The Republic of Serbia covers an area of 88,361 km² and includes two provinces: Vojvodina (21,506 km²) and Kosovo and Metohija (10,887 km²); the latter being currently under an international protectorate. 92% of the country (81,374 km²) lies within the Danube Basin (accounting for 10% of the Basin). Of this land, 30% is forested. Serbia is dependent on sources outside its national territory for its water resources. The country has been a full member of the ICPDR since August 2003 (originally ratifying the Danube River Protection Convention on 30 Jan 2003).

Serbia’s Landscape, Climate and Water Flow

Serbia’s predominantly upland terrain can be divided into a northern region (part of the Pannonian Plain intersected by the Danube, Sava, Tisza, Tamiš and Begej rivers, the Danube-Tisza-Danube canal system (DTD) and several lakes) and a  more hilly/mountainous region to the south of the Danube (comprising the Rhodope, Carpathian, Balkan, Dinaric and Skardo-Pind mountains). This central-southern region connects to the southern Balkans via the Morava and Vardar/Axios Basins.

Natural highlights include: Gornje Podunavlje Special Nature Reserve - the most significant wetland in the upper part of the Serbian Danube (adjacent to Kopački Rit in Croatia); Tikvara and Karadjordjevo wetlands; Iron Gate (Djerdap) National Park – an area of gorges, valleys and river terraces of remarkable biodiversity as well as significant historical and cultural value of European importance (on the Danube between Golubac and Kladovo); Tara National Park – a unique complex of gorges including the remarkable 1000 m high Drina Gorge (between Bajina Bašta, Serbia and Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina). Four international Ramsar sites have been selected: Obedska Bara, Ludaško Lake, Stari Begej/Carska Bara and Slano Kopovo.

Human Uses

Land and climate conditions are highly conducive to agriculture. 68% of the territory (c. 60,000 km²) is suitable for its production and until the late 60s, it dominated the economy. With the industrialisation that followed came migration to larger urban centres. Population today is 7,498,001, excluding Kosovo and Metohija Province (2002), with the main river valleys being the most populated and developed regions. These house the major traffic and energy supply corridors and most key cities including Beograd, Niš and Novi Sad. The main uses of Danube waters are domestic and industrial water supply, irrigation, navigation and power plants, plus they also act as receiving waters for waste water effluents.

Groundwater is the primary source of municipal and industrial water supply, with a total municipal abstraction of c. 750 million m³ in 1991. Industrial water supply in 1991 was c. 615 million m³ and 175 million m³ was used for irrigation (<3% of agricultural land is irrigated; levels continue to decline). Hydropower is a significant power generator and water user in Serbia accounting for 31% of total production in 2004 (11,021 GWh). There are 13 major reservoirs greater than 10 million m3 dedicated to energy production (e.g. Iron Gate I).

The waterway network extends over 1700 km of the Danube, Sava and Tisza rivers as well as the 600km navigable part of the DTD system. All are directly or indirectly connected with the European inland network. Navigation improvements on the Danube have been systematic and continuous. The Tisza is navigable over 164 km and the Sava over 207 km (part of an international Sava waterway connecting Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia with the Danube).

Flood control is provided by levees on the major rivers of the Pannonian Plain and central Serbia where all major cities and significant industrial facilities are located in potential flood areas. Smaller rivers are prone to torrents, with frequent flash floods and landslides; control measures are only partially developed.


Changes in the Serbian economy have resulted in a major reduction in pollution emissions. The economic downturn plus transformation to private ownership has resulted in significant variation in industries’ output since 1998. The list of significant point sources covers 46 communities and 14 industries (however many of the major industries are not covered due to lack of reliable data and most industrial wastewater quality analyses do not include specific pollutants). Industry is a significant source of hydraulic wastewater volume, while the nutrient load is significantly higher from municipal sources – due to the fact that municipal wastewaters are mainly discharged untreated and that current industrial output is low.

Most small communities (<2000 people) do not have wastewater treatment plants and a number of existing plants are not operational. With a large proportion of the population living in small settlements (27% in communities of <2000; 21% in communities of 2-10,000), this has a significant impact for wastewater management. The major municipal pollution sources stem from the cities of Beograd, Novi Sad and Niš, with emission levels >150,000 PE. These discharge untreated wastewater and are sources of significant organic and nutrient pollution. Data on agricultural sources are not available. For more detailed information and statistics on the above, as well as key web links and reports, download the fact sheet below.



  • » Sava Basin
    The Sava has the largest discharge of water to the Danube of any tributary and is the second largest by catchment area. The Sava is shared by Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and the joint management arrangements will be a pilot example for the implementation of the European Union's Water Framework Directive for the Danube and Europe.
  • » Tisza Basin
    The Tisza River Basin, with its total extent 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 by flow, after the Sava River. The states in the Tisza Basin agreed on a close transboundary co-operation, aiming to achieve integrated management of the Tisza River Basin.
  • » Working together to overcome disasters
    Article in Danube Watch 02/2006
  • » ICPDR Presidency 2008: Serbia
    ICPDR Danube Watch: Danube Day 2006: River of Life


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