Water Resources Management

, Volume 27, Issue 13, pp 4545–4558 | Cite as

Assessing Water Quality of Three Gorges Reservoir, China, Over a Five-Year Period From 2006 to 2011

  • Pei Zhao
  • Xiangyu Tang
  • Jialiang TangEmail author
  • Chao Wang


Understanding temporal variability in water quality in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) is crucial for evaluating environmental effects of damming and protecting China’s largest freshwater resource. This study examined water quality changes in the main channel of the Yangtze River after dam completion as well as its relationship with water level fluctuation (WLF), controlled by annual impoundment operations and conditioned by flooding. Finally, the mass balance budget and integrative water quality indexing (WQI) methods were applied to elucidate the status of overall water quality since dam completion. Results showed that TGR outlet water (Yichang) exhibited higher pH and CODMn values and lower concentrations of dissolved oxygen (DO) and ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) than inlet water (Zhutuo). Temporal variations in water quality parameters displayed similar trends for the outlet and inlet. Water quality parameters all showed negative correlations to water level, revealing the different effects of damming on water quality. It was estimated that reservoir impoundment led to a DO depletion of 1495.5 (±1482.0) × 103 tons/yr and a CODMn increase of 564.0 (±405.0) × 103 tons/yr, likely deriving from various internal pollutant loads from the WLF zone and tributary watersheds. According to WQI, TGR water quality remained at healthy levels. However, WQI linear regression showed that water quality at the outlet significantly decreased over time, indicating that the construction of the Three Gorges Dam generally caused water quality deterioration. Further investigation is required to determine the spatial distribution of point and non-point pollution sources and to identify major factors that influence TGR water quality.


Internal release Water level fluctuation Water quality index Three Gorges Dam 



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (no. 2012CB417101), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41101202 and 40801101), and the Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (no. 724). The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and editors for their help and suggestions during the early edition of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pei Zhao
    • 1
  • Xiangyu Tang
    • 1
  • Jialiang Tang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chao Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Mountain Environment Evolution and Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina

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