Magdalena River Basin (Colombia)


The total drainage basin area covers 257.438 km2. The upper reaches are extended over 55.140 km2 covering  22% of the territory. The middle reaches with 105.000 km2 compose 40% and the lower reaches with 96.240 km² 38% of the total drainage basin area. The average runoff for the Magdalena Basin as a whole is 953 mm yr_1 with a runoff in the upper, middle, and lower reaches of 900, 1260, and 700 mm yr_1, respectively (Restrepo et al., 2006). The annual mean runoff coefficient in the catchment varies from 0.60 mm yr_1 in the upper basin to 0.43 mm yr_1 in the lower basin, with an average of 0.58 mm yr_1. The annual average Magdalena water discharge increases from the upper basin with 1390 m³s-1 reaching 7100 m3 s-1 at Calamar station, located 112 km upstream from the Caribbean (see Table 1), (Restrepo et al., 2006).

Table 1: Hydrological parameters of the Magdalena River Basin, adopted from Restrepo et al., 2006.

Following the Strahler system of stream order classification (Strahler, 1957) the Magdalena Basin network ranges from small mountain tributaries (order 1), to the Magdalena at its mouth in the Caribbean Sea (order 8) (Angarita et al., 2018). The main tributary of the Magdalena Basin is the Cauca River with a length of 1180 Km and the source at 4000 m a.s.l. in “Paramo de Sotará”. The Cauca River contributes a flow of approximately 2275 m3/s, 32% of the Magdalena River flow (Gutiérrez-Bonilla, et al. 2011). The principal tributaries of the basin are listed in the table 2.


Table 2: Main Tributaries of the Magdalena River Basin;

(Source: CORMAGDALENA, (2011) Plan Maestro de Aprovechamiento del Río Magdalena,



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Restrepo, J. C., Schrottke, K., Traini, C., Ortíz, J. C., Orejarena, A., Otero, L., Higgins A., Marriaga, L. (2015)  Sediment Transport and Geomorphological Change in a High-Discharge Tropical Delta (Magdalena River, Colombia): Insights from a Period of Intense Change and Human Intervention (1990–2010), Journal of Coastal Research, 00(0), 000– 000. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

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U.S. Agency for International Development (2017), ENV - Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in the Magdalena River Basin,

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