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Response of the Downstream Braided Channel to Zhikong Reservoir on Lhasa River

Wu, Xinyu, Li, Zhiwei, Gao, Peng, Huang, Cao, Hu, Tiesong
Water 2018 v.10 no.9
Landsat, basins, dams (hydrology), electric power, landscapes, rivers, watersheds, China
Lhasa River basin is situated in the southern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is the most important region of economic and social development in Tibet. In order to efficiently utilize water resources in the basin and ease the shortage of regional electric power supply, Zhikong Reservoir was built in the upstream reach of the Lhasa River in 2006. Impoundment of this reservoir evidently affected the morphology and stability of the downstream braided channel below the dam. Yet, little is known about the complex responses of the downstream braided channel to the Zhikong Dam. Landsat images in the 2000–2016 period, together with daily discharges and field observations in the 2017–2018 period, were used to investigate the morphological response of the braided channel to the Zhikong Dam. The downstream Lhasa River below the Zhikong Dam was divided into four reaches (i.e., RS1, RS2, RS3 and RS4) based on the confluence of three downstream tributaries. Results showed that the number and area of central bars in the braided reach closest to Zhikong Dam (RS1) were increased because of main channel incision and water level drop. This increasing trend attenuated along the downstream channel of this reach. Braiding number index of multithread channels in RS1 obviously increased by 3 in one section and reduced by 2 in two sections, while changed in all sections randomly with no pronounced trend along the RS2 to RS3 and RS4 reaches. The average bar area in two focus reaches, RS1_B1 and RS2_B2, 6.0 km and 36.8 km far away to the Zhikong Dam, respectively, followed opposite trends with the former increasing and the later reducing. Furthermore, the mean dissection, landscape dissection and fragmentation shape indices in RS1, showed an increasing trend from 2001 to 2016, indicating the shape of irregular central bars varied greatly because clean water release of Zhikong Dam eroded the downstream braided channel.