Lake Geneva lies at a mean altitude of 372 meters and has a surface area of 580 km2. It is the biggest body of fresh water in Western Europe and supplies drinking water for more than 800,000 people. Lake Geneva receives water from various different rivers in neighbouring Swiss cantons (Valais, Vaud, Fribourg and Geneva) and French Departments (Haute-Savoie, Ain). Of these numerous tributaries, the Rhône is the one with the greatest flow; it alone contributes 75% of the inflow into Lake Geneva. The theoretical water residence time in Lake Geneva is 11.3 years.
In 2006, only 3% of the 200 km of the shores of Lake Geneva were still entirely natural (coastal marshes) and 23% nearly natural (meadowland, cultivated land). More than 60% of the shores were entirely artificial (walls and riprap) and severely affected by human activities (wharfs, ports and roads). To contribute to maintaining, improving and ensuring the long-term biodiversity of the shores of Lake Geneva, CIPEL recommends that the protection and valorisation of the shores should be promoted in every possible way (contractual undertakings, “nudging”, regulation, etc.) by highlighting existing sites of high biological value, in particular the estuaries of the watercourses with a natural character, as well as all the stretches of the shores that could be improved.
Lake Geneva offers both the inhabitants and visitors to the region various facilities, including:
- using the lake water as drinking water after processing. The 11 pumping stations that handle water from Lake Geneva supply more than 800,000 people with potable water.
- Swimming and other aquatic leisure pursuits. Swimmers can chose from 115 beaches and access points to the lake, the water quality of which is regularly monitored. In their great majority, these beaches report excellent or good bacteriological quality.
- Fishing in Lake Geneva (both commercial fishing and angling) and in its tributaries. More than 150 Swiss and French commercial fishermen work on the lake. The main species caught are perch, whitefish (coregones), trout, Arctic charr and pike. We should also mention roach and shrimp.