Transboundary waters

Finland shares significant transboundary waters with its neighboring countries Russia, Sweden and Norway. For example, land border of Finland and Russia is 1 340 kilometers long and has over 400 water bodies with significant amount of hydropower, fishing and navigation. First conventions were established already in 1922 and the cooperation has been successful ever since. This is made possible by reliable monitoring and just agreements.

Finnish – Russian cooperation: over 400 lakes and rivers under one agreement

In the 60’s, transboundary water areas were facing large water quality problems and hydropower regimes, similar to water issues elsewhere in Finland.

One agreement was made to cover all transboundary waters – over 400 rivers and lakes. Signed in 1964, the agreement already had an integrated approach to water resources management, covering all fields:

  • Water pollution and quality
  • Water resources management
  • Fish Stocks and Fisheries
  • Timber floating and water transport

A commission (3+3 representatives) was established for implementation of the agreement. Annual meetings ensure overall communication and common understanding on recent developments. Additionally, thematic working groups discuss specific subtopics.

Case study: Lake Saimaa at Finnish-Russian border

With area of 4 400 square kilometers, Lake Saimaa is the biggest lake in Finland and 4th biggest lake in Europe. Besides wide range of cities, municipalities, fishing and navigation, it is also the home of threatened Saimaa seal. Water from lake Saimaa flows to lake Laatokka in Russia and to Gulf of Finland after that. For sustainable development of all activities within the watershed, successful transboundary cooperation is vital.

Water discharge is regulated with a multi-purpose discharge rule, taking into account all key parameters:

  • Flood protection
  • Hydropower (2 plants on the Finnish and 2 on the Russian side)
  • Biodiversity (threathened Saimaa seal)
  • Navigation
  • Timber floating
  • Fisheries
  • Water quality

Interests of both parties are equally considered and regularly updated. A common monitoring and reporting program ensures that actions taken also lead into predicted results. And that is exactly what has happened: during the long-term cooperation, pollution load throughout the watershed has drastically decreased.

Finland contributing to global transboundary water issues

Ever since the 1960’s, Finland has had an active role also in global transboundary water issues. Finland has actively supported the development of common legal framework, institutional development, common agreements and practices. Some examples include:

  • Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers (1966)
  • UNECE Water Convention (1992)
  • UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997)

More hands-on work such as water diplomacy, impact assessments and socio-economic studies have been implemented with several partners around the world. Some examples include:

  • Mekong River basin (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam)
  • Central Asia (Kirgisia, Tadjikistan, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan)
  • Middle East (Irak, Turkey)

Finnish water expertise at your service

Socio-economic studies
Aalto University

Hydrological modelling
Finnish Environment Institute

Watershed management plans and capacity building
Finnish Consulting Group Ltd
Vahanen Environment Ltd

Environmental monitoring solutions
EHP Environment Ltd
Luode Consulting Ltd
Vaisala Ltd
Finnish Meteorological Institute

Water diplomacy
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Ministry of Environment of Finland

Together, members of Finnish Water Forum can develop unique solutions for transboundary water issues. Contact us to learn more about how Finland can work with you towards more sustainable transboundary water management.