Drainage basin

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Top-down illustration of a dendritic drainage basin. The dashed line is the main water divide of the hydrographic basin. Hydrographic basin.svg
Top-down illustration of a dendritic drainage basin. The dashed line is the main water divide of the hydrographic basin.
Digital terrain map of the Latorita River's drainage basin in Romania EN Bazinul hidrografic al Raului Latorita, Romania.jpg
Digital terrain map of the Latorița River's drainage basin in Romania
Digital terrain model of the Latorita River's drainage basin in Romania Modelare 3D pentru Bazinul Hidrografic al Paraului Latorita.gif
Digital terrain model of the Latorița River's drainage basin in Romania

A drainage basin is an area of land where all flowing surface water converges to a single point, such as a river mouth, or flows into another body of water, such as a lake or ocean. A basin is separated from adjacent basins by a perimeter, the drainage divide , [1] made up of a succession of elevated features, such as ridges and hills. A basin may consist of smaller basins that merge at river confluences, forming a hierarchical pattern. [2]

Contents

Other terms for a drainage basin are catchment area, catchment basin, drainage area, river basin, water basin, [3] [4] and impluvium. [5] [6] [7] In North America, they are commonly called a watershed, though in other English-speaking places, "watershed" is used only in its original sense, that of a drainage divide.

In a closed drainage basin, or endorheic basin, the water converges to a single point inside the basin, known as a sink, which may be a permanent lake, a dry lake, or a point where surface water is lost underground. [8]

Drainage basins are similar but not identical to hydrologic units , which are drainage areas delineated so as to nest into a multi-level hierarchical drainage system. Hydrologic units are defined to allow multiple inlets, outlets, or sinks. In a strict sense, all drainage basins are hydrologic units but not all hydrologic units are drainage basins. [8]

Major drainage basins of the world

Major continental divides, showing how terrestrial drainage basins drain into the oceans. Grey areas are endorheic basins that do not drain to the oceans Ocean drainage.png
Major continental divides, showing how terrestrial drainage basins drain into the oceans. Grey areas are endorheic basins that do not drain to the oceans


Ocean basins

The following is a list of the major ocean basins:

Largest river basins

The five largest river basins (by area), from largest to smallest, are the basins of the Amazon (7M km2), the Congo (4M km2), the Nile (3.4M km2), the Mississippi (3.22M km2), and the Río de la Plata (3.17M km2). The three rivers that drain the most water, from most to least, are the Amazon, Ganga, and Congo rivers. [11]

Endorheic drainage basins

Endorheic basin in Central Asia Uureg Nuur.jpg
Endorheic basin in Central Asia

Endorheic drainage basins are inland basins that do not drain to an ocean. Around 18% of all land drains to endorheic lakes or seas or sinks. The largest of these consists of much of the interior of Asia, which drains into the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, and numerous smaller lakes. Other endorheic regions include the Great Basin in the United States, much of the Sahara Desert, the drainage basin of the Okavango River (Kalahari Basin), highlands near the African Great Lakes, the interiors of Australia and the Arabian Peninsula, and parts in Mexico and the Andes. Some of these, such as the Great Basin, are not single drainage basins but collections of separate, adjacent closed basins.

In endorheic bodies of standing water where evaporation is the primary means of water loss, the water is typically more saline than the oceans. An extreme example of this is the Dead Sea.

Importance

Geopolitical boundaries

Drainage basins have been historically important for determining territorial boundaries, particularly in regions where trade by water has been important. For example, the English crown gave the Hudson's Bay Company a monopoly on the fur trade in the entire Hudson Bay basin, an area called Rupert's Land. Bioregional political organization today includes agreements of states (e.g., international treaties and, within the US, interstate compacts) or other political entities in a particular drainage basin to manage the body or bodies of water into which it drains. Examples of such interstate compacts are the Great Lakes Commission and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Hydrology

Drainage basin of the Ohio River, part of the Mississippi River drainage basin Ohiorivermap.png
Drainage basin of the Ohio River, part of the Mississippi River drainage basin

In hydrology, the drainage basin is a logical unit of focus for studying the movement of water within the hydrological cycle, because the majority of water that discharges from the basin outlet originated as precipitation falling on the basin. [12] A portion of the water that enters the groundwater system beneath the drainage basin may flow towards the outlet of another drainage basin because groundwater flow directions do not always match those of their overlying drainage network. Measurement of the discharge of water from a basin may be made by a stream gauge located at the basin's outlet. Depending on the conditions of the drainage basin, as rainfall occurs some of it seeps directly into the ground. This water will either remain underground, slowly making its way downhill and eventually reaching the basin, or it will permeate deeper into the soil and consolidate into groundwater aquifers. [13]

As water flows through the basin, it can form tributaries that change the structure of the land. There are three different main types, which are affected by the rocks and ground underneath. Rock that is quick to erode forms dendritic patterns, and these are seen most often. The two other types of patterns that form are trellis patterns and rectangular patterns. [14]

Rain gauge data is used to measure total precipitation over a drainage basin, and there are different ways to interpret that data. If the gauges are many and evenly distributed over an area of uniform precipitation, using the arithmetic mean method will give good results. In the Thiessen polygon method, the drainage basin is divided into polygons with the rain gauge in the middle of each polygon assumed to be representative for the rainfall on the area of land included in its polygon. These polygons are made by drawing lines between gauges, then making perpendicular bisectors of those lines form the polygons. The isohyetal method involves contours of equal precipitation are drawn over the gauges on a map. Calculating the area between these curves and adding up the volume of water is time-consuming.

Isochrone maps can be used to show the time taken for runoff water within a drainage basin to reach a lake, reservoir or outlet, assuming constant and uniform effective rainfall. [15] [16] [17] [18]

Geomorphology

Drainage basins are the principal hydrologic unit considered in fluvial geomorphology. A drainage basin is the source for water and sediment that moves from higher elevation through the river system to lower elevations as they reshape the channel forms.

Ecology

The Mississippi River drains the largest area of any U.S. river, much of it agricultural regions. Agricultural runoff and other water pollution that flows to the outlet is the cause of the hypoxic, or dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi River basin.jpg
The Mississippi River drains the largest area of any U.S. river, much of it agricultural regions. Agricultural runoff and other water pollution that flows to the outlet is the cause of the hypoxic, or dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Drainage basins are important in ecology. As water flows over the ground and along rivers it can pick up nutrients, sediment, and pollutants. With the water, they are transported towards the outlet of the basin, and can affect the ecological processes along the way as well as in the receiving water source.

Modern use of artificial fertilizers, containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, has affected the mouths of drainage basins. The minerals are carried by the drainage basin to the mouth, and may accumulate there, disturbing the natural mineral balance. This can cause eutrophication where plant growth is accelerated by the additional material.

Resource management

Because drainage basins are coherent entities in a hydrological sense, it has become common to manage water resources on the basis of individual basins. In the U.S. state of Minnesota, governmental entities that perform this function are called "watershed districts". [19] In New Zealand, they are called catchment boards. Comparable community groups based in Ontario, Canada, are called conservation authorities. In North America, this function is referred to as "watershed management". In Brazil, the National Policy of Water Resources, regulated by Act n° 9.433 of 1997, establishes the drainage basin as the territorial division of Brazilian water management.

When a river basin crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary, it is identified as a transboundary river. Management of such basins becomes the responsibility of the countries sharing it. Nile Basin Initiative, OMVS for Senegal River, Mekong River Commission are a few examples of arrangements involving management of shared river basins.

Management of shared drainage basins is also seen as a way to build lasting peaceful relationships among countries. [20]

Catchment factors

The catchment is the most significant factor determining the amount or likelihood of flooding.

Catchment factors are: topography, shape, size, soil type, and land use (paved or roofed areas). Catchment topography and shape determine the time taken for rain to reach the river, while catchment size, soil type, and development determine the amount of water to reach the river.

Topography

Generally, topography plays a big part in how fast runoff will reach a river. Rain that falls in steep mountainous areas will reach the primary river in the drainage basin faster than flat or lightly sloping areas (e.g., > 1% gradient).

Shape

Shape will contribute to the speed with which the runoff reaches a river. A long thin catchment will take longer to drain than a circular catchment.

Size

Size will help determine the amount of water reaching the river, as the larger the catchment the greater the potential for flooding. It is also determined on the basis of length and width of the drainage basin.

Soil type

Soil type will help determine how much water reaches the river. The runoff from the drainage area is dependent on the soil type. Certain soil types such as sandy soils are very free-draining, and rainfall on sandy soil is likely to be absorbed by the ground. However, soils containing clay can be almost impermeable and therefore rainfall on clay soils will run off and contribute to flood volumes. After prolonged rainfall even free-draining soils can become saturated, meaning that any further rainfall will reach the river rather than being absorbed by the ground. If the surface is impermeable the precipitation will create surface run-off which will lead to higher risk of flooding; if the ground is permeable, the precipitation will infiltrate the soil. [5]

Land use

Land use can contribute to the volume of water reaching the river, in a similar way to clay soils. For example, rainfall on roofs, pavements, and roads will be collected by rivers with almost no absorption into the groundwater. A drainage basin is an area of land where all flowing surface water converges to a single point, such as a river mouth, or flows into another body of water, such as a lake or ocean.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hydrology</span> Science of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets

Hydrology is the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and management of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water resources, and environmental watershed sustainability. A practitioner of hydrology is called a hydrologist. Hydrologists are scientists studying earth or environmental science, civil or environmental engineering, and physical geography. Using various analytical methods and scientific techniques, they collect and analyze data to help solve water related problems such as environmental preservation, natural disasters, and water management.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flood</span> Water overflow

A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture, civil engineering and public health. Human changes to the environment often increase the intensity and frequency of flooding, for example land use changes such as deforestation and removal of wetlands, changes in waterway course or flood controls such as with levees, and larger environmental issues such as climate change and sea level rise. In particular climate change's increased rainfall and extreme weather events increases the severity of other causes for flooding, resulting in more intense floods and increased flood risk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endorheic basin</span> Closed drainage basin that allows no outflow

An endorheic basin is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but drainage converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation. They are also called closed or terminal basins, internal drainage systems, or simply basins. Endorheic regions contrast with exorheic regions. Endorheic water bodies include some of the largest lakes in the world, such as the Caspian Sea, the world's largest inland body of water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hydrograph</span>

A hydrograph is a graph showing the rate of flow (discharge) versus time past a specific point in a river, channel, or conduit carrying flow. The rate of flow is typically expressed in cubic meters or cubic feet per second . It can also refer to a graph showing the volume of water reaching a particular outfall, or location in a sewerage network. Graphs are commonly used in the design of sewerage, more specifically, the design of surface water sewerage systems and combined sewers.

In hydrology, discharge is the volumetric flow rate of water that is transported through a given cross-sectional area. It includes any suspended solids, dissolved chemicals, or biologic material in addition to the water itself. Terms may vary between disciplines. For example, a fluvial hydrologist studying natural river systems may define discharge as streamflow, whereas an engineer operating a reservoir system may equate it with outflow, contrasted with inflow.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is a dynamic rainfall–runoff–subsurface runoff simulation model used for single-event to long-term (continuous) simulation of the surface/subsurface hydrology quantity and quality from primarily urban/suburban areas. It can simulate the Rainfall- runoff, runoff, evaporation, infiltration and groundwater connection for roots, streets, grassed areas, rain gardens and ditches and pipes, for example. The hydrology component of SWMM operates on a collection of subcatchment areas divided into impervious and pervious areas with and without depression storage to predict runoff and pollutant loads from precipitation, evaporation and infiltration losses from each of the subcatchment. Besides, low impact development (LID) and best management practice areas on the subcatchment can be modeled to reduce the impervious and pervious runoff. The routing or hydraulics section of SWMM transports this water and possible associated water quality constituents through a system of closed pipes, open channels, storage/treatment devices, ponds, storages, pumps, orifices, weirs, outlets, outfalls and other regulators.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Surface runoff</span> Flow of excess rainwater not infiltrating in the ground over its surface

Surface runoff is the flow of water occurring on the ground surface when excess rainwater, stormwater, meltwater, or other sources, can no longer sufficiently rapidly infiltrate in the soil. This can occur when the soil is saturated by water to its full capacity, and the rain arrives more quickly than the soil can absorb it. Surface runoff often occurs because impervious areas do not allow water to soak into the ground. Furthermore, runoff can occur either through natural or man-made processes. Surface runoff is a major component of the water cycle. It is the primary agent of soil erosion by water. The land area producing runoff that drains to a common point is called a drainage basin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Water balance</span> Looks at how water moves in a closed system

The law of water balance states that the inflows to any water system or area is equal to its outflows plus change in storage during a time interval. In hydrology, a water balance equation can be used to describe the flow of water in and out of a system. A system can be one of several hydrological or water domains, such as a column of soil, a drainage basin, an irrigation area or a city. Water balance can also refer to the ways in which an organism maintains water in dry or hot conditions. It is often discussed in reference to plants or arthropods, which have a variety of water retention mechanisms, including a lipid waxy coating that has limited permeability.

Streamflow, or channel runoff, is the flow of water in streams and other channels, and is a major element of the water cycle. It is one component of the movement of water from the land to waterbodies, the other component being surface runoff. Water flowing in channels comes from surface runoff from adjacent hillslopes, from groundwater flow out of the ground, and from water discharged from pipes. The discharge of water flowing in a channel is measured using stream gauges or can be estimated by the Manning equation. The record of flow over time is called a hydrograph. Flooding occurs when the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the channel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hydrological transport model</span>

An hydrological transport model is a mathematical model used to simulate the flow of rivers, streams, groundwater movement or drainage front displacement, and calculate water quality parameters. These models generally came into use in the 1960s and 1970s when demand for numerical forecasting of water quality and drainage was driven by environmental legislation, and at a similar time widespread access to significant computer power became available. Much of the original model development took place in the United States and United Kingdom, but today these models are refined and used worldwide.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Groundwater recharge</span> Groundwater that recharges an aquifer

Groundwater recharge or deep drainage or deep percolation is a hydrologic process, where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater. Recharge is the primary method through which water enters an aquifer. This process usually occurs in the vadose zone below plant roots and is often expressed as a flux to the water table surface. Groundwater recharge also encompasses water moving away from the water table farther into the saturated zone. Recharge occurs both naturally and through anthropogenic processes, where rainwater and or reclaimed water is routed to the subsurface.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stream</span> Body of surface water flowing down a channel

A stream is a continuous body of surface water flowing within the bed and banks of a channel. Depending on its location or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to by a variety of local or regional names. Long large streams are usually called rivers, while smaller, less voluminous and more intermittent streams are known as streamlets, brooks or creeks.

The Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS) is designed to simulate the precipitation-runoff processes of dendritic drainage basins. It is designed to be applicable in a wide range of geographic areas for solving the widest possible range of problems. This includes large river basin water supply and flood hydrology, and small urban or natural watershed runoff. Hydrographs produced by the program are used directly or in conjunction with other software for studies of water availability, urban drainage, flow forecasting, future urbanization impact, reservoir spillway design, flood damage reduction, floodplain regulation, and systems operation.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to hydrology:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catchment hydrology</span> Hydrology of drainage basins

Catchment hydrology is the study of hydrology in drainage basins. Catchments are areas of land where runoff collects to a specific zone. This movement is caused by water moving from areas of high energy to low energy due to the influence of gravity. Catchments often do not last for long periods of time as the water evaporates, drains into the soil, or is consumed by animals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vflo</span>

Vflo is a commercially available, physics-based distributed hydrologic model generated by Vieux & Associates, Inc. Vflo uses radar rainfall data for hydrologic input to simulate distributed runoff. Vflo employs GIS maps for parameterization via a desktop interface. The model is suited for distributed hydrologic forecasting in post-analysis and in continuous operations. Vflo output is in the form of hydrographs at selected drainage network grids, as well as distributed runoff maps covering the watershed. Model applications include civil infrastructure operations and maintenance, stormwater prediction and emergency management, continuous and short-term surface water runoff, recharge estimation, soil moisture monitoring, land use planning, water quality monitoring, and water resources management.

DPHM-RS is a semi-distributed hydrologic model developed at University of Alberta, Canada.

The flash flood guidance system (FFGS) was designed and developed by the Hydrologic Research Center, a non-profit public-benefit corporation located in San Diego, CA, US, for use by meteorological and hydrologic forecasters throughout the world. The primary purpose of the FFGS is to provide operational forecasters and disaster management agencies with real-time information pertaining to the threat of small-scale flash flooding throughout a specified region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Lahontan</span>

The South Lahonton hydrologic region encompasses several interior basins east of the Sierra Nevada and the Transverse Ranges, with an area of 17 million acres (69,000 km2). It covers the western portion of the Mojave Desert and a southwestern portion of the Great Basin desert, and extends into the forests of the southeastern Sierra Nevada and the montane chaparral and woodlands of the northeastern Transverse ranges. The ecoregion has an arid to semi-arid climate, with average annual rainfall of 7.9 inches (200 mm).

References

Citations

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