The Piracicaba river basin: Isotope hydrology of a tropical river basin under anthropogenic stress

Luiz A. Martinelli, Joel R. Gat, Plínio B. De Camargo, Lucienne L. Lara, Jean P.H.B. Ometto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The stable isotope content of samples of precipitation and of the river water throughout the Piracicaba basin in Brazil was measured over a two-year period. The isotope values of precipitation follow a consistent pattern of relatively depleted values of both deuterium and oxygen 18 during the rainy summers and enriched ones during the dry winters, with all values aligned slightly above the Global Meteoric Water Line. The isotopic composition of the river water throughout the basin shows a remarkable spatial coherence and much smaller scatter of data than those of the precipitation. The isotope composition of river water is close to that of the precipitation in the rainy season, however, with a consistent lower d-excess value by 1‰-2‰. This is attributed to evaporative water loss in the basin, in part an expression of the recycling of water due to the anthropogenic activity in the region. The more divergent values are recorded during high-water stages in the rivers. In many cases, the floods during the beginning of the rainy season are characterized by an enrichment of the heavy isotopes and lower d-excess values when compared to the precipitation, with the opposite situation later in the rainy season. This is interpreted as resulting from the watershed/riverflow interaction pattern, and it thus suggests that the isotope composition can monitor the hydrologic situation in the basin and its changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalIsotopes in Environmental and Health Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Brazil
  • Hydrogen 2
  • Oxygen 18
  • Precipitation
  • Rainfall
  • River basins
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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