The isotope hydrology of a large river system regulated for hydropower

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Abstract

Impoundments, regulation and inter-basin transfers associated with large hydropower developments affect runoff regimes, water residence times and stream water quality. We used stable isotopes to understand these effects on the river Tay system in Scotland, examining their spatial and temporal variation in surface waters at 22 sites. Spatial patterns of isotopes in stream water were consistent with those of precipitation, being more depleted in streams draining higher, colder northern headwaters and enriched in the milder western headwaters. To a lesser extent, spatial patterns also reflected effects of inter-basin and intra-basin water transfers at some sites. Temporal dynamics reflected precipitation inputs modulated by landscape properties, the presence of lakes and reservoirs, and regulation operations. Isotopic variability was highest in headwater tributaries with responsive soils and lowest downstream of lakes and reservoirs. Variability of isotopes in lower river sites was also damped as they integrate contributions from the rest of the catchment. Importantly, regulation from both reservoirs and inter-basin transfers can distort simple input-output relationships for stable isotopes and affect catchment transit times with implications for water quality and in-stream ecology. On the one hand, reservoirs and extension of natural lakes have created additional storage, potentially slowing flows; on the other, transfers have increased the volume and rates of water throughput in many of these water bodies, reducing hydraulic turnover times. Such effects tend to be quite localized and are not apparent at the larger catchment scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-349
Number of pages15
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Volume31
Issue number3
Early online date4 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Fingerprint

Hydrology
Isotopes
Catchments
river system
hydrology
Rivers
headwater
isotope
Water
catchment
Lakes
basin
lake
stable isotope
Water quality
water quality
water
impoundment
tributary
residence time

Keywords

  • δ18O and δ2H isotopes
  • river regulation
  • residence times
  • scaling
  • large rivers
  • hydropower

Cite this

The isotope hydrology of a large river system regulated for hydropower. / Soulsby, C; Birkel, C; Geris, J; Tetzlaff, D.

In: River Research and Applications, Vol. 31, No. 3, 03.2015, p. 335-349.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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