Sub-watershed Prioritization Based on Drainage Morphometric Analysis: A Case Study of Cauvery River Basin in South India

  • 8 Accesses


Prioritization of sub-watersheds in a river basin using morphometric parameters is one of the simplest approaches for development of watersheds for its use and management. In this perspective, a study has been undertaken in the Cauvery river basin in South India, using morphometric analysis of the entire river basin in relation to its 17 sixth order sub-watersheds. In this study, automated extraction of drainage network method was applied using geospatial techniques. Drainage morphometric analysis was performed through linear, aerial and relief aspects. Strahler stream order classification was applied for classifying the stream order. In general, dendritic and sub-dendritic types of drainage patterns are noticed in the Cauvery river basin. The total length of the river and basin area are 800 km and 82283 km2, respectively. Hypsometric analysis reveals that about 30% of the study area is covered by steep slope with deeply dissected landscapes and the remaining 70% spreads essentially in the Mysore plateau and Tamil Nadu plains which are generally having gentle slopes with an equilibrium stage of landscape development. Prioritization of sub-watershed was carried out based on compound parameter analysis by adding the values of linear and shape parameters of each sub-watershed. The results of prioritization of sub-watersheds reveal that about 88% of sub-watersheds that spread in the river basin fall under high and moderate priority categories for water resource developments. Only two sub-watersheds fall under the low priority category which in turn are safe in the case of water resource development. The study warrants the need for more focused investigations and corrective measures including construction of appropriate recharge structures for improving the water potential of the river basin.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 264.06

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  1. Ahmed, S. A., Chandrashekarappa, K. N., Raj, S. K., Nischitha, V. and Kavitha, G. (2010) Evaluation of morphometric parameters derived from ASTER and SRTM DEM—a study on Bandihole sub-watershed basin in Karnataka. Jour. Indian Soc. Remote Sensing, v.38(2), pp.227–238.

  2. Al-Saady, Y. I., Al-Suhail, Q. A., Al-Tawash, B. S., & Othman, A. A. (2016) Drainage network extraction and morphometric analysis using remote sensing and GIS mapping techniques (Lesser Zab River Basin, Iraq and Iran). Environ.Earth Sci., v.75(18), pp.1243.

  3. Arulbalaji, P. and Gurugnanam, B. (2017) Geospatial tool-based morphometric analysis using SRTM data in Sarabanga watershed, Cauvery River, Salem district, Tamil Nadu, India. Appld. Water Sci., v.7(7), pp.3875–3883.

  4. Choudhari, P. P., Nigam, G. K., Singh, S. K. and Thakur, S. (2018) Morphometric based prioritization of watershed for groundwater potential of Mula river basin, Maharashtra, India. Geol., Ecol., and Landscapes, v.9508, pp.1–12. doi:

  5. Colombo, R., Vogt, J. V., Soille, P., Paracchini, M. L. and de Jager, A. (2007) Deriving river networks and catchments at the European scale from medium resolution digital elevation data. Catena, v.70(3), pp.296–305. doi:

  6. Das, A., Mondal, M., Das, B. and Ghosh, A. R. (2012) Analysis of drainage morphometry and watershed prioritization in Bandu Watershed, Purulia, West Bengal through Remote Sensing and GIS technology-A case study. Internat. Jour. Geomatics and Geosci., v.1(4), pp.995–1013.

  7. GSI, (2013) Southern Region Briefing Book, Geological Survey of India, 301p.

  8. Hajam, R. A., Hamid, A. and Bhat, S. (2013) Application of morphometric analysis for geo-hydrological studies using geo-spatial technology-a case study of Vishav Drainage Basin. Hydrol. Curr. Res., v.4(157), pp.2.

  9. Horton, R.E. (1932) Drainage basin characteristics. Eos, Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union, v.13(1), pp.350–361.

  10. Horton, R.E. (1945) Erosional development of streams and their drainage basins; hydrophysical approach to quantitative morphology. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., v.56(3), pp.275–370.

  11. Huang, C. C., Yeh, H. F., Lin, H. I., Lee, S. T., Hsu, K. C. and Lee, C. H. (2013) Groundwater recharge and exploitative potential zone mapping using GIS and GOD techniques. Environ. Earth Sci., v.68(1), pp.267–280. doi:

  12. Javed, A., Khanday, M.Y. and Rais, S. (2011) Watershed prioritization using morphometric and land use/land cover parameters: A remote sensing and GIS based approach. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, v.78(1), pp.63–75. doi:

  13. Kale, V. S., Sengupta, S., Achyuthan, H. and Jaiswal, M. K. (2014) Tectonic controls upon Kaveri River drainage, cratonic Peninsular India: Inferences from longitudinal profiles, morphotectonic indices, hanging valleys and fluvial records. Geomorphology, v.227, pp.153–165. doi:

  14. Kondolf, G. M. (1997) Hungry Water: Effects of Dams and Gravel Mining on River Channels, Environ. Managmt., v.21(4), pp.533–551. DOI:

  15. Kusre, B.C. (2016) Morphometric analysis of Diyung watershed in northeast India using GIS technique for flood management. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, v.87(3), 361–369.

  16. Mallick, J., Singh, C. K., Al-Wadi, H., Ahmed, M., Rahman, A., Shashtri, S. and Mukherjee, S. (2015) Geospatial and geostatistical approach for groundwater potential zone delineation. Hydrological Proces., v.29(3), pp.395–418. doi:

  17. Manjare, B. S., Khan, S., Jawadand, S.A. and Padhye, M.A. (2018) Watershed Prioritization of Wardha River Basin, Maharashtra, India Using Morphometric Parameters: A Remote Sensing and GIS-Based Approach. In: Hydrologic Modeling, Springer, pp. 353–366.

  18. Meshram, S.G. and Sharma, S.K. (2017) Prioritization of watershed through morphometric parameters: a PCA-based approach. Appld. Water Sci., v.7(3), pp.1505–1519.

  19. Miller, V.C. (1953) Quantitative geomorphic study of drainage basin characteristics in the Clinch Mountain area, Virginia and Tennessee. Technical Report, No.3, Columbia University, New York.

  20. Pande, C. B. and Moharir, K. (2017) GIS based quantitative morphometric analysis and its consequences: a case study from Shanur River Basin, Maharashtra India. Appld. Water Sci., v.7(2), pp.861–871.

  21. Padmalal, D. (1992) Mineralogy and Geochemistry of the sediments of Muvattupuzha river and Central Vembanad estuary, Kerala, India. PhD thesis: Cochin University of Science and Technology. 122p.

  22. Prabu, P. and Baskaran, R. (2013) Drainage morphometry of upper Vaigai river sub-basin, Western Ghats, South India using remote sensing and GIS. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, v.82(5), pp.519–528. doi:

  23. Rai, P.K., Mohan, K., Mishra, S., Ahmad, A. and Mishra, V.N. (2017) A GIS-based approach in drainage morphometric analysis of Kanhar River Basin, India. Appld. Water Sci., v.7(1), 217–232.

  24. Ramaiah, S.N., Gopalakrishna, G.S., Vittala, S.S. and Najeeb, K.M. (2012) Morphometric analysis of sub-basins in and around Malur Taluk, Kolar District, Karnataka using remote sensing and GIS Techniques. Nature, Environment and Pollution Technology, v.11(1), pp.89–94.

  25. Rao, N.K., Latha, S.P., Kumar, A.P. and Krishna, H.M. (2010) Morphometric analysis of Gostani river basin in Andhra Pradesh State, India using spatial information technology. Internat. Jour. Geomatics and Geosci., v.1(2), pp.179.

  26. Schumm, S.A. (1973) Geomorphic thresholds and complex response of drainage systems. Fluvial Geomorphology, v.6, pp.69–85.

  27. Schumm, S. A. (1956). Evolution of drainage systems and slopes in badlands at Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., v.67(5), pp.597–646.

  28. Smith, K. G. (1950). Standards for grading texture of erosional topography. Amer. Jour. Sci., v.248(9), pp.655–668.

  29. Sreedevi, P. D., Sreekanth, P. D., Khan, H. H. and Ahmed, S. (2013) Drainage morphometry and its influence on hydrology in an semi arid region: using SRTM data and GIS. Environ. Earth Sci., v.70(2), pp.839–848.

  30. Strahler, A.N. (1956) Quantitative slope analysis. Bull. Geol. Societ. Amer., v.67, pp.71–596.

  31. Strahler, A. N. (1964). Quantitative geomorphology of drainage basins and channel networks. Handbook of Applied Hydrology.

  32. Thapa, R., Gupta, S. and Reddy, D.V. (2017) Application of geospatial modelling technique in delineation of fluoride contamination zones within Dwarka Basin, Birbhum, India. Geoscience Frontiers, v.8(5), pp.1105–1114.

  33. Thomas, J., Joseph, S., Thrivikramji, K.P. and Abe, G. (2011) Morphometric analysis of the drainage system and its hydrological implications in the rain shadow regions, Kerala, India. Jour. Geographical Sci., v.21(6), pp.1077.

  34. Umrikar, B.N. (2017) Morphometric analysis of Andhale watershed, Taluka Mulshi, District Pune, India. Appld. Water Sci., v.7(5), pp.2231–2243.

  35. Vaidyanadhan, R. (1971) Evolution of the drainage of Cauvery in South India. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, v.12(1), pp.14–23.

  36. Vieceli, N., Bortolin, T.A., Mendes, L.A., Bacarim, G, Cemin, G. and Schneider, V.E. (2015) Morphometric evaluation of watersheds in Caxias do Sul City, Brazil, using SRTM (DEM) data and GIS. Environ. Earth Sci., v.73(9), pp.5677–5685.

  37. Vittala, S.S., Govindaiah, S. and Gowda, H.H. (2008) Prioritization of sub-watersheds for sustainable development and management of natural resources: an integrated approach using remote sensing, GIS and socioeconomic data. Curr. Sci., v.95(3), pp.345–354.

  38. Waikar, M. L., & Nilawar, A. P. (2014). Morphometric analysis of a drainage basin using geographical information system: a case study. Internat. Jour. Multidisciplinary and Curr. Res., v.2, pp.179–184.

Download references


The authors express their sincere thanks to Dr. N. Purnachandra Rao, Director, National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) for constant support and encouragements throughout the course of the study. We thank the reviewers for the critical comments and suggestions which helped to improve the quality of the paper.

Author information

Correspondence to P. Arulbalaji.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Arulbalaji, P., Padmalal, D. Sub-watershed Prioritization Based on Drainage Morphometric Analysis: A Case Study of Cauvery River Basin in South India. J Geol Soc India 95, 25–35 (2020).

Download citation