Bosnia and Herzegovina


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Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of:
Balkans · Europe & CIS · South East Europe ·
Water Basins of Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Danube · Krka · Neretva · Sava ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Sarajevo
Neighbouring Countries Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia
Total Area 51,209.2 km2
  - Water 12.2 km2 (0.02%) / 2 m2/ha
  - Land 51,197 km2
Coastline 20 km
Population 3,907,074 (76 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.802 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 26.2 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $19,360 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $6,600
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 11,008 km2 (21.5%)
     - Arable 10,040 km2 (19.61%)
     - Permanent Crops 968 km2 (1.89%)
     - Irrigated 30 km2
  - Non cultivated 75,351 km2 (78.5%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1028 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 37.5 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 1 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 60%
  - For Domestic Use 30%
  - For Industrial Use 10%
  - Per Capita 292 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 97%
     - Urban population 99%
     - Rural population 96%
  - Improved Sanitation 95%
     - Urban population 99%
     - Rural population 92%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

> Articles | Projects & Case studies | Publications & Web resources | Who is who | Maps
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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Bosnia and Herzegovina is located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula in south east Europe. This present politico-administrative structure was established under the Dayton Peace Accords (1995) which brought the civil war (1992-95) to an end. Under these Accords several subsidiary political and administrative structures were created, the most important being the division of the country into two entities: the Republic of Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FB&H). The FB&H covers 51% of the total area of B&H, while the RS covers 49%. The Brčko district in the north of the country was created in 2000 out of the land from both entities. It officially belongs to the both, but it is governed by neither, and functions under a decentralized system of the local government. The two Entities are asymmetrical in their institutional organization. The FB&H is composed of 10 Cantons (every Canton has its own Government and Constitution) subdivided into 84 municipalities, whereas RS comprises 63 municipalities, without cantons.

For the most part, B&H has a continental climate, except its southern part of the country where a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the east of Herzegovina rainfall is amongst the highest in Europe. In terms of hydrology, B&H encompasses two river basins: the Sava River (Danube) in the north, and the Adriatic Sea basin covering the southern half of the country. Of the total area of B&H (51,129 km2) 75.7% belongs to the Danube (38,719 km2), while 24.3% belongs to the Adriatic Sea basin (12,410 km2). The hydrological border between the two basins straddles the border between the FB&H and the RS, so that the FB&H and RS water administrations’ are each responsible for water management in different parts of both the Sava and Adriatic Basins. Topographically, more than 75% of country lies less than 1500 meters above sea level.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

DID YOU KNOW? Most of the watercourses in Bosnia and Herzegovina are international waterways – the Sava forms the country’s border in the north, the Una contibutes to the western border, and the eastern border largely consists of the Drin.

According to the Dayton Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. The federation consists of ten cantons, each of which is a governmental entity with a high degree of autonomy. Bosnia and Herzegovina is at the moment a country in transition, is politically and administratively decentralized, and faces complex economic and social constraints. In addition, it is confronted by very specific environmental problems caused by the war that are not present in the other transition countries. Water supply, distribution and sewerage management in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the responsibility of more than 100 water utilities that are usually organized as public companies owned by municipalities or cantons.

Waters in BIH hydrographically belong to the Black Sea Basin (3,9 million ha or 75,7% of total BIH surface area) and to the Adriatic Sea Basin (1,2 million ha or 24,3%) although the precise lines of separation between these two basins have not yet been determined in certain areas because of the hydrological complex nature of the karst. The Sava river is a recipient of water streams from northern part of BIH, which belong to the Black Sea Basin, while the Neretva river is the only direct tributary of the Adriatic Basin.

The river basins of the Black and Adriatic seas supply Bosnia and Herzegovina with most of its fresh water. The country receives some 1000mm of precipitation annually.

There are about 30 water reservoirs in Bosnia and Herzegovina primarily on the Neretva and Trebisnjica basin, and the Drin. Most are designed for hydropower and all are important for flood control, drinking water and irrigation. Ninety percent of drinking water comes from groundwater resources.

Raw wastewater generated by 90 percent of the population is discharged directly into the nearest water bodies. Uncontrolled deforestation and erosion of soil and mountain streams have resulted in eutrophication of surface waters as well as the creation of alluvia and sludge that increase the risk of flooding and water pollution. There is no information on non-point source pollution.

Water Pollution

Today, none of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s settlements with over 10,000 ES has a treatment facility for wastewaters, which means that all settlements over this size are also significant sources of pollution.

All watercourses should reach ‘Good Ecological Status’ by 2015 with the exception of the four water bodies on the Bosna River. All bodies under pressure were classified as ‘Exposed to risk in the first approximation’. The insufficiency of such an approach was due to the inadequate connection between the pressures and impacts, in terms of quantity of water, sum loads of several less significant pressures in the water body which exceed the threshold of a significant pressure, and upstream pressures (according to data from before 1990).

Of 22 groundwater bodies, 6 are considered to be ‘at risk’ due to human intervention, 4 are at risk of both quantity (due to over extraction) and quality, while the rest are threatened with quality risk only. Four groundwater bodies have insufficient data to estimate status. [1]

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Institutional Structure

The institutional structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina is complex, with two entities (FB&H and RS), 10 Cantons within FB&H, and municipalities. As a result, responsibilities for water management and policies exist at numerous government levels (entity, canton and municipality), which poses operational and planning constraints. The two entities (RS and F B&H) are each responsible for elaborating their respective Water Laws and Water Management Strategies, but these need to be harmonised further. Great progress has been made in cooperation between entity Ministries and Water Agencies, especially in the last seven years or so in water sector reform and water quality and quantity monitoring, but there remains room for improvement.

Legislative Framework

B&H’s strategic goal is to join the European Union. A variety of activities are occurring in preparation for the accession, including the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, which occurred in June 2008. Whilst presently not a member of the European Union and thus with no formal obligation to implement the EU regulations, B&H, with its two entities, intends to implement the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD). This intention is explicit in the signature of Memorandum on Understanding within national CARDS project “Institutional Strengthening of Water Sector in B&H”, signed between the Delegation of European Commission in Sarajevo and Council of Ministers of B&H, and Entity Governments, with the goal to: “harmonize, finalize and approve the reform of water sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, based on principles and goals of the WFD (2000/60/EC)”. Within this project, new Water Laws (2006) for both entities were elaborated incorporating basic principles of the WFD. Given the differences in entity Water Laws, the extent of WFD transposition into these laws similarly differs, with 83% into FB&H water law and 97% into RS water law. The goals of EU accession and implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM) are thus well-accepted by both entities.

Implementation of legislation remains a big issue, and the legislation itself is lagging far behind needs and plans. Both entities’ water Ministries are currently working on creating secondary water legislation, and it is anticipated that a EC “Water Policy” project will begin to be implemented soon, which will present a crucial step towards the development of secondary legislation. Moreover, No overarching water policy exists in B&H at present, and water management strategies at the entity level and river basin management plans (e.g. for the Sava and Adriatic basins) have not been sufficiently elaborated. However, FB&H is currently in the final stage of preparing a Water Governance Strategy, expected to be adopted by the end of 2009, and RS has elaborated the “Framework Plan for Development of Water Management” (2006); a crucial step towards developing a Water Management Strategy in RS.

B&H is a member or contractor the following conventions and agreements related to transboundary water:

1.Protocol for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution from land-based sources (1980) (Took effect on: 17.06.1983);
2.Protocol concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas (1982) (Took effect on: 23.3.1986.);
3.Protocol for the prevention of pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by dumping from ships and aircraft (1976) (Took effect on: 12.02.1978.);
4.Protocol concerning co-operation in combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by oil and other harmful substances in cases of emergency (1976) (Took effect on: 12.02.1978).

B&H has been actively involved in the work of Mediterranean Action Plan since 1998.

B&H has also signed or ratified the following international human rights conventions and regional instruments relevant for the Human Rights-Based Approach to improving Water Governance:

The Constitution includes most of the principles of these human rights conventions and guarantees that they supersede national legislation. As it stands, the legal framework for ensuring the right to water appears sufficient on paper, the challenge lies in improving its implementation in reality. Improvement is needed in the implementation of rulings and international human rights conventions ; largely because the institutional and administrative bodies needed to ensure the legislation is adequately enforced, are embedded in a complex politico-administrative system lacking harmonization and clearly defined responsibilities.

At present B&H is neither a signatory nor party to:

B&H is preparing for ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992) and the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (1992), in which cooperation with neighbouring countries (the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Montenegro and the Republic of Croatia) is important.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Flood management, water pollution control and water quality monitoring are all important water resource management challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina and all require transboundary approaches. The institutions and organizational structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina's water resource sector are different from its neighbours. Effective ties internationally may have been hindered by internal policy disputes regarding water management caused by two different water laws and water protection approaches. The new water laws in each entity, harmonized, and the application of a river-basin approach to water resource management is expected to improve the internal problems with water resource management. The proposed state-level body (the Committee on Sustainable Development) dealing with water hopefully will provide one means for Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in transnational water initiatives, like the Danube Basin Commission.

Water Consumption by Inhabitants and Industry

The biggest cities in the FB&H account for 61% of total water consumption of the entity. Sarajevo consumes 36%, Mostar (10%), Tuzla 9%, and Zenica (6%) . Water consumption by industry in the FB&H is very significant. Part of the industrial water demand is met by drinking water from the water utilities, but the biggest industrial consumers typically also have their own water supply sources. Today, industrial technologies are working towards reducing consumption of all resources used during production, and introducing water recycling wherever possible, as they are obliged to pay fees for water abstraction and wastewater discharge. The total water quantity used by industry in the FB&H from their own water sources amounts to 59,147,70 x 103m3; a mere 17% of pre-war consumption .

In the FB&H, agricultural land covers 1,136,730ha (43.5%), of which 718,400ha is arable. It is predicted the total area in need of irrigation comprises 80,800ha (11.2%) of total arable land, but present estimates suggest only 1,612ha (0.2%) of arable land is irrigated in reality .

In the RS, the five biggest cities account for 50% of total water consumption; Banja Luka (25%), Bijeljina (10%), Prijedor (7%), Doboj (4%) and Zvornik (4%) respectively. As in FB&H, a small amount of the industrial water demand (18million m3) is covered by drinking water from water utilities, whilst most is derived from their own sources (150 million m3 per annum). Small quantities of water are used for irrigation.

In B&H there is a large system for hydro-energy utilisation named HET (Hydro power plants on the Trebišnjica river). There are 4 hydro power plants - three situated in B&H and one in Croatia, which have a capacity of 820MW, and there are plans for new hydropower plants in an aim to gain additional 200 MW.

Transboundary Cooperation

B&H hopes to improve transboundary cooperation with neighbouring countries, especially in terms of pollution of transboundary waters. In 1996, the country signed a bilateral agreement with Croatia on Water Management Cooperation, but its implementation in practice remains a challenge. With serious threats to many regional water supply catchments and pollution of transboundary water courses, dialogue and collaborative action with neighbouring country representatives needs to intensify. The lack of qualified staff in Government and local institutions is an additional problem, and improvement in this regard is vital for bringing about comprehensive and sustained improvements in the water sector.

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Unsatisfactory access to potable water

Although official data for the region indicate relatively high coverage of water services -- up to 90 percent -- the reliability and quality has deteriorated alarmingly in the past decade. Coverage in urban areas is generally higher than in rural areas, but intermittent service is common. Moreover, inadequate functioning of water treatment plants and badly deteriorated distribution networks have made drinking water unsafe in many urban centres, leading to a rise in water-borne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea. Rural water supply services are largely in a state of total disrepair.

Financial constraints

Insufficient funds for covering costs are a grave problem in the water sector. On some occasions, revenues from water fees have inadequately used, ending up in RS Government budget and not the water agencies dedicated to improving the sector. Water Utilities are typically financially dependent of their own revenue collection. Most small-sized Water Utilities only manage to cover basic operation and maintenance (O&M) costs incurred from consumer tariffs. In larger municipalities, the situation is worse; utilities are typically unable to cover even these costs from revenue collection.

The weak financial situation of most Water Utilities does not allow for preventive maintenance to be performed at the levels required to prolong the life of existing facilities. Due to constrained financial resources, Water Utilities can only undertake network repairs in cases of absolute urgency, meaning the many needs that arise due to the ageing infrastructure cannot all be met.

Inadequate local authority capacity

A lack of local level capacity (in first order) and resources (second) to develop and deliver effective services is a significant constraint in Municipalities. Water supply and sanitation are frequently neglected in local communities. Solving water and sanitation problems are typically deemed secondary to all other infrastructure problems (e.g. buildings, electricity supply etc). Increased investment in the water and sanitation sector and appropriate municipal budget planning for this purpose is crucial to satisfy drinking water and sanitation demands.

The larger Water Utilities generally have sufficient, skilled employees and are equipped with the necessary equipment, but the smaller sized utilities are frequently facing problems. These include weak organizational structures; lack of skilled professionals; limited staff capacities in terms of computer use, and a lack of basic equipment for network mapping, leak detection, accounting, water quality monitoring and metering.

Weak Monitoring Systems

Ever since the end of the civil war in 1995, sector monitoring systems (collection of certain data about abstracted water, consumption, losses, finance flow etc) have been modest, and information pertaining to the water sector in B&H are generally unreliable. Currently available data that Water Utilities are providing to central institutions (Ministries or Water Agencies) on the level of services (water abstraction, consumption, losses etc.) are arbitrary, inaccurate and frequently lead to wrong conclusions. However, improvements are underway in the form of a GIS based Water Information system (ISoW) for both entities, which will serve as a “backbone” for gathering sector information for an updated sector assessment. Information on financial flows remains an urgent priority, as such information, crucial for sector decision-making, exists at neither entity nor national levels.

Together with sector monitoring, the WFD requires establishment of surface and groundwater quality and quantity monitoring. The WFD requests integral monitoring to be established in 2009, but actions in this respect are limited in B&H, and this process will evidently be delayed. The estimated 600.000 euro/yr for such water monitoring in B&H poses a real challenge given the available finances of Water Agencies.

Water Quality and Treatment Methods

Drinking water quality problems in Karst areas and surface intakes are largely due to turbidity and bacteriological contamination. Turbidity is especially problematic in spring months, after snowmelt and intense rains, and often exceeds 100 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit); a level at which the water becomes undrinkable. Installations for treating water turbidity are rare in B&H. Bacteriological contamination is largely attributable to human activities (the absence of wastewater treatment facilities in urban areas, septic pits in rural areas, farms etc), and the presence of chemicals (Fe, Mn etc) are problematic in water captured from aquifers in big river valleys. However, springs mostly satisfy the requests of domestic regulation, which is harmonized with WHO requests for drinking waters and the EU Directive on drinking waters.

Drinking water quality monitoring is inadequate, occurring mostly in Water Utilities, while local and individual systems control is comparatively worse. Treatment is largely through chlorination of raw water, but this has varying results. Sometimes the presence of bacteria (most frequently fecal originate: species Escherichia, Streptococcus, etc.) exceeds allowed values post-treatment, and residual chlorine borders allowed values. Large water supply systems, such as Banja Luka waterworks, are now seriously considering alternative suitable methods to solve bacteriological contamination (e.g. ozone application), as besides disinfection other treatment methods are currently very rare.

Insufficient Sewerage and Wastewater Treatment Plants

The number and standard of sewerage systems and wastewater treatment plants in B&H is unsatisfactory. Attention to these problems has been predominantly focused in the bigger cities (Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar, Zenica, Bijeljina etc), with inadequate attention being paid to smaller settlements of up to 2,000, and from 2.000-10.000 inhabitants, which comprise 20% of the total population. Settlements with 2,000+ inhabitants typically lack sufficient drinking water treatment and sewerage connections. Those that are connected to the sewerage system, are generally without wastewater treatment facilities meaning untreated effluent is discharged into streams, with serious threats to human health. The Government is fully aware of the present dangerous situation with regards direct discharging of wastewater from smaller urban areas, and calls for a strategy and an activity plan to be developed to reduce the negative impacts.


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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Case studies in or about Bosnia and Herzegovina

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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Who is Who

People working in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  1. Igor.palandzic ‎(3,535 views)
  2. Julia.obrovac ‎(4,788 views)
  3. Roberta De Palma ‎(3,475 views)
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  6. Goran Tinjic ‎(3,102 views)

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Organizations working in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina



See also

Bosnia and Herzegovina/sector assessment

External Resources

UNDP Boznia and Herzegovina

Water Knowledge Fair 2006 Bosnia and Herzegovina

International Commission for the protection of the Danube

Earth Trends country profile for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Republika Srpska’s page for Directorate for water

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry

DFID Factsheet (2008)

WHO Acess to Improved Water and Sanitation Data



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