The river Volga catchment is the largest in Europe. It lies entirely
within the Russian Federation, comprising about one third of European
Russia. The Volga is a lowland river with its source lying at 228 m
a.s.l. in the Valdayskaya Heights. The main river and most of its tributaries
flow from the north to the south through several different geographical
and vegetational zones, including taiga, hard- and softwood forests,
steppes, semi-arid and arid zones. The major tributaries are the Oka,
the Belaya, the Vyatka, and the Kama, each of which is longer than 1000
km and has a catchment area exceeding 100 000 km2. As the Volga approaches
the Caspian Sea it divides into a delta comprised of about 275 channels
covering about 12 000 km2 (Fortunatov, 1979).
Annual mean discharge is 230 km3.
Many of the rivers that comprise the Volga river system are highly regulated,
the main course itself being characterized by having a large number
of reservoirs and no parts remaining with a natural regime unchanged
by flow regultion. The reservoirs on the main rivers and its tributaries
cover and an area of more than 26 000 km2 and have a storage capacity
of about 90 km3 (Pavlov & Vilenkin, 1989). They are primarily used
for the generation of hydroelectric power and for irrigation purposes.
The river system is also utilized for fishery and navigation, and for
recreational and domestic purposes. The average population density in
the catchment is 35 inhabitants km2, there being eight cities with more
than 1 million inhabitants, the largest of wich are Moskva, Volgograd,
einformation : Link to YWFF Volga Webpage