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Water Movement through a Shallow Vadose Zone: A Field Irrigation Experiment

TitleWater Movement through a Shallow Vadose Zone: A Field Irrigation Experiment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsOchoa, CG, Fernald, AG, Guldan, SJ, Shukla, MK
JournalVadose Zone Journal

Surface irrigation water percolating below the crop rooting zone is important for groundwater recharge in agricultural areas overlying shallow aquifers.  The objective of this study was to characterize water movement through the vadose zone following surface irrigation. Two infiltration plots were installed in each of three predominant local soil types. Plots were instrumented to measure soil water and shallow ground-water level. Data were used to calculate water infiltration, velocity of propagation of the wetting front, water fluxes, and water level response following irrigation. Results showed low to moderate infiltration rate (0.001 to 0.056 m h-1), relatively low levels of propagation of the wetting front (0.13 to 0.79 m h-1), water flux (0.001 to 0.13 m h-1), and shallow groundwater response (0.01 to 0.1 m) in Fruitland sandy loam and Werlog clay loam soil. However, in the Abiquiu-Peralta soil, higher infiltration rate (0.002 to 0.124 m h-1), wetting front propagation (0.28 to 3.75 m h-1), water flux (0.007 to 0.925 m h-1), and water level response (0.01 to 0.14 m) were observed. Results from this study helped to improve our understanding of the surface-water and shallow groundwater interactions in an irrigated valley in northern New Mexico. The field data set obtained in this study can benefit future model characterization and contribute to extrapolate local results to larger spatial areas.