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Lake Profile


General Information

Description Balaton is Hungary's largest lake and an important domestic and international recreational area. The Kis-Balaton is an extensive wetland formed by the Zala River, next to the western end of the lake.
Country Hungary
Latitude 46° 50' 0" (46.8333)
Longitude 17° 30' 0" (17.5000)
River Basin Danube


 Balaton locator map

Physical Characteristics

Surface Area 550.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 3.2 m
Maximum depth: 12.0 m
Residence Time 2.0 years
Age 10,000 - 99,999 years before present
Origin Tectonic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 6,000.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 11:1


Economic Value Lake Balaton contributes to about half of the total national income from tourism in the summer season in Hungary. Approximately 15 - 18 million tourists visit the lake region each year.
Major Cities Keszthely, Siofok, Balatonfured
Population 400,000 (1995)

Watershed Management

Description Comprehensive monitoring programs were launched over 30 years ago in an effort to determine effective actions against growing nutrient pollution.

The use of motorboats is not allowed on Lake Balaton. Sailing is a long standing tradition.

Issues Balaton's water quality has seriously deteriorated since the 1970's. Extreme algae blooms in late summer cover most of the lake. Blue-green algae invasions have reduced water quality and biodiversity in the lake. Nutrient pollution comes from tourism, agriculture and industry.

There are two non-native fish species in Balaton. An eel species was introduced in 1961 and the silver carp in 1972.

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)are also an invasive species in the lake. They entered the lake in the 1930's when the canal was built connecting Lake Balaton to the Danube River.

Invasive Species Limited Impact
Other Issues Erosion
Invasive Species
Nutrient pollution
Point source pollution
Polluted runoff
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality
Biological Resources and Habitats

Biodiversity Conservation

Description The reeds which encircle the shoreline are harvested for export and cleared by those promoting aquatic sports, however they serve important ecological functions. Many waterbirds use the reeds for nesting and they are a key spawning area for fish. The amount of lake surface area covered with reeds dropped 40% between 1968 and 1999.
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
Ramsar Site
Species of Concern


Balaton Limnological Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Science
Women for Lake Balaton - Nők a Balatonért Egyesület
Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency
Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network

LakeNet Programs

Environmental Exchanges Among Managers of Nine Lakes in Russia, Hungary and the U.S.
Exchanges Among Environmental Specialists on 20 Lakes in the Former Soviet Union and in Eastern & Central Europe
LakeNet 2000: A Dialogue on Participatory Watershed Management



Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
ILEC Database


4/7/2005 - Disappearing Lakes, Shrinking Seas
9/3/2003 - Hungary's shrinking lake fuels climate change fears

Additional Data Sources

Birkett, C., and I. Mason. 1995. A new global lakes database for remote sensing programme studying climatically sensitive large lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 21 (3) 307-318.
Duker, L. and L. Borre. 2001. Biodiversity conservation of the world's lakes: a preliminary framework for identifying priorities. LakeNet Report Series Number 2. Annapolis, Maryland USA.
International Lake Environment Committee, the United Nations Environment Program and Environment Agency, Government of Japan. 1997. World Lakes Database.

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