Importance of Drainage Basin

The importance of drainage basin include the following;

1. Geo political boundaries

Drainage basins have been historically important for determining territorial boundaries, particularly in regions where trade by water has been important.

For example, the English crown gave the Hudson’s Bay Company a monopoly on the fur trade in the entire Hudson Bay basin, an area called Rupert’s Land. Bioregional political organization today includes agreements of states (e.g., international treaties and, within the U.S.A., interstate compacts) or other political entities in a particular drainage basin to manage the body or bodies of water into which it drains.

Examples of such interstate compacts are the Great Lakes Commission and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

2. Hydrology

In hydrology, the drainage basin is a logical unit of focus for studying the movement of water within the hydrological cycle, because the majority of water that discharges from the basin outlet originated as precipitation falling on the basin.

A portion of the water that enters the groundwater system beneath the drainage basin may flow towards the outlet of another drainage basin because groundwater flow directions do not always match those of their overlying drainage network. Measurement of the discharge of water from a basin may be made by a stream gauge located at the basin’s outlet.

Isochrone maps can be used to show the time taken for runoff water within a drainage basin to reach a lake, reservoir or outlet, assuming constant and uniform effective rainfall.

3. Geomorphology

Drainage basins are the principal hydrologic unit considered in fluvial geomorphology. A drainage basin is the source for water and sediment that moves from higher elevation through the river system to lower elevations as they reshape the channel forms.

4. Ecology

Drainage basins are important in ecology. As water flows over the ground and along rivers it can pick up nutrients, sediment, and pollutants.

With the water, they are transported towards the outlet of the basin, and can affect the ecological processes along the way as well as in the receiving water source.

Modern use of artificial fertilizers, containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, has affected the mouths of drainage basins.

The minerals are carried by the drainage basin to the mouth, and may accumulate there, disturbing the natural mineral balance. This can cause eutrophication where plant growth is accelerated by the additional material.

Importance of Drainage Basin

5. Resource management

Because drainage basins are coherent entities in a hydro-logical sense, it has become common to manage water resources on the basis of individual basins. In the U.S. state of Minnesota, governmental entities that perform this function are called “watershed districts”.

In New Zealand, they are called catchment boards. Comparable community groups based in Ontario, Canada, are called conservation authorities. In North America, this function is referred to as “watershed management”.

In Brazil, the National Policy of Water Resources, regulated by Act n° 9.433 of 1997, establishes the drainage basin as the territorial division of Brazilian water management.

When a river basin crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary, it is identified as a trans-boundary river. Management of such basins becomes the responsibility of the countries sharing it.

Nile Basin Initiative, OMVS for Senegal River, Mekong River Commission are a few examples of arrangements involving management of shared river basins

River Catchment

The catchment is the most significant factor determining the amount or likelihood of flooding.

Catchment factors are: topography, shape, size, soil type, and land use (paved or roofed areas). Catchment topography and shape determine the time taken for rain to reach the river, while catchment size, soil type, and development determine the amount of water to reach the river.

Topography

Generally, topography plays a big part in how fast runoff will reach a river. Rain that falls in steep mountainous areas will reach the primary river in the drainage basin faster than flat or slightly sloping areas (e.g., > 1% gradient).

Shape

Shape will contribute to the speed with which the runoff reaches a river. A long thin catchment will take longer to drain than a circular catchment.

Size

Size will help determine the amount of water reaching the river, as the larger the catchment the greater the potential for flooding. It is also determined on the basis of length and width of the drainage basin.

Soil type

Soil type will help determine how much water reaches the river. Certain soil types such as sandy soils are very free-draining, and rainfall on sandy soil is likely to be absorbed by the ground. However, soils containing clay can be almost impermeable and therefore rainfall on clay soils will run off and contribute to flood volumes.

After prolonged rainfall even free-draining soils can become saturated, meaning that any further rainfall will reach the river rather than being absorbed by the ground. If the surface is impermeable the precipitation will create surface run- off which will lead to higher risk of flooding; if the ground is permeable, the precipitation will infiltrate the soil.

Land use

Land use can contribute to the volume of water reaching the river, in a similar way to clay soils. For example, rainfall on roofs, pavements, and roads will be collected by rivers with almost no absorption into the groundwater.

Read Also : Water Catchment and Levels in the Soil

In conclusion, about 50% of all available water is trans-boundary water located in the rivers, lakes or groundwater systems of two or more countries and cooperation over this water is often troublesome. Around two thirds of the world’s trans-boundary rivers lack agreements between the countries that share them.

The world is facing a global water crisis. This year, the World Economic Forum and world business leaders identified that water supply crises are amongst the highest impact risks facing the modern world.

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Benadine Nonye

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