Towards joint management of the transboundary Gauja/Koiva river basin district
EN LV EE

Main facts about Gauja River basin

River basin is the territory, from which the river collects its waters, where all the surface and ground waters is flowing together. It is the area (territory) of land, from which all surface run-offs flow through streams, rivers and lakes reaching a river mouth, firth (estuary) or delta and flow into the sea.

River basin district is the area of land and sea, made up of one or more neighbouring river basins together with their associated groundwater and coastal waters. Latvia is having 4 main river basin districts – Gauja, as Koiva is called in Latvian, is one of them, while in Estonia there are 3 main river basin districts and Koiva is one of them.

  • The total area of Gauja/Koiva river basin district is about 14380 km2. The biggest part of the district is located on Latvian side – ca. 13051 km2 or 90.75% of its area. The other 9.25% or ca. 1335 km2 are located on Estonian side of the district.
  • On the Latvian side Gauja river basin district consists of Gauja, Salaca and in Riga bay inflowing small river basins, as well as of Lake Burtnieks and its tributaries.
  • On the Estonian side Koiva basin district consists of Koiva river basin and Pededze river basin the Latvian part of Pededze river basin belongs to Daugava river basin district.
  • In both countries Gauja/ Koiva river basin district is the smallest river basin district in the country, despite the size differences between Latvian and Estonian parts of the district.
  • There are around 250 000 inhabitants in the Gauja river basin district, 97% of them live in the territory of Latvia.
  • Total length of river Gauja is 452 km, for 24 km the Gauja is not only a river but also the border between Latvia and Estonia.
  • At least half of Gauja river basin territory on the Latvian side is covered by forests. On the Estonian side of Koiva basin the proportion of forests is profoundly greater - the greatest part of the territory is covered by forests. Also on the Latvian side the largest tracts of forests are to be found closest to the Estonian border.
  • There are many protected nature areas in the territory of Gauja river basin – Gauja National park, Veclaicene Protected Landscape Area, Ziemeļgauja (Northern Gauja) Protected Landscape Area, Karula National Park, Haanja Nature Park.
  • There are more than 20 fish species living in the Gauja river basin, e.g. perch, ide, grayling, bream, pike, roach, dace, burbot, whitefish, as well as one species of crayfish. Three fish species – salmon, trout, and vimba, as well as lamprey are economically important migrating species.
  • The pike of 19.56 kg caught in 1989 in the beautiful Lake Ungurs.
  • Water resources in the Gauja river basin mainly are used for households and agriculture, less – for the industry, also water resources are used for the energy production, relaxing, tourism and angling needs.
  • There are 34 hydro power electro stations in the Latvian side of Gaujas river basin and only – on Estonian side.
  • Water quality in the Gauha river basin mostly is impacted and polluted by households’ waste waters but agriculture is the major feeder of natural waters with plant nutrients, mostly nitrogen and phosphorus substances, as well as plant protection substances - pesticides.
  • The most polluted site in the Gauja River basin is two sulfuric acid tar ponds at Inčukalns, where nearly 50 thousand m3 of wastes produced by the former factory for oil processing and lubricants in Riga have been deposited.
  • About 580 polluted and potentially polluted sites, mostly old ones, have been registered in the Gauja River basin: oil product storages, fuel stations, old landfills, storages of fertilisers and agrochemicals, farms and former military bases.
  • Gauja river basin district management plan (2010-2015) s a regional planning document to ensure water protection and sustainability. The aim of a river basin management plan is to improve the quality of surface and underground water and reach a good status of waters, as well as to inform the society about water quality and involve different stakeholders in the process of solving issues connected to water environment. River basin management plans present the current status of water bodies; nominate water quality targets and measures to reach them.
  • About 580 polluted and potentially polluted sites, mostly old ones, have been registered in the Gauja River basin: oil product storages, fuel stations, old landfills, storages of fertilisers and agrochemicals, farms and former military bases.