Rivers and Drainage System of Karnataka

Rivers and Drainage System of Karnataka

Drainage systems

Drainage systems, also known as river systems, are the patterns formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular drainage basin. They are governed by the topography of the land, whether a particular region is dominated by hard or soft rocks, and the gradient of the land.

Rivers in Karnataka

Karnataka is endowed with many riverine systems broadly classified into two types viz.,

  1. The East-flowing large rivers Krishna and Cauvery with their tributaries, and
  2. The short, West-flowing rivers.
  • The rivers in Karnataka are a source of water for drinking and household purposes. They are integral to agriculture, a source of hydropowerand used for transportation in certain areas. They are also vital for the tourism industry in the state.
  • Many rivers, both east-flowing and west-flowing, are found within the boundaries of Karnataka.
  • Most of the rivers originate in the Western Ghats and runs towards the eastern side of the state. These are some of the largest rivers in the state and drain towards the Bay of Bengal. Therefore almost all the major east-flowing rivers are inter-state rivers.
  • The rivers in the Western Ghats that generallyflow westward meet the Arabian Sea after a short run varying from 50 kilometres to 300 kilometres.  These rivers are very steep in the upper reaches and fairly steep in the middle reaches. Near the sea, they have relatively flat gradients and a mild flood plain.


  • The river Cauvery is an Inter-State river in Southern India. It is one of the major rivers of the Peninsular flowing east and running into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Cauvery rises at Talakaveri on the Brahmagiri Range of Hill in the Western Ghats, presently in the Coorg district. It is often called the Dakshina Ganga (the Gangesof the South) and considered one of the sacred rivers of India.
  • The tributaries of the Kaveri include:
Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin ,Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1Hemavathy5,410Ballarayana Durga in Western Ghats,

1,219 metres, 245 km

2Kabini7,040Western ghats in Kerala,

2,140 metres, 230 km

Taraka,Hebballa, Nugu, GundalKarnataka, Kerala &  Tamiln Nadu
3Harangi717Pushpagiri Hills of Western ghats       1,067 metres 50 km  Karnataka

1,480 meters 161 km

Kumaudavat-hy, Manihalla & kuttehole, Vrishabhava-thyKarnataka & Tamil Nadu
5Lakshmanathirtha1,690Western ghats,

1,950 metres, 131 km.

6Suvarnavathy1,787Nasrur ghat Range,   Length 88 km. Karnataka & Tamil Nadu
7Shimsha8,469Tumkur district,       914 meters, 221 km.Veeravaishnavi, kanihalla, chickkhole, Hebbahalla, Mullahalla & KanvaKarnataka



  • The river Krishna is an Inter-State river in Southern India. It is the second largest river in Peninsular India, rises in the Western Ghats at an altitude of 1337 m. near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra State.
  • It flows across the whole width of the peninsula, from west to east, for a length of about 1400 km, through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The entire catchment area of Krishna basin is 2,58,948 sq km.
  • The principal tributaries of Krishna in Karnataka are Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Bhima and Tungabhadra. All these rivers except the Malaprabha River having their catchment area both in Karnataka and Maharastra.
  • Brief description of these tributaries are given below:
Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin ,Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1Ghataprabha8829Western ghats,  884m, 283kmsHiranyakeshi, MarkandeyaKarnataka & Maharshatra
2Malaprabha11549Western Ghats,  792.48m, 306kmsBennihalla,Hirehalla, Tas nadiKarnataka
3Bhima70614Western Ghats, 945m, 861kmsCombined waters of      Mula & Mutha Ghod, Nira,SinaKarnataka & Maharshatra
4Thungbhadra47866Western ghats at Gangamula, 1198m, 531kmsCombined waters of Tunga & Bhadra, Varada, Hagari(vedavathy)Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh



  • The river Godavari rises in the Nasik district of Maharastra about 80km from the shore of Arabian sea, at an elevation of 1067m, after flowing for about 1465km in a general south-easterly direction, through Maharastra and Andhra Pradesh, Godavari falls into the Bay of Bengal above Rajamundry.
  • The principal tributaries of Godavari are the Pravara, the Purna, the Manjra, the Pranahita, the Indravathy and the Sabari but Manjra River, having its partial catchment area in the State of Karnataka.
Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin ,Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1.Manjra15,667 Sq.kms -Maharastra,                4,406 Sq.kms -Karnataka,                 10,772 Sq.kms -Andhra PradeshBala ghat range of hills,  823mTirina,Karanja, Haldi,Lendi & MannarMaharastra, Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh



  • The Western Ghats provides a principal geographical barrier in the path of the Arabian Sea branch of the Southwest monsoon, and is principally responsible for the heavy rainfall over the western coastal belt.
  • The rivers in the Western Ghats region generally originate at an elevation ranging from 400 meters to 1,600 meters above the mean sea level, close to the Western Ghats ridge.
  • The rivers generally flow westward and meet the Arabian Sea after a short run varying from 50 kms to 300 kms. the rivers are very steep in the upper reaches and fairly steep in the middle reaches. It is only near the sea that they have relatively flat gradients and some sort of flood plain.
  • The list of west flowing rivers, their important tributaries and the states through which these are flowing are given in the following table.
Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin ,Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1Mahadayi2032Western ghats, Belgaum district,       600 meters  87 kmsMaderiKarnataka,Goa
2Kalinadi4188Western ghats, Bidi village, 600 meters, 153 kms.Pandhari, Tatti-halla and NagiKarnataka
3Aghanashini (Tadri)1,330Western ghats Near Sirsi,  500 meters   84 kms. Karnataka
4Sharavathi3,592Westren ghats Humacha in Shimoga district,       700 meters, 122 kms. Karnataka
5Chakra Nadi336East of Kodachadri in Shimoga district,       600 meters, 52 kms. Karnataka
6Varahi       (Haladi759Kavaledur-ga in the Shimoga district,       600 meters,  66 kms Karnataka
7Barapole (Valapattanam)1, 867Brahamagiri Ghat Reserve Forest in Coorg ,  900 meters, 110 kms Karnataka
8Netravathy3222Bellarayan-a Durga in the Dakshina Kannada, 1,000 meters, 103 kmsGundiahole, Kumaradara and ShisiaholeKarnataka
9Gangavalli (Bedthi)3574Western ghats south Of Dharwad    700 meters, 152 kms. Karnataka



The Pennar rises on the hill of Nandi Hills in Chikballapur District of Karnataka state, and runs north and east through the state of Andhra Pradesh to empty into the Bay of Bengal.

Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin , Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1Uttara Pinakini (North Pennar River)6937Nandi hills of Kolar, 597kmJayamangali, Kumadavathy, Chitravathy and  papagniKarnataka,   Andhra Pradesh
2South Pennar4370Nandi hills of Kolar Karnataka, Tamil Nadu



Palar is a river of southern India. It rises in Talagavara village in Kolar, of Karnataka state, and flows 93 kilometres in Karnataka, 33 kilometres in Andhra Pradesh and 222 kilometres in Tamil Nadu before its confluence into the Bay of Bengal at Vayalur about 100 kilometres south of Chennai.

Sl. No.Name of the tributaryCatchment area in Sq.kms.Origin ,Altitude &LengthSub-tributariesName of the state
1Palar River2813Talagavara village in Kolar, 900 meters , 348 kms.Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh Tamil Nadu


Map of Karnataka River SystemRivers and Drainage System of Karnataka

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