The state of Finnish fresh waters

Finland, the land of fresh waters

168 000

lakes or ponds
(over 0,05 ha)

21 000 km

of rivers

ca. 100 000 km

of streams

Ca. 100 000

springs, 32 383 of them marked on the map

220 000 km

of lake and pond coastline

340 000 km

of running water coastline (wider than two metres)

State of Finnish water courses

Aiming for the good status of inland waters

The status of Finnish fresh waters has improved greatly since the 1960’s due to the introduction of water management practices and especially effective water treatment for the industrial and municipal waste waters.

According to an assessment of the status of Finland’s waters in 2019, the status of inland waters in Finland is fairly good. Especially, big lakes and lakes in the northern part of the country were rated good or high. However, eutrophication is still a major problem for lakes and their ecosystems. Small lakes in particular suffer from algal blooms and overgrowth due to eutrophication. In rivers the main problem is siltation. Many of the rivers are dammed, which changes the natural hydro-​morphology, habitats and migration of river fauna and flora. 

This preliminary assessment of the status of Finland’s waters covered 6,875 lakes, rivers and coastal water bodies in Finland. Artificial or heavily modified water bodies, such as dammed rivers, were not assessed.

Freshwater fauna and flora

Threatened habitats, endangered species

Ecological restoration of watercourses is an important way to improve the status and habitats of lakes, rivers and small waters degraded by human actions. Inland waters have been restored in Finland since the late 1960’s. Restoration improves the status of the watercourse, its habitat and catchment area, and can also provide many social, economic and aesthetic benefits to the area. Since the introduction of the EU Water Framework Directive, the trend in restoration has shifted from local on-​site restorations towards larger, basin-​scale restoration projects.

Until recently, rivers and streams have mostly been restored by the local environmental and fishery authorities, even if some restoration work has been carried out by private companies and municipalities. Non-​governmental organizations and local stakeholders are now increasingly taking more responsibility for the planning and implementation of stream restorations in Finland. 

The endangerment of different species found in Finland is regularly assessed. According to the Red Book 2019, in the future Finland’s biodiversity will decrease, resulting in the increase of endangered species. For example, more than half of wetland waterbird species are endangered. The most significant reasons for this are eutrophication and overgrowth, as well as non-​native species mink and raccoon dogs.

Fish species are also threatened. Situation is worst for migratory fish suffering from dam construction and other structures, blocking their way to the spawning grounds and rich habitats. Migration from sea to freshwater rivers and vice versa is an important part of the life cycle of migratory fish.

Endangerment of migratory fish in Finland. LC = Least Concern, NT = Near Threatened, VU = Vulnerable, EN = Endangered, CR = Critically Endangered  (Source: Red Book 2010; Red Book 2019)

Saving our waters for future generations

 

Restoration improves the state of our waters

Ecological restoration of watercourses is an important way to improve the status and habitats of lakes, rivers and small waters degraded by human actions. Inland waters have been restored in Finland since the late 1960’s. Restoration improves the status of the watercourse, its habitat and catchment area, and can also provide many social, economic and aesthetic benefits to the area. Since the introduction of the EU Water Framework Directive, the trend in restoration has shifted from local on-​site restorations towards larger, basin-​scale restoration projects.

Until recently, rivers and streams have mostly been restored by the local environmental and fishery authorities, even if some restoration work has been carried out by private companies and municipalities. Non-​governmental organizations and local stakeholders are now increasingly taking more responsibility for the planning and implementation of stream restorations in Finland.

Lakes, rivers and small waters require constant and continuous work and sustainable choices from us all to stay in pristine condition.