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Water chemistry of the southern Tibetan Plateau: an assessment of the Yarlung Tsangpo river basin

Qu, Bin, Zhang, Yulan, Kang, Shichang, Sillanpää, Mika
Environmental earth sciences 2017 v.76 no.2 pp. 74
World Health Organization, anthropogenic activities, basins, bicarbonates, buffering capacity, cadmium, calcium, carbonates, drinking water, groundwater, guidelines, hot springs, humans, hydrochemistry, ions, lead, livelihood, mining, municipal wastewater, oxidation, pH, risk, rivers, total dissolved solids, tourism, toxic substances, watersheds, weathering, China
The Yarlung Tsangpo is the largest river draining the southern Tibetan Plateau along the Himalayan ranges. In this paper, the ions and elements in the water of the Yarlung Tsangpo were studied. In general, the water of the Yarlung Tsangpo had a fairly high buffering capacity (pH ~8.8) and oxidation environment (ORP ~190 mv). Total dissolved solids averaged approximately 157 mg L⁻¹, which is higher than that of the global mean level. Under the dominant rock weathering due to the abundant carbonates around the river basin, the ionic chemistry of the Yarlung Tsangpo was mainly composed of Ca²⁺ and HCO₃ ⁻. In addition, with a large amount water discharged into the river, groundwater (e.g., numerous chloride-rich hot springs) is another potentially important source of ions that affect the water chemistry in the Yarlung Tsangpo basin. Although watercourses on the Tibetan Plateau can generally be considered pristine, concentrations of some toxic elements (i.e., Cd and Pb) were found to be higher than the WHO guideline for drinking water due to increasing influence from anthropogenic activities (e.g., tourism, mining operations and municipal wastewater discharge), which constitute a risk to human livelihoods in both local and surrounding regions.