Solute transport and water content measurements in clay soils using time domain reflectometry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Clayey and saline soils have been shown to be problematic for time domain reflectometry (TDR) measurements. This study presents some of these problems and discusses solutions to them. Thirteen solute transport experiments were carried out in three undisturbed soil columns of swelling clay soil from Tunisia, labelled S1, S2, and S3 respectively. The columns were collected at three different physiographical regions within a catchment. Water fluxes ranged from 1.2 to 7.2 cm day(-1). The large solute transport heterogeneity and large tailing indicated that preferential flow was most pronounced in SI. The preferential flow took place in voids between structural elements and in wormholes. In S3, preferential flow was also evident, but not to the same extent as in S1. In S2, the solute transport was more uniform with little preferential flow. The heterogeneity of the solute transport increased with the water flux in S1 and to a smaller extent in S3, whereas it remained constant in S2. In a previous dye experiment in the field, preferential flow in cracks was observed at those sites where SI and S3 were collected. In the column experiments, preferential flow in these cracks was less due to the higher initial water content compared to the dye experiments, indicating that the desiccation cracks were closed by the swelling clay.


External organisations
  • National Research Institute of Rural Engineering, Water and Forests
  • IRD Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Water Engineering


  • unsaturated zone, solute transport, HYDRUS, hysteresis, rainfall dynamics, climate change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-847
JournalHydrological Sciences Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch