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Spatial distribution of δ18O values of water in the Ganga river basin: Insight into the hydrological processes

Kumar, Anurag, Sanyal, Prasanta, Agrawal, Shailesh
Journal of hydrology 2019 v.571 pp. 225-234
basins, evaporation, glaciers, groundwater, inventories, latitude, melting, mixing, models, oxygen, rain, river water, rivers, snow, stable isotopes, temporal variation, watersheds, Bay of Bengal
Knowledge of the spatial distribution of water isotopes in the large river system is useful to comprehend the hydrological processes within the basin. Spatially limited water isotope data in the Ganga river basin (GRB), one of the largest river basins in the world, hinders the understanding of hydrological processes at the basin scale. Therefore to understand the hydrological processes, river water and ground water were collected from the source (Gangotri glacier) to sink (Bay of Bengal) of the river Ganga. The δ18O values of river water vary from −14.9‰ to −6.3‰ with a general enrichment in 18O from source to sink. The δ18O values of ground water are similar to river water only in the middle stretch of the river, indicating higher mixing of these two water sources in the middle stretch. Comparison of the monthly averaged (three years) δ18O values of river water and rain water suggests that temporal variability in the isotopic composition of river water is higher in the middle stretch of the river compared to lower stretch due to lower discharge in the middle stretch. To understand the spatial variability of δ18O values in the GRB, δ18O values of river water were modeled using latitude and elevation as primary predictors. The residuals of the model suggest that in the upper stretch snow/glacier melt control the δ18O values, in the lower stretch Himalayan tributaries control the isotopic composition of the river water and in the middle stretch evaporation dominates which is also supported by δ18O-δD plots of the different water inventories.