Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Contreras M.T., Müllendorff D., Pastén P., Pizarro G.E., Paola C. and Escauriaza C. (2015)

Potential accumulation of contaminated sediments in a reservoir of a high-Andean watershed: Morphodynamic connections with geochemical processes

Revista : Water Resources Research
Volumen : 51
Número : 5
Páginas : 3181-3192
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Rapid changes due to anthropic interventions in high-altitude environments, such as the Altiplano region in South America, require new approaches to understand the connections between physical and geochemical processes. Alterations of the water quality linked to the river morphology can affect the ecosystems and human development in the long term. The future construction of a reservoir in the Lluta River, located in northern Chile, will change the spatial distribution of arsenic-rich sediments, which can have significant effects on the lower parts of the watershed. In this investigation, we develop a coupled numerical model to predict and evaluate the interactions between morphodynamic changes in the Lluta reservoir, and conditions that can potentially desorb arsenic from the sediments. Assuming that contaminants are mobilized under anaerobic conditions, we calculate the oxygen concentration within the sediments to study the interactions of the delta progradation with the potential arsenic release. This work provides a framework for future studies aimed to analyze the complex connections between morphodynamics and water quality, when contaminant-rich sediments accumulate in a reservoir. The tool can also help to design effective risk management and remediation strategies in these extreme environments.