Simulating climate change and socio-economic change impacts on flows and water quality in the Mahanadi River system, India.

Research paper by Li L Jin, Paul G PG Whitehead, Harvey H Rodda, Ian I Macadam, Sananda S Sarkar

Indexed on: 16 May '18Published on: 16 May '18Published in: Science of the Total Environment


Delta systems formed by the deposition of sediments at the mouths of large catchments are vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate change impacts. Deltas often have some of the highest population densities in the world and the Mahanadi Delta in India is one of these, with a population of 39 million. The Mahanadi River is a major river in East Central India and flows through Chattisgarh and Orissa states before discharging into the Bay of Bengal. This study uses an Integrated Catchment Model (INCA) to simulate flow dynamics and water quality (nitrogen and phosphorus) and to analyze the impacts of climate change and socio-economic drivers in the Mahanadi River system. Future flows affected by large population growth, effluent discharge increases and changes in irrigation water demand from changing land uses are assessed under shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs). Model results indicate a significant increase in monsoon flows under the future climates at 2050s (2041-2060) and 2090s (2079-2098) which greatly enhances flood potential. The water availability under low flow conditions will be worsened because of increased water demand from population growth and increased irrigation in the future. Decreased concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus are expected due to increased flow hence dilution. Socio-economic scenarios have a significant impact on water quality but less impact on the river flow. For example, higher population growth, increased sewage treatment discharges, land use change and enhanced atmospheric deposition would result in the deterioration of water quality, while the upgrade of the sewage treatment works lead to improved water quality. In summary, socio-economic scenarios would change future water quality of the Mahanadi River and alter nutrient fluxes transported into the delta region. This study has serious implications for people's livelihoods in the deltaic area and could impact coastal and Bay of Bengal water ecology. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.