Baikal World - information about the budget of lake Baikal water
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Explanation of the local terms and geographical names at lake Baikal
The face of Baikal - Water ©
 A description of Baikal's water & questions concerning its pollution by S.A.Gurulev

Lake Baikal Water Budget

Baikal is a drainage lake. 544 rivers bring their waters to it. One river, the Angara, flows out of it.
The hydrological budget of the lake, as one would suppose, has both input and output. The average hydrological budget for the period 1901 - 1971 has been calculated by A.N.Afanasiev.

The input part of the budget coming via the tributaries is 58.76 cubic kilometres (82.7%), via precipitation - 9.29 cubic km. (13.1%), and condensed moisture - 0.82 cubic km. (1.2%) In total this is 68.86 cubic kilometres of water.

Water balance of Lake Baikal for 1901 - 1971
(according to A.N.Afanas'ev, 1976)

Elements of inflow
Layer, mm
Volume / km3
Condensation at the lake's surface
Inflow tributaries

The output part of the budget comprises the volume of flow from the lake, which is 60.39 cubic km. (84.8%), and the amount of evaporation - 10.35 cubic km. (14.6%). In all the output was 70.72 cubic km. The amount by which the volume of the lake's water was increased after the building of the Irkutsk Hydroelectric Power Station and the raising of the level of the lake by 1.4 metres was added to this, that is, 0.44 cubic km. As a result the output increased to 71.16 cubic km.

Water balance of Lake Baikal for 1901 - 1971
(according to A.N.Afanas'ev, 1976)

Elements of outflow
Layer, mm
Volume / km3
Lake's outflow
Increase of the lake's level

The input therefore turned out to be less than the output by 2.30 cubic km. This difference could have been the result both of error in the calculations and the unaccounted for flow of underground waters into the lake. A.N.Afanasiev put this figure down to underground waters entering Baikal.

The question of the relationship between Baikal's waters and the underground waters of the surrounding territory has been studied by hydrologists. From the northeast, east and southwest, Baikal is surrounded by basins (the Barguzin, Verkhnaya Angara, Tunkinsky and others) in whose rocks there are underground confined (artesian) waters. The question is - do these feed Baikal, or, on the contrary, does Baikal feed them? The hydrologists A.I.Efimov and R.Y.Koldysheva think that this question has been insufficiently studied. Nevertheless, they suppose that in the valley of the Selenga, down to a depth of 250 metres, there is a flow of underground waters into the lake. Below this level an outflow of Baikal's waters occurs in the direction of the nearest artesian basins.

As has already been mentioned, V.A.Golubev determined the input of deep underground waters. Only a rough estimate can be given for their volume. Golubev believes that in North Baikal approximately 350 litres of water per second enter the lake from underground, and in Central Baikal, about 2001 per sec.

The lake's hydrological budget, just like its level, is not stable, not constant. Shortly before the lake is freed of ice, in April, the volume of water and the level begins to rise gradually. The reason for this being that the river waters increase. This increase can be observed throughout the summer and it reaches its climax at the end of September, beginning of October. From then on the volume and level gradually drop, reaching a minimum in April. The highest level of water in Baikal was recorded in 1869, and the lowest in 1904. The amplitude of fluctuation in level reached approximately 2 metres. Today, the level of water in the lake is regulated by Irkutsk hydroelectric power station, which had raised it by about 1.4 - 1.5 metres.

The level of water in the lake depends on the flow in rivers, and this flow is subject to fluctuation cycles over periods of years. These cycles have their effect on the budget of Baikal's waters and low and high periods can be observed.

The water level near the shore is influenced by winds that cause surges and drops. During these the amplitude of change in level can reach 0.3 m. Changes in level of up to 0.15 m can also occur as the result of inertial fluctuations, or seiches. And very small changes of up to 0.03 m. are brought about by tidal phenomena. Tides of the kind that occur in seas and oceans simply do not exist in Baikal.

In the last century a network of marks (notches in cliff faces) were made at Baikal with the help of which it has been possible to observe changes in the lake's level. It all started in 1869 when there were abundant rains in the Zabaikalye area raising its level dramatically. A.P.Orlov suggested marking such high rises in water level by notches in cliff rocks. The first notches and first observations of the level using them were made by B.Dybovsky on the cliffs of Cape Shaman, not far from the settlement of Kultuk. A few years later, I.D.Chersky, while making a journey around Baikal by boat, cut out 14 notches around its perimeter. These were horizontal indentations in the stone 20 cm long and 2 cm deep. The idea was to make observations of the water level with the help of these notches. However, measurements that were made subsequently showed the margin of error in the measurements to be very great, so it is extremely difficult to use this method to draw any serious conclusions. Today the notches in the cliffs are mainly of historical interest. They are monuments to the scientific investigations and investigators of the past.

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