Infiltration and solute transport experiments in unsaturated sand and gravel, Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Experimental design and overview of results

David L. Rudolph, R. Gary Kachanoski, Michael A. Celia, Denis R. LeBlanc, Jonathon H. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A series of infiltration and tracer experiments was conducted in unsaturated sand and gravel deposits on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A network of 112 porous cup lysimeters and 168 time domain reflectometry (TDR) probes was deployed at depths from 0.25 to 2.0 m below ground surface along the centerline of a 2-m by 10-m test plot. The test plot was irrigated at rates ranging from 7.9 to 37.0 cm h-1 through a sprinkler system. Transient and steady state water content distributions were monitored with the TDR probes and spatial properties of water content distributions were determined from the TDR data. The spatial variance of the water content tended to increase as the average water content increased. In addition, estimated horizontal correlation length scales for water content were significantly smaller than those estimated by previous investigators for saturated hydraulic conductivity. Under steady state flow conditions at each irrigation rate, a sodium chloride solution was released as a tracer at ground surface and tracked with both the lysimeter and TDR networks. Transect-averaged breakthrough curves at each monitoring depth were constructed both from solute concentrations measured in the water samples and flux concentrations inferred from the TDR measurements. Transport properties, including apparent solute velocities, dispersion coefficients, and total mass balances, were determined independently from both sets of breakthrough curves. The dispersion coefficients tended to increase with depth, reaching a constant value with the lysimeter data and appearing to increase continually with the TDR data. The variations with depth of the solute transport parameters, along with observations of water and solute mass balance and spatial distributions of water content, provide evidence of significant three-dimensional flow during the irrigation experiments. The TDR methods are shown to efficiently provide dense spatial and temporal data sets for both flow and solute transport in unsaturated sediments with minimal sediment and flow field disturbance. Combined implementation of lysimeters and TDR probes can enhance data interpretation particularly when three-dimensional flow conditions are anticipated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-532
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Infiltration and solute transport experiments in unsaturated sand and gravel, Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Experimental design and overview of results'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this