Lake Vänern is a great inland sea consisting of 5 648 square kilometres of water and surrounded by 4 800 kilometres of shoreline. The lake contributes to one third of all the fresh water in Sweden and provide drinking water for 700 000 people. Lake Vänern offers a broad spectrum of diverse nature. The total size of natural areas is 486 square kilometres and 35 species of fish and 22 000 island can be found in the lake.
Geographically, Lake Vänern is situated on the border between the Swedish regions of Götaland and Svealand, divided into several Swedish provinces. Its main tributary is Klarälven, which flows from Norway through the county of Värmland into the lake near the city of Karlstad, on the northern shore. The tributary of Klarälven consist of eight branches and together they form the world’s greatest fresh water delta. Lake Vänern is drained to the south-west by Göta älv, which forms part of the Göta Canal waterway. Several smaller canals like, Dalslands Canal, the Bergslags Canal and Säffle Canal, are connecting Lake Vänern with other important watercourses in the regional area.
The economic opportunities which Lake Vänern offers are illustrated by the surrounding towns, having been located there for centuries, supporting themselves by fishing and allowing easy transportation to other cities by Göta älv to the sea of Kattegat.
At present, around 2.6 million tonnes of freight are carried on Lake Vänern. Studies show that this has the potential to grow to six million tonnes – in other words more than twice the current freight volume. Shipping in some form or other has almost certainly taken place on Lake Vänern as long as people has lived in the area. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century’s single-masted wooden ships known as bojorts began carrying freight on the lake. They carried timber from the north of the lake to the south, and grain in the opposite direction. Today, in 2010, the sea freight is still the only alternative for some industries in the region. For example, the Yankee cylinders manufactured by Metso Paper in Karlstad are far too big to be carried by land.
Lake Vänern has plenty to offer for tourists from all over: timber rafting on Klarälven, the boat busses in Karlstad, the Picasso museum in Kristenehamn, guided tours in Läckö Castle and lots of pleasant harbours in different sizes along the shoreline. Annually 20 000 pleasure boats, which number increase during the summer time, are stationed in the lake.
The Lake is also an important source of clean energy; recently opened the Wind Turbine Park in the area Gässlingegrund, outside Hammarö. The wind turbines will provide 26 000 households with green energy and are expected to reduce carbon emissions in the Nordic region with 84 000 tonnes per year. The collaboration of Lake Vänern as a maritime area has a vision for the future: by the year 2020 be the cleanest inland sea of Europe, with sustainable growth and attractive nature and culture recourses to offer residents, visitors and companies.
Summarizing, Lake Vänern plays an important role for tourism, business, wild life and the people living in the area. The Lake provides an improved quality of life for both people and animals and the area around the lake has great potential to grow as many sources still are unutilized.