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Ohrid, Macedonia

General Information

Description Lake Ohrid is the oldest lake in Europe and one of the oldest lakes in the world. Formed tectonically between 4 and 10 million years ago, the lake is situated in karstic, or limestone bedrock.

Lake Ohrid is located in the southwest part of the Republic of Macedonia, on the border between Macedonia and the Republic of Albania. Approximately two-thirds of the lake surface area belongs to Macedonia and one-third belongs to Albania.

Lake Ohrid is probably unique in the world in that its water is supplied mainly through spring water from numerous surface and underwater springs.

Country Albania
Latitude 41° 2' 19" (41.0386)
Longitude 20° 44' 13" (20.7369)
Lake Region Balkan Lakes


 Ohrid global index map (LakeNet Explorer)
 Ohrid locator map
 Ancient Lakes of the World
 Lake Basin Management Initiative (LakeNet Explorer)
 USAID-supported Lake Basin Management and Biodiversity Conservation Technical Assistance 2003-2004 (LakeNet Explorer)

Physical Characteristics

Description The watershed of Lake Ohrid includes steep mountains, as well as both Big and Small Prespa Lakes. Lake Prespa sits about 150 m above Lake Ohrid. Due to the karstic (porous limestone) bedrock, water from Lake Prespa and its catchment area contributes significantly to the supply of several springs along the shore of Lake Ohrid. The effective catchment area of Lake Ohrid therefore extends into the catchment area of Lake Prespa and may exceed 2 000 km2.

Lake Ohrid has 40 tributaries which are mainly creeks and rivers which flow only temporarily during heavy rains and melting of the snow from the surrounding high mountains.

The lake has one outlet, the River Crni Drim (Black Drim), which flows to the Adriatic Sea. This outlet of the lake is human-controlled. Downstream are several dams and hydro-electric power stations.

Volume 58.60 km3
Surface Area 358.00 km2
Depth Mean depth: 164.0 m
Maximum depth: 289.0 m
Residence Time 83.6 years
Age 2 million - 20 million years before present
Origin Tectonic
Trophic State Oligotrophic
Type Fresh
Catchment Catchment size: 3,921.00 km2
Catchment/surface area ratio: 11:1


Economic Value The size of the lake and the quality of the fish fauna give Lake Ohrid an important significance as a fishery in both the Macedonia and Albanian economies. The quality and the economic value of the fish populations of Lake Ohrid are much higher than other Balkan lakes, higher even than in the shallow and highly productive lakes in the Aegean zone (Stankovic, 1960).

According to fishery statistics for the Macedonian part of the lake during the periods 1930 Ė 1957, the salmonid fishes and an eel species represented 45.6% of the mean annual catch with 43% belonging only to Salmo letnica. During this period, the lake was characterized as a typical salmon lake.

Currently, ten species have commercial value greater than the two relic and endemic trout - Salmo letnica (Karaman) and Acantholingua ohridana (Steind). In 1935, a breeding program was established to artificially spawn and hatch the native trout in order to support the natural recruitment of Lake Ohrid trout. Since then, the lake has been stocked with more than 450 million young trout in different stages of development. A hydrobiological station was established at the same time to complement the hatchery, and they have worked as an integrated whole since that time.

Primary Economic Sectors Agriculture ( Albania ) - 55%
Major Cities Ohrid, Macedonia; Pogradec, Albania. 200,000 permanent residents within watershed.
Population 200,000 (2003)

Watershed Management

Description The objective of the Lake Ohrid Conservation Project (LOCP) is to conserve and protect the natural resources and biodiversity of Lake Ohrid by developing and supporting effective cooperation between Albania and Macedonia for the joint environmental management of the watershed. The project began in late 1998 and early 1999, with an expected duration of three years. Positive mid-term reviews later led to an extension to December 31, 2003. An additional extension to December 31, 2004 is currently being implemented.

Despite a variety of implementation problems, the Lake Ohrid Conservation Project has been remarkably successful in stimulating and facilitating transboundary communication between Macedonia and Albania. New environmental laws and regulations are being developed and implemented in both nations.

Lake Ohrid has been a center for limnological investigation for scientists from all over the world since 1892 (Stankovic 1960).

Watershed Action Plan In development
Sub-basin Action Plan In development
Other Issues Fisheries
Nutrient pollution
Point source pollution
Polluted runoff
Specific Contaminants Mining
Monitoring Programs In-Lake
Water Quality
Biological Resources and Habitats

Biodiversity Conservation

Description Due to the long history of Lake Ohridís continuous existence and the geographical isolation and permanency of life conditions in the lake, a relatively high number of lake organisms are still speciating. Lake species, including many fish, continue to diversify into new taxonomic categories - subspecies, species and even families. This type of speciation, also known as intralacustrine speciation, is typical in old, deep and large preglacial lakes, such as Lake Baikal. Endemism characterizes the Lake Ohridís biological world: endoparastic Infusoria 88%, Rhabdocoela 44%, Tricladida 71%, Gastropoda 90%, and Ostracoda 66% (Spirkovski 1995). Lake Ohrid represents a refuge for numerous freshwater organisms from the Tertiary Period, whose close relatives can be found only as fossil remains; this is the reason the lake is sometimes called a "museum of living fossils". Among them are included the famous Ohrid Trout (Salmo letnica) and a freshwater sponge (Ochridospongia rotunda).
Designations LakeNet Biodiversity Priority
World Heritage Site
Species of Concern


Alliance for Lake Cooperation in Ohrid and Prespa
Lake Ohrid Conservation Project

LakeNet Programs

World Lake Basin Management Initiative
Advisory Services to the Lake Ohrid Conservation Project, Albania and Macedonia
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
International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network
Lake99 Workshop: Managing the Great Lakes of the World, Implementing the Watershed Approach
LakeNet 2000: A Dialogue on Participatory Watershed Management
International Workshop on Management and Sustainable Development of International Lake Basins
LBMI Regional Experience Sharing and Review Workshop for Europe, Central Asia & the Americas
Promoting Cross-border Cooperation and Protection of the Cherava River, Lake Ohrid


Lake Ohrid State of the Environment Report  (PDF) Lake Ohrid Conservation Project. 3/1/2003.
Lakes & Reservoirs: Research and Management, Special Issue edited by LakeNet, Volume 6:3  (PDF) Announcement. Blackwell Science-Asia. 7/31/2001.
Managing Lake Basins for Sustainable Use - Lake Basin Management Initiative Final Report (PDF)  Project Report. Final. English. 2/27/2006.
Ohrid  (PDF) Experience Brief. Final. Watzin et al. 2/27/2006.
Watershed management in the Lake Ohrid region of Albania and Macedonia  Case Study. Final. Lakes and Reservoirs- Research and Management. 9/1/2004.


Biodiversity Conservation of the World's Lakes: A Preliminary Framework for Identifying Priorities
Conservation of Biodiversity in the Lake District of Ohrid, Prespa & Prespa Minor
Cross-border cooperation - Lake Ohrid
Environmental Protection of Lake Ohrid
ILEC Database
ISC Lake Ohrid Local Environmental Action Program
Lake Ohrid Hydrographic Features
Public Participation in the Management of Transboundary Waters
Startegies for Public Participation in the Managment of Transboundary waters in Countries in Transition
State of Environment Report - Lake Ohrid
Watershed management in the Lake Ohrid region of Albania and Macedonia


6/18/2004 - Prime Ministers of Macedonia and Albania Sign Agreement for Protection and Sustainable Development of Lake Ohrid Watershed
4/23/2004 - Towards a Lake Basin Management Initiative
9/29/2003 - German banks finance protection of lakes Prespa and Ohrid
9/15/2003 - "Fossil trout" faces extinction in Balkans, experts warn
7/10/2003 - Macedonia and Albania Cooperate to Protect Lake Ohrid
1/9/2002 - Annual Bird Census Underway on Ohrid and Prespa Lakes (Albania, Greece, Macedonia)
10/19/2000 - Secret deal to draw water from Lake Ohrid shocks Macedonians

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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