Performance of hydropower plant is severely affected by the presence of sand particles in river water. Degree of degradation significantly depends on the level of operating parameters (velocity, impingement angle, concentration, particle size and shape), which is further related to erosion mechanism. In this investigation, the effect of some of these operating parameters on erosion mechanism of generally used hydroturbine steel, CA6NM (13Cr4Ni), is reported. Morphology and variation in the martensite and austenite phases of the eroded surfaces were investigated using SEM and XRD. It was observed that velocity and impingement angle affect the erosion mechanism of CA6NM steel. Erosion mechanism was also significantly affected by the radial distance from the impact zone. Primary mechanism responsible for the removal of material at normal impingement angle was the formation and removal of platelets. At acute impingement angle, ploughing was observed to be one of the prime mechanisms responsible for the loss of the material. Other than these two well-known erosion mechanisms, the presence of another two erosion mechanisms was also observed. Models have been proposed for these unfamiliar erosion mechanisms. Interaction amongst different operating parameters was studied using line and contour plots. It was observed that the interaction between velocity and concentration was most significant. Using the experimental results, a statistical model based on regression approach was developed. Validity of this statistical model was checked using the experimental results from the literature and present study. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.