Sediment deposition within cascade reservoirs: a case study of Baihetan Reservoir in the lower Jinshajiang River, China

Sci Rep. 2023 Nov 24;13(1):20706. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-48052-1.


Sediment deposition in cascade reservoirs is not only related to the utilization efficiency of the reservoir itself but also to the boundary conditions for the operation of other reservoirs in the same group. The Baihetan Reservoir is the largest hydropower project with the highest unit capacity in the world, and it is necessary to consider sediment deposition within it, as this affects the comprehensive operation of cascade reservoirs in the lower Jinshajiang River. In this study, the input water, sediment, and deposition characteristics were analyzed based on both field hydrological and topographic data of the Baihetan Reservoir during its initial impoundment period. The results showed that water entering Baihetan Reservoir was mainly derived from the upper main stream, and approximately 41% was concentrated in the third quarter. Ten times the amount of sediment derived from the main stream was received from tributaries and uncontrolled areas of the reservoir, and these are the main sediment input sources. The fluctuating backwater area influenced by the upstream Wudongde Reservoir was slightly eroded, and siltation mainly occurred in the dead storage capacity (below 765 m) of the main stream and tributary estuaries in the perennial backwater area; approximately 15.8 times that in the regulating storage capacity (between 765 and 785 m). The differences between the results of this study and those from the reservoir demonstration stage indicate that was a lack of understanding about how climate change, human activities, and uncontrolled areas would affect siltation patterns. In future projects, research focusing on climate trend analyses and the comprehensive consideration of human activities should be combined with extensive sediment production monitoring and model parameter calibration.