Snow and glacier melt in the Satluj River at Bhakra Dam in the western Himalayan region
Streamflow in the Himalayan rivers is generated from rainfall, snow and ice. The distribution of runoff produced from these sources is such that the streamflow may be observed in these rivers throughout the year, i.e. they are perennial in nature. Snow and glacier melt runoff contributes substantially to the annual flows of these rivers and its estimation is required for the planning, development and management of the water resources of this region. The average contribution of snow and glacier melt runoff in the annual flows of the Satluj River at Bhakra Dam has been determined. Keeping in view the availability of data for the study basin, a water balance approach was used and a water budget period of 10 years (October 1986-September 1996) was considered for the analysis. The rainfall input to the study basin over the water budget period was computed from isohyets using rainfall data of 10 stations located at different elevations in the basin. The total volume of flow for the same period was computed using observed flow data of the Satluj River at Bhakra Dam.
A relationship between temperature and evaporation was developed and used to estimate the évapotranspiration losses. The snow-covered area, and its depletion with time, was determined using satellite data. It was found that the average contribution of snow and glacier runoff in the annual flow of the Satluj River at Bhakra Dam is about 59%, the remaining 41% being from rain.