KWRRI Research Reports


Steady-state transport of water, chloride and bacteria was measured through intact blocks of Maury and Cecil soils, under partially saturated conditions. Major objectives were to determine if transport occurs uniformly or via preferential flow paths, and if soil physical properties could be used to predict breakthrough. The blocks were instrumented with TDR probes and mounted on a vacuum chamber containing 100 cells that collected eflluent. After each experiment the blocks were sampled for soil physical properties. The fluxes showed no spatial autocorrelation and the eflluent variance was not statistically different between soils. Less than 3% of the influent bacteria appeared in the effluent. Maximum bacterial breakthrough occurred after 0.25 water-filled pore volumes had been leached, and was greater for Cecil soil than for Maury soil. The chloride breakthrough curves were fitted to the convection dispersion equation. The best predictor of dispersivity was volumetric water content (R2 = 0.28, P < 0.01), with dispersivity increasing with decreasing water content. Lower water contents lead to more tortuous flow paths and thus, a broadening of the velocity distribution. Soil structural controls on solute dispersion under partially saturated conditions are likely to be indirect, and related to differences in water content at given flux produced by differences in pore-size distribution.

Publication Date


Report Number


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

The work on which this report is based was supported in part by the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. as authorized by the Water Resources Research Act as amended in 1996 by P.L. 104-147.

The work upon which this report is based was supported in part by funds provided by the United States Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C. as authorized by the Water Resources Research Act of P.L. 101-3 97.

Included in

Soil Science Commons