Simulation of field scale water flow and bromide transport in a cracked clay soil

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Single domain models may seriously underestimate leaching of nutrients and pesticides to groundwater in clay soils with shrinkage cracks. Various two-domain models have been developed, either empirical or physically based, which take into account the effects of cracks on water flow and solute transport. This paper presents a model concept that uses the clay shrinkage characteristics to derive crack volume and crack depth under transient field conditions. The concept has been developed to simulate field average behaviour of a field with cracks, rather than flow and transport at a small plot. Water flow and solute transport are described with basic physics, which allow process and scenario analysis. The model concept is part of the more general agrohydrological model SWAP, and is applied to a field experiment on a cracked clay soil, at which water flow and bromide transport were measured during 572 days. A single domain model was not able to mimic the field-average water flow and solute transport. Incorporation of the crack concept considerably improved the simulation of water content and bromide leaching to the groundwater. Still deviations existed between the measured and simulated bromide concentration profiles. The model did not reproduce the observed bromide retardation in the top layer and the high bromide dispersion resulting from water infiltration at various soil depths. A sensitivity analysis showed that the amounts of bromide leached were especially sensitive to the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the top layer, the solute transfer from the soil matrix to crack water flow and the mean residence time of rapid drainage. The shrinkage characteristic and the soil hydraulic properties of the clay matrix showed a low sensitivity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1101-1117
JournalHydrological Processes
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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