Hydrogeomorphological mapping using geospatial techniques for assessing the groundwater potential of Rambiara river basin, western Himalayas
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Integration of geospatial techniques (remote sensing and geographical information system) for the identification of groundwater potential has become an important tool in evaluating, monitoring and conserving groundwater resources. Effective utilization of groundwater resources has become important due to changing climatic scenario. Hence, estimating the zones of potential groundwater recharge is extremely important for the protection and management of water quality of groundwater systems. In this study, Rambiara river basin, southern-eastern part of Kashmir valley, was examined to assess its groundwater resource potential. Geospatial techniques were used to assimilate five causative factors: lithology/geology, land use and land cover, lineaments, drainage, and slope. The factor weight contributing to the groundwater recharge was acquired using satellite image data, lithological/geological maps, and a land use/land cover database followed by field validations. Based on the results obtained, it was observed that the premier recharge potential zones are located down the slope of the river basin due to the dominance of alluvium and agricultural land. Hard rock lithology located towards upstream areas of the basin allows less water to infiltrate.
KeywordsGeospatial Landsat Groundwater Digital elevation model
Groundwater is an important natural resource of fresh water for potable water supply in both urban and rural environment (Fashae et al. 2014; Lone et al. 2016). It plays a substantial role in human life, as well as that of some aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Presently groundwater contributes about 34% of total annual water supply in most parts of the India (Magesh et al. 2011). The snow and glacier melt waters sustain the surface water flow in Kashmir Himalayas (Lone et al. 2017). Climate change, change in form of precipitation and a decreasing trend in the snowfall and river flow (Lone et al. 2016), is leading to water shortage, which has laid more emphasis on groundwater resources. Continuous availability and easy accessibility with excellent natural quality of groundwater make it more important source of water supply for domestic usage around the world (Todd and Mays 2005). The groundwater makes up 97% of the liquid freshwater available on the earth’s surface, used for drinking and other domestic usage (Foster 1998). However, mismanagement and overexploitation of the groundwater resource have led to water shortages and pollution (Tsakiris 2004; Nag and Ghosh 2013). Consequently, the overexploitation of groundwater particularly in developing countries is becoming a key concern (Todd and Mays 2005; Pinto et al. 2017). It is very important to make economically efficient usage of groundwater, since this resource is limited. Geospatial technologies (remote sensing and GIS) are very significant to constantly evaluate and monitor the groundwater resource (Jasmin and Mallikarjuna 2015; Mallick et al. 2015). Reliably base line information about factors (geology, land use, land cover, drainage, lineaments) controlling and effecting the occurrence and movement of groundwater can be quantified using satellite data and geospatial techniques (Bobba et al. 1992; Meijerink et al. 2000; Magesh et al. 2011). However, because of the non-availability of the data and integrating tools, all such factors had not often been studied together. Remote sensing and geographic information are important for study of hydrogeological data and for the virtual modelling of multifaceted features (Watkins et al. 1997; Gogu et al. 2001; Gossel et al. 2004).
Since only limited work in this field has been carried out in the Kashmir valley, so far only inadequate information about precipitation variation, river water flux, hydro-geological properties, groundwater consumption, and groundwater recharge is available. Water resources in the Kashmir valley are shrinking due to changing climate and economic development. It is very important to characterize and plan for groundwater resources development, particularly for the mountainous terrain of the Kashmir valley. The decreasing groundwater level in the mountain area is an indication of the decrease in groundwater resources (Yeh et al. 2007). So, this work is emphasized to identify and map the groundwater potential zones of Rambiara river basin for the development and management of groundwater resources for sustainable usage.
The area experiences a temperate climate and receives average precipitation of about 693 mm year−1. Snow is the dominant form of precipitation during winter and early spring seasons, and precipitation falls in form of rain during rest of the year. Maximum rainfall of the year is mainly received in the month of March (183 mm) and least in November (36 mm). Daily average maximum temperature is experienced in the month of July at about 33 °C, while the minimum temperature decreases down to − 5 °C in January, with a mean annual temperature of around 11 °C.
Materials and methods
Factors influencing groundwater recharge
Basis of categorization
Rock type, weathering character, joints, fractures
Land cover/land use
Type, areal extent, associated vegetation
Drainage density value
Results and discussions
Evaluating physical and environmental factors controlling groundwater occurrence
The lithology affects hydrogeological properties of aquifers. The dominating class, recent alluvium in the lithology map (Fig. 4), is composed of silt-sized sediments with a mixture of fine sand and clay deposited overlaying Karewa deposits. The Karewa deposits are fluvio-lacustrine, glacio-fluvio-lacustrine and aeolian origin composed of clay, silt, sand and boulders (Agarwal et al. 2018) of about 4 Ma old and about 1300 m thickness. This class is the most appropriate and promising groundwater potential area in the lithology because on high porosity created by the loose and unconsolidated sediments. Another promising area of groundwater recharge is the area with limestone lithology rocks, because of its high secondary porosity.
Very high drainage density in the study area is located in the northeastern parts or lower parts of the study area, which is composed of recent alluvium sediments. On the other hand, areas with very low drainage density are found in the high altitude region in south-western parts of the study area. The areas towards the centre of the study areas contain moderate to low drainage densities. The high drainage texture indicates highly porous and permeable rock formations, whereas the fine drainage texture is more common in less previous and fractured rock formations. Structurally controlled drainage is normally observed in the south-western part of the study area. Drainage texture and patterns are also controlled by different litho-units, structure and morphology. In the study area, the drainage pattern is dendritic to sub-dendritic. Groundwater potential is very poor in those areas with very course drainage density, as it loses the bulk part of precipitation water in form of runoff. However, low drainage density areas allow water to infiltrate to recharge the groundwater and, therefore, have more potential for groundwater occurrence. On the other hand, high drainage density values are promising for runoff and hence designate low groundwater potential zone (Terzer et al. 2013).
Land use/land cover
The land use/land cover (LULC) of area depends on geomorphology, agro-ecology, climate and human-induced activities. It is one of the factors affecting groundwater occurrence and availability. LULC information is a main factor in assessing the groundwater storage and recharge of the area, the type and nature of LULC controlling the groundwater in order of increment is as: forests, cultivated land, barren land and built-up. Therefore, forest and cultivated areas (agriculture and horticulture) are more appropriate for groundwater occurrence because of better infiltration rates. The degree of cultivation is also intensified due to the presence of good groundwater potential.
Maximum lineament density areas are more hospitable to infiltration and recharge and, therefore, are good potential areas for groundwater occurrence (Bhuvaneswaran et al. 2015, Lone et al. 2016). The areas with gentle slope have good potential for groundwater availability due to less runoff. Figure 7 shows the processed lineament map of the study area. A high lineament-length density designates high secondary porosity, thus signifying a zone with high groundwater potential (Al-Abadi and Al-Shamma’a 2014). The lineament density map of Rambiara river basin reveals that the high lineament density is observed towards a high altitude of the study area due to the presence of hard rock lithology.
Groundwater prospecting and validation
Our results show that the groundwater recharge potential zone of Rambiara river basin can be divided into seven grades, namely very high, high, moderate, low, very low, poor and very poor, based on the examination of the five factors (lithology, land use/land cover, lineaments, drainage, and slope) of groundwater recharge potential. Analytical results demonstrate that the excellent groundwater recharge potential zone is concentrated in the downstream region due to the presence of alluvial plains, gentle slope and occurrence of cultivated land and forests that support a high infiltration capability. Additionally, the concentration of drainage also helps the stream flow to recharge the groundwater system. The high altitude upstream region towards south-west direction supports low infiltration due to the influence of less fractured igneous and metamorphic rocks with steep slopes. Since the groundwater recharge potential of the particular area is directly linked with percolation, the scores obtained may be more precise and impartial if the laboratory techniques were used to measure the rate of percolation and hydraulic conductivity of each recharge potential factor. Potential factors that affect groundwater recharge in a small area, such as alteration in terrain and river courses caused by an earthquake, or modification in land utilization in a small area can be quantified using the grid model to estimate groundwater recharge potential zones. The modelled results can be validated by applying isotopic tracer technique while considering the quantity of pumped groundwater against groundwater recharge.
Based on remote sensing and GIS techniques, a comprehensive map of unprecedented detail of groundwater potential in Rambiara river basin was prepared. The results obtained demonstrate that the most effective groundwater recharge potential zones are located downstream of the Rambiara river basin. In these zones, the presence of the alluvial plains, gentle slopes and cultivated land and forests supports high infiltration ability. Additionally, the concentration of drainage also indicates the ability of stream flow to recharge the groundwater system. The upstream region is least effective for groundwater recharge, mainly due to its igneous and metamorphic rock and steep slope dominance. This study has recognized the interrelationships between the groundwater recharge potential factors and the groundwater recharge potential scores from the general hydrology characteristics of Rambiara river basin. The results of the present study can assist as guidelines for planning future artificial recharge projects in the study area in order to ensure sustainable groundwater utilization and management.
The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that helped in better presentation of the data and the manuscript.
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