A dripper-TDR method for in situ determination of hydraulic conductivity and chemical transport properties of surface soils

Salem A. Al-Jabri, Jaehoon Lee, Anju Gaur, Robert Horton*, Dan B. Jaynes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Field determined hydraulic and chemical transport properties can be useful for the protection of groundwater resources from land-applied chemicals. Most field methods to determine flow and transport parameters are either time or energy consuming and/or they provide a single measurement for a given time period. In this study, we present a dripper-TDR field method that allows measurement of hydraulic conductivity and chemical transport parameters at multiple field locations within a short time period. Specifically, the dripper-TDR determines saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks), macroscopic capillary length (λc), immobile water fraction (θim/θ), mass exchange coefficient (α) and dispersion coefficient (Dm). Multiple dripper lines were positioned over five crop rows in a field. Background and step solutions were applied through drippers to determine surface hydraulic conductivity parameters at 44 locations and surface transport properties at 38 locations. The hydraulic conductivity parameters (Ks, λc) were determined by application of three discharge rates from the drippers and measurements of the resultant steady-state flux densities at the soil surface beneath each dripper. Time domain reflectometry (TDR) was used to measure the bulk electrical conductivity of the soil during steady infiltration of a salt solution. Breakthrough curves (BTCs) for all sites were determined from the TDR measurements. The Ks and λc values were found to be lognormally distributed with average values of 31.4 cm h-1 and 6.0 cm, respectively. BTC analysis produced chemical properties, θim/θ, α, and Dm with average values of 0.23, 0.0036 h-1, and 1220 cm2 h-1, respectively. The estimated values of the flow and transport parameters were found to be within the ranges of values reported by previous studies conducted at nearby field locations. The dripper TDR method is a rapid and useful technique for in situ measurements of hydraulic conductivity and solute transport properties. The measurements reported in this study give clear evidence to the occurrence of non-equilibrium water and chemical movement in surface soil. The method allows for quantification of non-equilibrium model parameters and preferential flow. Quantifying the parameters is a necessary step toward determining the influences of surface properties on infiltration, runoff, and vadose zone transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-249
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • Soil hydraulic properties
  • Solute breakthrough curves
  • Solute transport properties
  • TDR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'A dripper-TDR method for in situ determination of hydraulic conductivity and chemical transport properties of surface soils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this