Water reservoirs planned or constructed to meet the burgeoning energy and irrigation demands in Pakistan face a significant loss of storage capacity due to heavy sediment load from the upper Indus basin (UIB). Given their importance and the huge investment, assessments of current UIB sediment load and possible future changes are crucial for informed decisions on planning of optimal dams’ operation and ensuring their prolonged lifespan. In this regard, the daily suspended sediment loads (SSLs) and their changes are analyzed for the meltwater-dominated zone up to the Partab Bridge and the whole UIB up to Besham Qila, which is additionally influenced by monsoonal rainfall. The gaps between intermittent suspended sediment concentration (SSC) samples are filled by wavelet neural networks (WA-ANNs) using discharges for each site. The temporal dynamics of SSLs and discharges are analyzed using a suite of three non-parametric trend tests while the slope is identified using Sen’s slope estimator. We found disproportional spatio-temporal trends between SSLs and discharges caused primarily by intra-annual shifts in flows, which can lead to increased trap efficiency in planned reservoirs, especially upstream of Besham Qila. Moreover, a discernible increase in SSLs recorded at Partab Bridge during summer is being deposited downstream in the river channel. This is due to a decrease in river transport capacity in the monsoonal zone. These findings will not only help to identify these morphological problems, but also accurately anticipate the spatio-temporal changes in the sediment budget of the upper Indus River. Our results will help improve reservoir operational rules and sediment management strategies for existing and 30,000-MW planned dams in the UIB.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited