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Water quality and solute sources in the Marsyangdi River system of Higher Himalayan range (West-Central Nepal)

Ghezzi, Lisa, Iaccarino, Salvatore, Carosi, Rodolfo, Montomoli, Chiara, Simonetti, Matteo, Paudyal, Kabi R., Cidu, Rosa, Petrini, Riccardo
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.677 pp. 580-589
European Union, United States Environmental Protection Agency, antimony, aquaculture, aquifers, arsenic, barium, basins, calcium, carbon dioxide, carbonates, cold, copper, groundwater, hot springs, ions, lithium, manganese, mixing, nickel, oxidation, plagioclase, planning, potassium, pyrite, recreation, rivers, rocks, silica, silicates, sodium, solutes, surface water, tourism, water management, water quality, watersheds, weathering, Himalayan region, Nepal
Surface waters, cold and hot springs were collected in different catchments along the Marsyangdi basin, in the Himalayan Range of West-Central Nepal, during the post-monsoon season in 2017 and analyzed for major ions and trace elements, with the aim of assessing the sources of dissolved species and to contribute in watershed planning. The major element data indicate that surface waters coming from the Tethyan Himalayan Sequence (THS) range from the Ca-Mg-HCO3 to the Ca-Mg-HCO3-SO4 water-types and reflect a two-component mixing of waters from carbonate- and sulfate-bearing sources. The latter component is attributable to sulfide oxidation with minor silicate weathering. In the Greater Himalaya Sequence (GHS), alteration of pedogenetic carbonates formed in response to silicate weathering under a variable CO2 gas pressure dominates, yielding a Ca-HCO3 signature. The stability diagram in the K2O-Al2O3-SiO2-H2O system and the paired increases in Ca2+, Na+, K+ and silica indicate that degradation of silicate minerals through kaolinization and possibly plagioclase albitization reactions is the main process for hot groundwater. Cold and hot springs define a trend of increasing Li, SiO2 and Cl−, suggesting that lithium was leached from silica-rich sources, such as pegmatite dykes and sills occurring in host rocks, and concentrated into halite-bearing salt aquifers. In hot waters Sb, As and Tl exceed the EU and USEPA thresholds. Tl is usually incorporated into pyrite and correlates with Li indicating the occurrence of an ore-bearing zone possibly related to hydrothermal activity at the transition zone between THS and GHS, as suggested by the relatively high Ba, Ni, Cu, Sb, As and Mn contents. The obtained data on water quality have significant implications for people living along the Upper Marsyangdi River in the management of water resources, especially in terms of the enhancement of cold water aquaculture and hot water uses for recreation purposes and tourism.