The district is very rich in water resources, given the network of rivers, streams and many rivulets spread across the length and breadth of the district.Chamoli district is criss-crossed by several important rivers and their tributaries. The rivers of Chamoli district, mostly originate from Glaciers and generally flow with great force in steep and narrow channels often resulting in excessive erosion and collapse of the banks.
The major rivers of Chamoli are:-
Alaknanda, traversing a distance of 229 kms. before it confluence with Bhagirathi at Devprayag and constituting the Ganga, is the major river. The Alaknanda originates at a height of 3641 meters below Balakun peak 16 km. upstream from Badrinath form the two glaciers of Bhagirath Kharak and Satopanth. The two glaciers rise from the eastern slopes of Chaukhamba (7140 Meters) peak, Badrinath peak and its satellite peaks. These peaks separates the Gangotri group of glaciers in the west. The major portion of the Alaknanda basin falls in Chamoli district. From its source upto Hallang (58 Km),the valley is treated as upper Alaknanda valley. The remaining part of the area is known as lower Alanknanda valley. While moving from its source, the river flows in a narrow deep gorge between the mountain slopes of Alkapuri, from which it drives its name.
In hydrology, the Alaknanda is considered the source stream of the Ganges on account of its greater length and discharge; however, in Hindu mythology and culture, the other headstream, the Bhagirathi, is considered the source stream. There are 37 hydroelectric dams in operation, under construction or planned to harness the energy of the Alaknanda river and its tributaries and generate electricity. As the river flows, the towns along its banks are Badrinath, Vishnuprayag, Joshimath, Chamoli, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag, Srinagar and Devprayag. At each town with suffix prayag, Alaknanda meets another river.
Pindar or Pindari River originates from Pindari Glacier in Bageshwar. It passes small towns and villages like Devaal, Tharali, Kulsari, Harmani, Meeng, Narain Bagar, Nalgaon, Simli inhabited in Pindar Valley and finally merges with River Alaknanda at Karanprayag and thereafter flows as Alaknanda. The Pinddar river, before joining Alaknanda, is fed by Kaliganga and Bheriganga.
The Saraswati river has its origination in Deotal and Ragastal nearly 60 kms ahead of Mana the last Indian village. Locals believe that this the same river that is mentioned in Vedas and purans to be hidden and is believed that it virtually merges the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna at Prayag. The Saraswati river is visible for few 100 mts. at Mana village and then it merges with Alaknanda. The bubbly frosty waters of the river rage down with a tremendous force. Facing the river, stands a small Saraswati temple and self proclaimed India's last shop can be spotted too which marks itself as "Bharat ki aakhri chai ki dukaan".