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Estimation of snow and glacial melt contribution through stable isotopes and assessment of its impact on river morphology through stream power approach in two Himalayan river basins

Varay, L.Sardine, Rai, S.P., Singh, S.K., Jain, Vikrant
Environmental earth sciences 2017 v.76 no.23 pp. 809
basins, electrical conductivity, groundwater, melting, mixing, oxygen, rivers, sediments, snow, stable isotopes, statistical models, stream flow, streams, temperature, watersheds, Himalayan region
The impact of increased temperature on the Third Pole, as the Himalayas is referred to, and the likely cascading impacts on the general downstream hydrology have been widely noted. However, the impact on fluvial geomorphology has not received specific attention. Change in the glacial domain in terms of melt increase will change discharge and sediment flux into fluvial system, which will induce changes in fluvial processes and forms. The present work attempts to study this process-based glacio-fluvial coupling in the two neighbouring glaciated river basins in the Northwest Himalaya, viz., the Sutlej and the Yamuna river basins till the mountain front. A total of 194 samples of river, tributary and groundwater of pre- and post-monsoon seasons in the two river basins were analysed for stable isotopes. The trend of δ¹⁸O and electrical conductivity along the mainstream gives qualitative idea on the influence of headwaters in the downstream of the catchment thereby allowing inference on melt contribution. Further, two component mixing model using stable oxygen isotope of two seasons water samples showed that melt contributes about 41.1–66.8 and 6.6–10.6% at different points to the total river discharge in the Sutlej and the Tons River (the glaciated, major tributary of the Yamuna River) basins, respectively. For different scenarios of increase in melt, stream power increase in the Sutlej River basin is significant as opposed to the Tons River. River channel in the Sutlej River basin will be significantly more impacted in comparison with the Yamuna River system.