Abstract Rock phosphate ore processing and disposal of phosphogypsum contribute to enhanced levels of natural radionuclides in the environment. Studies on the distribution of U-series nuclides were carried out in the Chitrapuzha River, near Cochin, in the southern part of India. The concentrations of radionuclides, especially 226 Ra , in the river waters showed enhancement by an order of magnitude relative to the levels in nearby water bodies. The concentrations were influenced by seasonal changes in the river flows during monsoon and summer periods. Ingestion doses via fish and milk have an upper estimate of 18 μSv for the critical population.