The Dniester basin is located in the territory of three countries – the Republic of Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine. The total length of the Dniester is 1,362 km. The upper and mouth reaches of the Dniester River flow within Ukraine over the total length of 705 km, a 220 km river section is shared between Ukraine and Moldova, and 437 km of its length lie within the borders of Moldova. Only a very small upper part of the Strviazh River (a left tributary of the Dniester) lies within the territory of Poland.

The Dniester Basin extends into territories of 7 oblasts of Ukraine (Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Vinnytsia, and Odessa), covering 13% to 80% of their areas. Within Moldova, the Dniester Basin covers the major part of country’s area (59%), with its 19 districts and Transnistria region drained by the Dniester River, fully or partially. There are 62 towns and 95 townships in the Ukrainian part of the Dniester Basin, and 2 municipalities (Municipias) and 41 towns within the Moldovan part of the Basin, both on the left and right banks of the river.

The total population of the Dniester Basin within Ukraine and Moldova is over 7 million people. Over 5 million people live in Ukraine and 2.74 million people in Moldova.

The Dniester is the main source of drinking water for Moldova and is no less important for a significant part of Ukraine. The Dniester is the source of drinking water for an additional 3.5 million people, living outside of the basin area, i.e. in Chernivtsi and Odessa.


Физическая карта бассейн Днестра

Img. 1.1 Physical Map of the Dniester Basin


Economic Environment

The natural conditions of the territory and the needs of the national economy have contributed to the development of the power, oil and gas, coal, chemical, forest, woodworking and food industries as well as the agricultural production (particularly in the lowland part) in the Dniester Basin.

Within Ukraine, the Dniester Basin sustains a large multi-sectoral economy, comprising heavily polluting industries mainly concentrated in the upper part of the basin (Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk Oblasts), where the Dniester River collects 70% of its flow.

Moldova’s economy is export-oriented and dependent on imported energy resources. Industrial facilities located along the basin are scarce.  Notwithstanding that, some of the existing enterprises have an impact on the status of the basin, namely a combined heat and power plant in Kuchurgan, a metallurgical plant in Ribnita, cement plants in Ribnita and Rezina, etc.

The Dniester River sustains about 54% of the total water use in the national economy of Moldova.


Geographic Conditions

The Dniester Basin extends over a length of about 700 km, with the average width of about 100 km. The basin itself is shaped like a very elongated oval curved in the middle with extended tail sections. Upper sections account for about 20% of the river basin area. Here it borders on the Prut and Tisza basins in the south, shares the border with the basin of the San, a tributary of the Vistula, in the west and north, and borders on the basins of the Western Bug and the Styr and Horyn rivers, the tributaries of the Pripyat River, in the north.

The Dniester Basin’s hydrographic network is dominated by over 14,000 small rivers, which are up to 10 km long. The lack of large tributaries and the presence of numerous small streams is a characteristic hydrographic feature of the Dniester Basin, which is explained by the “clamped” boundary location of its basin relative to other rivers.

Based on its flow collection pattern, water regime and physical/geographical characteristics, the Dniester is generally divided into three reaches: Upper Carpathian Dniester (from the river source to the Nizhny Village and the Tlumach River inflow 2 km downstream of the Zolota Lypa River mouth, 296 km long), Middle Podol Dniester (from the Nizhny Village to Dubasari, 715 km long); and the Lower Dniester (from the Dubasari Hydropower Dam to the estuary, 351 km long).

Img. 1.2 The division of the Dniester basin into three parts: the Carpathian, Middle-Podolsk and Lower

Wetland lakes represent an important feature of the river mouth section. The Dniester wetlands play a vital role in maintaining the water balance and conserving the biological diversity in the Dniester River Basin. They provide varied habitats and rich food base for migratory birds, mammals, amphibias, and reptiles. The largest wetland lakes are Putrino Lake (2.2 km2), Tudorovo Lake (2.8 km2), and Beloe Lake (1.3 km2).

The Dniester Estuary (Liman) is a shallow basin formed in the wider part of the Dniester River valley, extending over 42 km.  It has a water surface area of 360 km2 (or 408 km2 if wetland area is taken into account) and capacity of 0.54 km3. The estuary is separated from the sea by a sand bar – Bugaz bay-bar (40 to 500 m wide) and is connected with the sea by a narrow channel – Tsarehrad Mouth.  The Dniester Estuary is the largest freshwater estuary in Ukraine.



Land Use and Forests

Land use in the Dniester Basin is dominated by agriculture. About 67% of the Dniester Basin area within Ukraine is agricultural land, which is divided into arable land, perennial plantations, grassland and pastures. The share of arable land is 78% (66% in Ukraine). The Vinnytsia Oblast has the highest proportion of cultivated agricultural land within the whole Dniester Basin. Besides, 23,400 ha and 21,000 ha are occupied by wind breaks and protective forest plantations, respectively.

The average forest coverage in the Dniester Basin within Ukraine is relatively low (14%), and only in the Chernivtsi Oblast do forests occupy about 30% of the total area. (The optimal proportion of forests is at least 30% of the total area). The total area of forest cover within the Ukrainian part of the basin is over 1.2 million ha.

The Dniester Basin area within Moldova is also actively used for agricultural production. Land use in the basin is mainly dominated by arable land, perennial plantations, grassland, and pastures. Within the Moldovan part of the Dniester Basin, 76% of land is used for agriculture, with only 9% being occupied by forests. The largest areas of forests are concentrated around Kodry, where the forest coverage is over 24%. Forests are particularly scarce in the upper section of the Reut River catchment (Balti Steppe) and in southern areas of the left-bank part of the Dniester Basin, where the proportion of forests is below 6%.


Water Reservoirs

There are 65 water reservoirs (with a total water surface area of 24,350 hectares and net storage capacity of 2,156 million m3) and 3,447 ponds (with water surface area of 20,800 hectares and capacity of 244.4 million m3).

The Dniester and Dubasari reservoirs have been constructed in the middle reaches of the Dniester River. The Dniester Reservoir consists of two water reservoirs (the main reservoir and the buffer reservoir) in ChernivtsiKhmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia Oblasts. The Dniester Reservoir is the “youngest” of large water reservoirs in Ukraine. The reservoir was filled with water during the period from late 1981 to 1987. Its length is 194 m, total area is 142 km2, and full capacity is 3 km3. The 128 km long Dubasari reservoir is located within the borders of Moldova, between Camenca Village and Dubasari Town. It has an area of 67.5 km2 and a full design capacity of 0.49 km³. Both reservoirs were built to ensure the operation of relevant HPPs.

Dniester Water Use

The Dniester has long been widely used in many areas of economic activities: for water transport, water supply, fisheries, recreation. Here, starting from the beginning of the 19th century, modification (straightening) and clearing of the riverbed, deepening of rapids were carried out, which made the Dniester much more convenient for timber rafting and navigation.

The Dniester HPP is the largest industrial development in the basin, producing about 865 million kWh of electricity, mainly during peak hours of the national grid.

Currently, water resources of the Dniester are used in irrigation, industrial, municipal and agricultural water supply, fisheries, with the riverbed alluvium used for construction. The major water users in Moldova are the cities of Chisinau, Balti, Soroca, Orhei, Ribnita, Dubasari, Tiraspol, Bender and in Ukraine – Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Drohobych, Boryslav, Stryi, Kalush, Stebnik.

Although the mouth section of the Dniester River belonging to Ukraine is relatively small, major water intakes are concentrated there. The Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi irrigation system water intake is located along the main branch of the Dniester River 1 km downstream of the Moldovan/Ukrainian border.  Further downstream, the river flow is abstracted to supply water to the Dniester Drinking Water Treatment Plant, and to the Mayaki-Bilyaivka and Troitske-Hradenytsi irrigation systems. The Dniester Drinking Water Treatment Plant itself abstracts over 300 million m3 of river water per year at an estimated flow rate of 10 m3/s to provide drinking water to Odessa.

Navigation on the Dniester is very limited,  with a very short section of the Lower Dniester and a section near Mohyliv-Podilsky within Ukraine being navigable. Cargo shipping is carried out along the Dniester reservoir, with ferry sites operating in several locations between the river banks. The Dniester is quite widely used for fishing, with the main fish catch falling on the estuary and the mouth section of the river.


Dniester Basin Nature

The ecosystem of the Dniester Basin is mainly represented by forest, steppe and meadow landscapes. The greatest variety of terrestrial plant species remains in the Carpathian part of the Dniester Basin. Its tree species pattern is dominated by spruce and mixed forests, as well as deciduous forests followed downstream by broad-leaved and coniferous forests.  These forests mainly consist of oak, beech, hornbeam, and lime-tree. There also occur nut trees, ash trees, and elms.

Steppe vegetation appears further downstream in the basin where it is represented by fescue-feather grass steppes, as well as subpontian-grassland steppes and wormwood-fescue steppes.

Eutrophic, grass-and-moss, shrub and forest wetlands are located in the estuaries of the Dniester tributaries. In the Carpathians, oligo- and mesotrophic wetlands (upstream of the right-bank Carpathian tributaries of the Dniester River) are found occasionally within the basin.

Wetland lakes represent an important feature of the river mouth section. The Dniester wetlands play a vital role in maintaining the water balance and conserving the biological diversity in the Dniester River Basin. They provide varied habitats and rich food base for migratory birds, mammals, amphibias, and reptiles. The largest wetland lakes are Putrino Lake (2.2 km2), Tudorovo Lake (2.8 km2), and Beloe Lake (1.3 km2).

Animal habitats in the most part of the Dniester Basin are in biotopes that have undergone anthropogenic transformation – these are mainly agricultural lands. A significant area of the upper basin is captured within a natural biotope – the dark coniferous (spruce-fir) forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians. Alpine meadows and beech forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians are fragmented in the upper reaches of the Carpathian tributaries.

The most common mammal species in these biotopes are squirrel, red vole, brown bear, pine marten, lynx, red deer, wild cat, European polecat. Local bird species include black stork, golden eagle, booted eagle, Ural owl, common eagle-owl, black woodpecker, nutcracker, hawk, common buzzard, and white-tailed eagle. Reptile communities inhabiting the Dniester Basin comprise common lizard, common European viper, blindworm, Aesculapian snake, while the amphibians include salamander, Carpathian newt, and grass frog.

River floodplains represent a separate biotope. It is possible to come across muskrat, European beaver, Eurasian otter, European mink, and European poleact there. Common bird species include black kite, white-tailed eagle, purple heron, gray goose, common coot, common pheasant, European oystercatcher, black-headed gull, and great reed warbler. Reptile populations that can be encountered there include European pond turtle, emerald lizard, dice snake, common European viper, and Pallas’ coluber.


Nature Reserves

There are three nature reserves within the Moldovan part of the Dniester Basin (Codru, total area – 5,177 ha; Yagorlyk – 836 ha, Plaiul Fagului – 1,562 ha), and also the first National Park Orhei (total area – 33,792 ha). The Moldovan part of the Dniester Basin includes two Ramsar sites: the Lower Dniester (60,000 ha) and Unguri-Holosnita (15,553 ha). There are six national parks established in the Dniester basin within Ukraine: Halych National Nature Park (14,685 ha); Lower Dniester National Nature Park (21,311 ha), Medobory (Podilski Tovtry, 2,613 ha); Skole Beskids (35,684 ha); Khotyn National Natural Park (9,446 ha); and Dniester Canyon National Nature Park (10,829 ha). The Ramsar wetlands within the Ukrainian part of the Dniester Basin are the Bakota Bay, the Dniester-Turunchuk Crossrivers Area (Dniester floodplains), and the northern part of the Dniester Estuary (Liman).



Today, the Dniester River Basin is facing serious environmental challenges, including flow control, pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, and resource management.

  • Flow Control

    The water flow regime is largely regulated by the Dniester Hydroelectric Power Plant. This facility also performs a flood protection function and is an important facility for water storage and distribution in times of low water and droughts. However, sediment transport and fish migration have changed significantly due to the creation of this reservoir. Flow patterns are a constant source of disputes between water users in the upper and lower reaches of the river. The natural flow of the river and the habitat have also experienced changes due to the construction of several dams and diversion channels serving to protect against floods and due to an artificial river diversion.

  • Water quality

    Water quality is affected by agriculture, industry, and sewage. Both countries are experiencing land degradation due to inadequate agricultural practices, such as land ploughing up to the river borders, misuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and failure to use crop rotation principles, which ultimately leads to river contamination with chemicals and nutrients. Inadequate wastewater treatment, industrial discharges, livestock farm discharges, urban and illegal waste dumps further degrade water quality. Potential accidents at several chemical plants and at protective mine dams in the upper reaches of the river may have a transboundary effect.

  • Biodiversity

    All the factors described above result in the loss of biodiversity. The Dniester ecosystems in both countries suffer to a different degree from illegal logging, illegal sand and gravel mining, and illegal/inadequate regulation of fisheries.

  • Climate Change

    For example, the degradation of small rivers and the depletion of underground sources have recently become apparent to residents of the basin.

  • Transboundary Problems

    A tentative list of problems (to be amended within the framework of the GEF project includes:

    • organic pollution (with domestic and industrial waters, waters of the agro-industrial complex);
    • nutrient pollution (from both point and diffuse sources);
    • pollution by hazardous substances (from industrial sources, from the use of pesticides in agriculture, accidental pollution);
    • hydromorphological changes;
    • pollution by plastic and other household waste;
    • invasive pollution.