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Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

DOI 10.1007/s10661-016-5652-1

Impacts of reservoirs on the streamflow and sediment load


of the Hanjiang River, China
Bao Qian & Debing Zhang & Jincheng Wang &
Feng Huang & Yao Wu

Received: 5 July 2016 / Accepted: 14 October 2016 / Published online: 29 October 2016
# Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Abstract The Hanjiang River is an important tributary


of the Yangtze River in China. Long-term observed
streamflow and sediment load data that spanned 1951
2014 was collected from the Huangzhuang hydrometric
station, which is located at the middle reaches. The data
was analyzed to reveal the impacts of reservoirs on
streamflow and sediment load of the Hanjiang River.
The coefficient of variation (Cv) and concentration degree (Cd) were applied to describe the intra-annual distribution characteristics. Abrupt changes in the time
series of the streamflow and sediment load were detected by the heuristic segmentation algorithm. The annual
streamflow significantly decreased from 1561 to
1263 m3/s after 1991, which was mainly caused by
climate change. Two significant change points in the
annual sediment load series occurred at 1966 and 1985,
and the average values of the sub-series were 3198, 952,
and 251 kg/s, respectively. Significant change points in
the Cv and Cd series of the streamflow and sediment
load occurred around 1967. The Cv and Cd series decreased dramatically after the change points. Abrupt
B. Qian : D. Zhang : J. Wang
Bureau of Hydrology, Changjiang River Water Resources
Commission, Wuhan 430012, China
F. Huang (*) : Y. Wu
College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University,
Nanjing 210098, China
e-mail: hfeng0216@163.com
Y. Wu
Poyang Lake Hydro Project Construction Office of Jiangxi
Province, Nanchang 330046, China

changes in the time series of the streamflow and sediment load mainly occurred around 1967 when the
Danjiangkou reservoir began to impound water, indicating that the Danjiangkou reservoir was an important
factor that caused hydrological changes. The reservoir
trapped sediment, reduced sediment concentration, mitigated the monthly streamflow and sediment load fluctuations, and reduced the intra-annual variation and
concentration. Assessed by the range of variability approaches, the overall alteration degrees of the
streamflow and sediment regimes were 36 and 60 %,
respectively, which qualified as a moderate degree. The
reservoir exerted greater influence on the sediment regime than on the streamflow regime.
Keywords Streamflow . Sediment load . Abrupt
change . Alteration degree . Danjiangkou reservoir .
Hanjiang River

Introduction
The hydrological processes of a river, including
streamflow regime and sediment transport, represent
an integrated catchment response to climate inputs, such
as precipitation, evaporation, and air temperature
(Zhang et al. 2001). Anthropogenic activities affect
hydrological processes, particularly through dams and
water reservoir construction. There has been a significant amount of research on the streamflow and sediment
load alterations of large rivers, such as the Irtysh River
(Huang et al. 2012), the Yenisei River (Yang et al.

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2004), the Brahmaputra River (Mukhopadhyay 2013),


the Lena River (Ye et al. 2003), the Colorado River
(Topping et al. 2000), and the lower Drava River
(Bonacci and Oskorus 2010).
Numerous studies have investigated the streamflow
and sediment load changes of Chinas large rivers, such
as the Songhua River (Miao et al. 2010), the Huai River
(Zhang et al. 2010), the Pearl River (Zhang et al. 2014),
the Yellow River (He et al. 2013), and the Yangtze River
(Huang et al. 2013). The Yangtze River has abundant
water resources and significant impacts on environmental
ecological protection. Its largest tributary is the Hanjiang
River. Temporal trends of annual and seasonal precipitation and temperatures from 1951 to 2003 in the Hanjiang
River basin were analyzed via the Mann-Kendall and
linear regression methods; the runoff response to climate
changes was also investigated (Chen et al. 2007). The
dam-induced alterations in the sediment regime of the
Hanjiang River were assessed considering the annual,
seasonal, monthly, and daily sediment loads (Lu et al.
2012). The indicators of hydrologic alteration and range
of variability approach were applied to investigate the
hydrologic changes due to the Danjiangkou reservoir in
the middle reach of Hanjiang River. The results showed
that the Danjiangkou reservoir significantly changed the
eco-hydrological flow regime downstream of the dam,
especially in the spawning time of four major Chinese
carps (Wang et al. 2015).
Based on the previous studies, the present study
further analyzed the alterations in streamflow and sediment load of the Hanjiang River using the updated data
and also discussed the possible causes of the hydrological changes. Improvements might be embodied in the
following two aspects: (1) change points were detected
by the heuristic segmentation method, which could be
used instead of an artificial way of dividing the whole
time series into sub-series according to the time when
the reservoirs began to operate (Wang et al. 2015; Yu
et al. 2013); (2) alteration degrees of the streamflow and
sediment regimes were assessed by the range of variability approach (RVA). The outputs of this study could
increase our understanding of changes in hydrological
processes caused by reservoirs.

Study site and data


The total length of the Hanjiang River is 1577 km and
the basin area covers approximately 159,000 km2

Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

(Fig. 1). The average annual runoff of the Hanjiang


River is about 51.3 billion m3. The water resources
account for 7.2 % of the total water resources of the
Yangtze River. The flood season is from May to October. The Hanjiang River can be divided into three sections: (1) upstream, the main stream from the source to
the Danjiangkou reservoir, (2) midstream, the section
from the Danjiangkou reservoir to the Zhongxiang city,
and (3) downstream, which is comprised of the rest of
the river. The reservoir cascade and water diversion
projects have been constructed in the Hanjiang River
basin. Detailed information about them was introduced
by Li et al. (2013a) and Wang et al. (2014).
The Huangzhuang hydrometric station was selected
as the case study site with long-term observed data
(Fig. 1). It is located at 112 35 E, 31 12 N at the
junction of the middle and lower reaches and drains a
catchment area of 142,056 km 2 . The monthly
streamflow and sediment load data of the Huangzhuang
hydrometric station between 1951 and 2014 was collected. The sediment load in this study denoted
suspended sediment load.

Methodologies
The coefficient of variation (Cv) and concentration degree (Cd) were applied to describe the intra-annual distribution characteristics of streamflow and sediment
load. Cv describes uneven distribution within a year in
terms of quantitative scale. The Cd describes the intraannual distribution from another perspective in terms of
temporal scale. The definitions of Cv and Cd were introduced by Huang et al. (2015). The value of Cv ranged in
0, +. The minimum value 0 indicates even distribution
without any intra-annual variability. A larger value indicates greater intra-annual variability. The value of Cd
ranges in [0, 1]; a larger value indicates heavier concentration. The minimum value indicates even distribution
without any concentration, while the maximum value
indicates that the streamflow or sediment load is concentrated in 1 month.
Abrupt changes in the time series, such as the annual
streamflow series, the annual sediment load series, the
Cv series, the Cd series, and the sediment concentration
series, were analyzed by the heuristic segmentation
algorithm, the procedure of which was described by
Chen and Xie (2008). The alteration degrees of the
streamflow and sediment regimes were assessed by the

Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

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Fig. 1 The Hanjiang River basin showing major reservoirs. Data collected from Huangzhuang hydrometric station used in the present study.

range of variability approach (RVA), which were proposed


by Richter et al. (1997).

Results and discussions


Changes of annual streamflow and its intra-annual
distribution
The heuristic segmentation algorithm identified a significant change point of the annual streamflow series
(Fig. 2), which occurred at 1991. The annual streamflow
obviously decreased after 1991. The multi-year mean
Fig. 2 Temporal changes of the
annual streamflow of the
Hanjiang River

values of the pre- and post-change sub-series were 1561


and 1263 m3/s, respectively, which decreased by
298 m3/s. The temporal changes in the Cv and Cd series
of the streamflow were similar (Fig. 3). The Cv decreased significantly after 1964, and the Cd decreased
significantly after 1966. The mean Cv values of the two
sub-series were 0.86 and 0.55. The mean Cd values of
the pre- and post-change sub-series were 0.44 and 0.30,
respectively. The reduced Cv and Cd indicated that the
streamflow became more evenly distributed within a
year (Fig. 4).
The Hanjiang River basin experienced a dry period
with reduced precipitation during the early portion of the

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Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

Fig. 3 Temporal changes of the a Cv and b Cd series of streamflow in the Hanjiang River

1990s (Chen et al. 2007). Air temperature dramatically


increased in the middle and lower basins, causing a
dramatic decrease in streamflow through increased
evaporation. The temporal changes of annual
streamflow are the results of the comprehensive influences of air temperature, precipitation, and anthropogenic activities. The middle and lower basins are the
economic center of Hubei Province, which experienced
rapid socio-economic development after the 1990s,
resulting in reduced runoff. Further reduction of the
annual streamflow after 2014 is expected due to the
South-to-North Water Diversion Project. The Cv and
Cd values of the streamflow significantly decreased
around the year when the Danjiangkou reservoir started
to operate, indicating that reservoir regulation may be an
important factor that affects streamflow distribution
within a year.
The Danjiangkou reservoir mainly impounds water
in October (Zhou and Guo 2013). Thus, the reservoir
impoundment is an important factor that reduces
streamflow in October. The stored water is later supplied
in the dry season, resulting in increased streamflow. The
change point time in the streamflow series of January
Fig. 4 Changes in the intraannual distribution of the
streamflow of the Hanjiang River

and February is approximately in line with the year


when the Danjiangkou reservoir was completed,
supporting the inference that the reservoir increased
the streamflow in the dry season. During the wet season,
the reservoir regulates floods and lowers the reservoir
water level to the flood-limited water level (Li et al.
2013b). The decreased streamflow in the wet season
may be mainly influenced by precipitation changes
(Chen et al. 2007).
Changes of annual sediment load and its intra-annual
distribution
The annual sediment load series could be divided into
three sub-series by the heuristic segmentation algorithm;
the time intervals were 19511965, 19661984, and
19852014, respectively (Fig. 5). The average values
of those three sub-series were 3198, 952, and 251 kg/s,
respectively, showing a tremendous reduction of the
annual sediment load, especially after 1966. The Cv
and Cd series could be segmented by abrupt changes
that occurred at 1968 and 1967, respectively (Fig. 6).
The average Cv value of 19511967 was 1.55, while

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Fig. 5 Abrupt behaviors of the


annual sediment load of the
Hanjiang River

that of 19682014 was 1.18, which is 0.37 lower. The


average Cd of 19511966 was 0.75, while that of 1967
2014 was 0.55, which is 0.20 lower. The reduced Cv and
Cd after the change point indicated that the intra-annual
distribution of the sediment load became more even and
the intra-annual variation became more moderate. The
change points of the annual sediment load, Cv, and Cd
series occurred around the year when the Danjiangkou
reservoir started to impound water. Figure 7 compares
the pre- and post-dam monthly sediment loads. Drastic
reduction of the monthly sediment load could be found,
particularly during the flood season. The negative deviation of the monthly sediment load during the flood
season was more significant than that during the dry
season, leading to the decreased Cv and Cd values.
The Danjiangkou reservoir is a key factor causing sediment regime changes. The massive trapping
effect of the reservoir directly causes a significant
reduction of the sediment load. The storage capacity of t he Danjiangkou reservoir had lost
1.6 billion m3 until 2003 due to sediment deposition (Zhang et al. 2005). The reservoirs located at

the upstream of the Danjiangkou reservoir also act


as sediment load sinks and may trap the sediment
that enters the Danjiangkou reservoir. For the annual sediment load, Cv, and Cd series, the significant change point that occurred around 1967 might
be mainly caused by the Danjiangkou reservoir.
The sediment load reduction that occurred afterward, specifically the change in 1985, might be
influenced by the combined effects of the reservoirs
at the upper main stream and tributaries, including
the Danjiangkou reservoir. The water and soil conservation project in the upper Hanjiang River basin
resulted in land cover changes; it might be another
factor that reduces sediment loads.
Changes of relationship between streamflow
and sediment load
The reservoirs trap sediment and release clear water
with low sediment concentration to the downstream. Figure 8 displays the temporal changes of
the annual sediment concentration. The change

Fig. 6 Temporal changes of the a Cv and b Cd series of sediment load in the Hanjiang River

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Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

Fig. 7 Changes in the intraannual distribution of the


sediment load of the Hanjiang
River

properties of the annual sediment concentration


were in approximate agreement with those of the
annual sediment load. The heuristic segmentation
algorithm detected two significant change points,
which occurred at 1968 and 1985. The average
annual sediment concentration of the three time
intervals was 1.82, 0.55, and 0.17 kg/m3, respectively. Tremendous reduction occurred, especially
after the Danjiangkou reservoir impoundment.
The cumulative departure curve (Fig. 9) further
corroborated the aforementioned result. The presence of obvious turns in the cumulative departure
curve could indicate inconsistencies in the
streamflow-sediment load relationship. The two
points, as shown by the arrows, indicate times
when abrupt changes occurred in the sediment concentration series. The slopes of the three sub-curves
were 1.92, 0.57, and 0.19, respectively. The slope
began to bend significantly after the impoundment
of the Danjiangkou reservoir.

Fig. 8 Changes in the annual


sediment concentration of the
Hanjiang River

Alteration degrees of streamflow and sediment regimes


The alteration degrees of streamflow and sediment regimes were assessed by the range of variability approach, and the 19672014 regimes were compared
with the 19511966 regimes. Figure 10 shows the temporal changes of the monthly streamflow and Fig. 11
shows the order of the monthly streamflow alteration.
The overall alteration degree of the streamflow regime
was 36 %, which qualified as a moderate degree. The
individual alteration degree of each month ranged from
0 to 75 %, which was in the range from low to high
degree. The streamflow of only 1 month was altered to a
high degree. The streamflows of 3 months were altered
to a moderate degree, while the streamflows of 8 months
were altered to a low degree.
It could be observed that the streamflow in October
ranked first in all alteration values, followed by the
streamflow in January, July, and February. The
Danjiangkou reservoir and other reservoirs in the

Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646


Fig. 9 Cumulative departure
curve of the monthly sediment
load versus the monthly
streamflow of the Hanjiang River

Fig. 10 Temporal changes of the monthly streamflow of the Hanjiang River

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Environ Monit Assess (2016) 188: 646

Fig. 11 Ranked alteration degree


of the monthly streamflow regime
of the Hanjiang River

Hanjiang River basin mainly impound water during


October. It could be found in Fig. 10 that the October
streamflow was distributed under the lower RVA boundary during most years after 1967. It could be observed in
Fig. 10 (1) and (2) that the January and February

streamflows were distributed above the upper RVA


boundary in most of the years after 1967, which might
primarily be the results of reservoir regulation.
Fig. 12 shows the temporal changes of the monthly
sediment load. Figure 13 shows the order of the monthly

Fig. 12 Temporal changes of the monthly sediment load of the Hanjiang River

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Fig. 13 Ranked alteration degree


of the monthly sediment regime
of the Hanjiang River

sediment load alteration. The overall alteration degree


of the sediment regime was 60 %, which qualified as a
moderate degree. The individual alteration degree of
each month ranged from 33 to 83 %, which was a low
to high degree. The sediment load of only 1 month
was altered by a low degree. The sediment loads of
8 months were altered to a moderate degree, while the
sediment loads of 3 months were altered to a high
degree. For 11 months, the alteration degrees of the
sediment regimes were greater than those of the
streamflow regimes. The overall alteration degree of
the sediment regime was also greater than that of the
streamflow regime. Thus, the influence of the reservoirs on the sediment regime was greater than that on
the streamflow regime. For an individual reservoir, the
retention capacity for sediment load decreased with its
operation, so the trapping effect disappeared when the
dead storage was filled with sediment. In this case, the
influence of the reservoirs on sediment was relatively
temporal, for several years or decades or maybe the
whole service life of the reservoirs, depending on the
dead storage and the sediment entering the reservoirs.
The influence of the reservoirs on streamflow is continuous and as long as its service life.
It could be found that the first 3 months, i.e., July,
August, and May, which had high alteration degrees,
were all during the flood season. The last 3 months, i.e.,
January, February, and March, which had low alteration
degrees, were all during the dry season. The results
indicated that the influence of the reservoirs on the
sediment regime of the high-flow month was greater
than the influence on the sediment regime of the lowflow month.

Conclusions
Analysis of the streamflow and sediment regimes at the
middle Hanjiang River showed abrupt changes:
1. The annual streamflow decreased significantly
after 1991, which was mainly caused by climate
change. The streamflow intra-annual distribution was changed significantly after 1967 and
was impacted mainly by the Danjiangkou reservoir. The reservoir regulates the hydrologic
regime by storing water at the end of the wet
season and supplying water in the dry months,
resulting in reduced streamflow variation during
a year.
2. Two significant change points were detected in
the annual sediment load series. They occurred
at 1966 and 1985, respectively. The annual
sediment load was reduced drastically after
the change points. The sediment load reduction
a f t e r 1 9 6 6 w a s m a i n l y ca u s e d b y t h e
Danjiangkou reservoir. The sediment load reduction after 1985 might be caused by the
combined effects of the reservoirs and the water and soil conservation project. The reservoirs also reduced the intra-annual concentration and variation of the sediment load.
3. The overall alteration degrees of the streamflow
and sediment regimes were 36 and 60 %, which
qualified as a moderate degree. The impact of
the Danjiangkou reservoir on the sediment regime was greater than the influence on the
streamflow regime.

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Acknowledgments This work was supported by CRSRI Open
Research Program (grant number CKWV2015237/KY), National
Natural Science Foundation Projects of China (grant numbers
41401011), Science and Technology Projects of Water Resources
Department of Jiangxi Province (grant number KT201538), and
Fundamental Research Funds for Central Universities of China
(grant number 2013/B13020312). The authors acknowledge constructive comments from anonymous reviewers, which lead to the
improvement of the paper.

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