficult because sediment-laden streams often break out of their beds and shift channels. Irrigation is feasible only in valley bottoms.
The total inland water surface of Albania is 1350 km2 and it is composed of natural lakes, artificial lakes, coastal lagoons and river network. The regime of the rivers and streams is torrential with great differences in the amount of water they carry from season to season, a fact that explains their eroding capacity. The rivers are very important for the irrigation of the land and for the production of hydroelectric power.
THE RIVERS OF ALBANIA ordered by their size
Seman river: With the largest basin completely within Albania, the Seman is formed in the lowlands by the union of the northern 160-km Devoll and the southern 113-km Osum. It flows generally west in meanders for 80 km to a delta near the Karavastas Lagoon on the Adriatic. The river also flows west through Fier-Shegan and Mbrostar (near Fier). It flows into the Adriatic Sea near Tρopojë. In ancient times, the Seman River was known as the Apsus River. The Semani River has a catchment area of about 5,649 km 2 and is formed by two main tributaries: the Devolli, with a catchment area of 3,130 km 2; and the Osumi, with a catchment area of 2,073 km2. A dam has recently been built on the Devolli River by Italians at Banja for irrigation and hydro power.
Vjosë river: (Greek: Aoös or Αώος) is a river in northwestern Greece and southwestern Albania. Its total length is about 272 kilometers (169 miles), of which the first 80 kilometers (50 miles) are in Greece, and the remaining 192 kilometers (119 miles) are in Albania. Vjosë is fed by two secondary branches, both in Albania, the Drino river and the Shushicë river. Its source is in Greece, specifically in the Pindus mountains in Epirus, near the village of Vovousa. An artificial lake has been constructed at an altitude of 1350 metres, and there is a hydroelectric dam in place since 1987. It flows through the Vikos–Aoös National Park, where it forms impressive canyons. It flows through Konitsa, and enters Albania near Çarshovë. It continues northwest through Përmet, Këlcyrë, Tepelenë, Memaliaj, Selenicë and Novoselë. It flows into the Adriatic Sea, northwest of Vlorë.
Drini river: The surface area of the Drini River covers 19,582 km2, of which 14,173 km2 belong to the Drini itself and 5,187 km2 belong to the Buna River. The Drini is formed by two main tributaries: the Black Drini, with a catchment area of 5,885 km2, flowing from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and the White Drini, flowing from Kosovo. Three hydro power plants have been constructed on the Drini River with a total water storage volume of 3,730 million m3, from which 93 percent of the country’s generation capacity is produced. The waters of the Drini are joined by the Buna River. The Buna drains into Shkodra Lake, which is fed by rivers originating from Montenegro and Albania. A larger tributary is the Moraca River. In the past, the outflows of the Buna and Drini rivers were separated. At present the old bed of the Drini, leading south to the city of Lezha, carries only a minor part of the discharge. The rest meets the Buna near Shkodra and follows its riverbed along the Montenegrin border. The Drini River has a mean annual discharge of 680 m3 per second, of which 360 m3 per second come from the Drini itself and 320 m3 per second from the Buna. In respect to water use in Albania, the most important river is the Drini, which has an annual discharge volume of 11.1 km3, as well as one of the biggest artificial reservoirs (Fierza Lake), with a storage capacity of 2,700 million m3 (about 25 percent of the annual flow). The water that is produced from the Drini river has been proved to be clean and drinkable and the water has a stable mineral composition along its course. Metallic ions are present only in small amounts, with the occasional exception of iron. It appears that no restriction for the present uses (hydro power, irrigation) could arise from water quality issues in the Drini. A more difficult situation arises from the quality of water in the river Kiri, which possibly contaminates local groundwater resources. Its effects on Shkodra Lake have not been clearly assessed. Three hydro power plants have been constructed on the Drini River with a total water storage volume of 3,730 million m3, from which 93 percent of the country’s generation capacity is produced.
Valbona river: The Valbona River, flows through the valley bearing its name, and a small village in the valley, as well the general area informally. It’s located in the Tropoja District of Northern Albania. This district, bordering Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest, in combination with the adjacent district to the west, encompasses a region called the Malësi in Albanian, which translates roughly as “The Highlands,” with all the attendant romance conjured up by the English term. A wild, high, mountainous region inhabited by strong and fiercely independent people, the Malësi has for the history of Albania been the region which was never really conquered or subdued by the various waves of invaders during the last 2,000 years of Balkan history. While the proper name of the mountains around Valbona specifically are the Malësi e Gjakovës (after the town of Gjakova in Kosovo), their name is most often translated in English as “The Accursed Mountains,” based on the name given to them by disgruntled Serbian would-be invaders.