The Three Gorges Reservoir on the Yangtze River is the largest water control project in the world. While exerting great benefits (i.e., flood control, hydropower generation, inland river navigation and scenic tourism), the eutrophication of the tributary bay of the Three Gorges Reservoir has become one of the main environmental problems. This paper is to study the causes of water environment evolution in the tributary bay and investigate the driving force of eutrophication succession after the Three Gorges Reservoir enters the regular operation. By considering the Meixi River on the left bank of the mainstream of the Three Gorges Reservoir area (a typical tributary), this paper developed a three-dimensional hydrodynamic, water quality and water eutrophication mathematical model for the Meixi tributary bay, calibrated with measured data about hydrological regime (water level, flow), hydrodynamic factors (velocity) and water quality (water temperature, Chl-a, TP, TN, etc.). The annual variation of Chl-a concentration in the tributary bay was simulated, and the response relationship between the variation of Chl-a concentration and water conditions of the mainstream and tributary bay (e.g., reservoir water level, reservoir bay velocity, exogenous nutrient input, water temperature stratification and other factors) was analyzed. Results show that the water storage operation of the Three Gorges Reservoir contributes to the low flow velocity maintenance (≤0.05 m/s) in the tributary bay, the backward flow of the mainstream and the sufficient nutrients carried by the tributary water; the water temperature stratification is more likely to occur in the slow detention area in the middle-upper part of the bay in spring and summer, which provides a potential driving force for algae blooms. With the continuous decline of pollution load input in the reservoir basin, the algae blooms in tributary bay was the result of the combined action of low water level operation, low flow velocity (≤0.02 m/s), a large number of non-point source loads input with rainfall and runoff (the proportion of wet year is >70%), and obvious water temperature stratification in shallow water area, and the suitable meteorological conditions are the main inducing factors. Therefore, since the ecological regulation cannot be applied to the multitudinous tributary bays, the non-point source pollution control in the tributary bay is the key to controlling factor.

  • The water eutrophication in the tributary bay is relatively prominent. The numbers of meso-eutrophic sections have gradually increased, and the degree of the water eutrophication has gradually increased.

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