Spatial variations of hydrochemistry and stable isotopes in mountainous river water from the Central Asian headwaters of the Tajikistan Pamirs

Water resources in Central Asia from the mountainous headwater catchments is changing due to the shrinkage of glaciers in the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain systems. In order to predict future changes in water quality, it is crucial to understand what factors are governing the spatial variations of water chemistry and hydrological processes in mountainous headwater catchments. In this study, water chemistry including major ions and stable isotopes in the headwaters of major Tajikistan rivers was studied. Results showed that Tajikistan river water had an alkaline pH value (mean: 8.2) and total dissolved solids (mean: 368.5mg/L) were higher than the global average value. Ca2+, Na+, HCO3-, and SO42- in the rivers were the most abundant cations and anions, controlled by the rock weathering process and evaporation-crystallization processes. The hydrochemical facies of river water was dominated by Ca-HCO3 (71.7%) and exhibited spatial heterogeneity, which was related to the lithologic compositions and water source across Tajikistan. A significant negative correlation of river water δ18O with elevation was observed with a vertical lapse rate of 0.17‰/100 m. The more negative δ18O values in rivers from eastern Tajikistan were scattered in the lower left corner of the δ18O-δ2H plot, implying that the rivers were primarily supplied by snow/glacier meltwater because of the substantial number of glaciers and high elevation mountain in eastern regions. The drinking and irrigation suitability from ionic compositions revealed that the water quality of Tajikistan rivers was naturally good, though some sites posed a safety concern. These findings can provide new insights into sustainable management of water quality in the climatically and lithologically distinct segments of headwater regions in the Tajikistan Pamirs.


Spatial variations of δ18 (a) and d-excess (b) values in river water across Tajikistan


Huawu Wu, Jinglu Wu, Jing Li, Congsheng Fu. 2020. Catena. DOI: