A first investigation of hydrogeology and hydrogeophysics of the Maqu catchment in the Yellow River source region

Mengna Li, Yijian Zeng*, Maciek W. Lubczynski, Jean Roy, Lianyu Yu, Hui Qian*, Zhenyu Li, Jie Chen, Lei Han, Han Zheng, Tom Veldkamp, Jeroen M. Schoorl, Harrie Jan Hendricks Franssen, Kai Hou, Qiying Zhang, Panpan Xu, Fan Li, Kai Lu, Yulin Li, Zhongbo Su*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The Tibetan Plateau is the source of most of Asia's major rivers and has been called the Asian Water Tower. Detailed knowledge of its hydrogeology is paramount to enable the understanding of groundwater dynamics, which plays a vital role in headwater areas like the Tibetan Plateau. Nevertheless, due to its remoteness and the harsh environment, there is a lack of field survey data to investigate its hydrogeology. In this study, borehole core lithology analysis, soil thickness measurement, an altitude survey, hydrogeological surveys, and hydrogeophysical surveys (e.g. magnetic resonance sounding - MRS, electrical resistivity tomography - ERT, and transient electromagnetic - TEM) were conducted in the Maqu catchment within the Yellow River source region (YRSR). The hydrogeological surveys reveal that groundwater flows from the west to the east, recharging the Yellow River. The hydraulic conductivity ranges from 0.2 to 12.4ĝ€¯mĝ€¯d-1. The MRS sounding results, i.e. water content and hydraulic conductivity, confirmed the presence of an unconfined aquifer in the flat eastern area. Based on TEM results, the depth of the Yellow River deposits was derived at several places in the flat eastern area, ranging from 50 to 208ĝ€¯m. The soil thickness measurements were done in the western mountainous area of the catchment, where hydrogeophysical and hydrogeological surveys were difficult to be carried out. The results indicate that most soil thicknesses, except on the valley floor, are within 1.2ĝ€¯m in the western mountainous area of the catchment, and the soil thickness decreases as the slope increases. These survey data and results can contribute to integrated hydrological modelling and water cycle analysis to improve a full-picture understanding of the water cycle at the Maqu catchment in the YRSR. The raw dataset is freely available at https://doi.org/10.17026/dans-z6t-zpn7 (Li et al., 2020a), and the dataset containing the processed ERT, MRS, and TEM data is also available at the National Tibetan Plateau Data Center with the link https://doi.org/10.11888/Hydro.tpdc.271221 (Li et al., 2020b).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4727-4757
Number of pages31
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021


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