Crete has limited water resources, due to its geographical location and weather conditions. Dams and artificial reservoirs have been built at several sites of the island in order to meet the increasing needs for water supply. After their construction, all of them soon were transformed into very important wetlands, enriching the biodiversity of the island.
The largest natural lake in Crete is located at Kournas by Georgioupolis, where visitors can watch birds from the local watch tower. Small but important natural ponds with water all year round are also located at Tersanas by Chania, at Mohos and Thrapsano while seasonal ponds are met at Orne, Parakalouri, Ziros, Omalos by Viannos, Achendrias, Stroumboulas, various plateaus of the northern province of Mirabello, Gergeri and at several more places. Artificial lakes where one can observe birds are located at Ayia by Chania, at Votomos by Zaros, at the large dams of Bramiana, Aposelemis, Faneromeni, Potami and the numerous small dams in the hinterland of Heraklion.
Lake Kournas and its surroundings constitute a very important ecosystem for Greece. Kournas is one of the very few areas of Crete where plenty of fresh water is stored throughout the year. For this reason, it is protected under the Natura 2000 program.
Almiros spring can probably most satisfactory explain the term paradox. This spring is located at the northeastern side of Psiloritis, a few hundred meters far from the sea and the city of Heraklion, and it runs off the highest water quantity in Crete directly into the sea through the homonym river of Almiros! The water of the spring is brackish because somewhere quite deep it is mixed with seawater.
The artificial lake of Zaros or Votomos located on the southern slopes of Psiloritis, just 1km north of Zaros and 45km southwest of Iraklion. The area was a small wetland before 1987, which was shaped in the crater of Votomos spring. It took its current form in 1987, when the Forest Service created an artificial lake where the spring water is stored.
At the plateau of Ziros and right next to the homonymous village we meet a very small wetland, covering only a half acre. This small pond is extremely important for the biodiversity of the dry Eastern Crete, as the existence of freshwater anywhere there is valuable.
The quite new lake has a capacity of 23 million cubic meters and is expected to become one of the most important wetlands in the southeast Mediterranean. Already, many species of birds and animals have appeared in the area. Visitors of the wider area visit the dam and admire the beautiful scenery.
The artificial lake of Bramiana was built in 1986 at Bramiana to meet the 30.000 of the greenhouses of Ierapetra. It is located 5km northwest of the town, in the road connecting Ierapetra and Kalamafka village. The lake covers an area of 1050 acres and has a capacity of 15 million m3, making it the second largest wetland of southern Greece, after Potami Dam at Amari valley.
The dam of Aposelemis river was a very tough project that was eventually completed in 2012. At the bottom of the lake there is the village Sfendyli, the few residents of which were moved to another place.
Trademark of St. Nicholas is the picturesque Lake Voulismeni, a small lagoon in the center of the town, used as a small harbor where fishing boats stop. Dozens of legends are associated with it, mainly because of its very deep waters (e.g. that it has no bottom).
If you climb the cliffs on the east side of Agiofarago beach and walk for a while to the southeast, you will meet a hidden saltish lake - cave, called Vourvoulitis, surrounded by vertical cliffs.
The artificial lake of Agia (Ayia) is located near the village of Agia, 9 km west of Chania. It is a small lake of 450 acres, which is close to the valley of Fasas. This valley is considered as the most humid of Crete. Agia lake receives water from underground springs and the river Xekolomenos.
The pond of Maherida is located at the area of Tersanas in Akrotiri, just 14km east of Chania city, next to the stunning beach of Maherida. It is an impressive karstic doline, where springs with brackish water gush.
The name means the lake of the Turk, taken after a legend according to which a Turk was drowned here. In order to reach the lake you should follow the dirt track from Ahendrias to Stiromandra. From Stiromandra follow the short path which is part of the old trail from Ahendrias to Agios Nikitas monastery.
The pond of Orne village is located at an altitude of 300m at the southeastern slopes of Mount Kedros, only 500m northeast of the village Orne. The distance from Rethymnon is about 50km.
The secluded lake is the unique lake at Thripti and gets its name (skafi means tub in Greek) after its oblong shape. During spring, water is very clear and is perfect for a cold bath. To access this amazing place, follow the dirt track west of Orino village and after 2km walk or drive along the concrete chute that carries water from the mountains to the lake.
The dam of Valsamiotis is located near the village Vatolakos at Kissamos Province and has water capacity of 6 million cubic meters. It was inaugurated in 2014 and since then it has turned to one of the most important wetlands in West Crete.
500m east to Xerokambos you will find one of the weirdest landscapes on Crete. Here you will see a large dry lake next to the sea. You may not get very excited on summer, but if you come here in spring or in winter, you will understand why this is so important. In the winter Alatsolimni (Salt Lake), as it is called, is flooded with water, forming a small lagoon.
At the east sides of the volcano-like peak of Strouboulas (seen from Heraklion), you will meet the small plateau of Strouboulas. It is a typical limestone plateau with limited vegetation due to overgrazing, but it hides wild beauty. At one side, you will meet the chapel of Saint George and at its lowest place, a small pond is formed in the winter. This small unknown wetland is highly dependant on the rainfalls. The water is reddish due to the grounds that remind of African landscapes.
The lake is natural but has undergone additional deepening. The area in spring and autumn attracts many birds, and especially in spring it is worth a short visit. Around the lake, a small recreation place has been constructed.
The dam of Faneromeni is located 7km west of the village Zaros and about 7km north of Tympaki. It is located in a scenic location, in a verdant valley at the southern foot of Psiloritis Mount. The artificial lake covers an area of approximately 1000 acres and has a capacity of 20 million cubic meters.
The small dam of Karavados is located 1km south of the village Karavados, next to the road leading from Skinias to Viannos. It is fueled by the tributary of Baritis River, which later joins the wide Anapodaris river.