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VADOSE ZONE

Functions of Soil

Medium for plant growth

Regulator of water supplies

Recycler of raw materials

Habitat for soil organisms

Engineering medium
Functions of Soil
Medium for plant growth

Physical Support
Gas exchange
Water
Temperature
Nutrient source
Functions of Soil
Regulator of water supplies

Infiltration
Run-off
Storage/Movement
Distribution
Purification

Integral to hydrologic cycle


Hydrologic cycle: WHERE IS VADOSE ZONE?

The vadose zone


Vadose Zone Hydrology Profile Scale
Water Budget

http://wwwcimis.water.ca.gov/cimis/infoIrrBudget.jsp
Water Balance Diagram

Evapotranspiration
Potential ET
Water amount

Soil moisture Actual ET


utilization
Recharge Runoff Recharge
Precipitation
Ap May June July Aug. Sept Oct

ET > Precip = Soil moisture utilization


Precip > ET = Recharge, surplus, and runoff
What happens to the water in the diagram below?

Water

A horizon - Air Dry


Soil
Answer
The water moves sideways
and downward at the same
rate. This is because of
adhesion and cohesion. WATER
Would the movement be
different if the soil was
saturated?
Yes. The movement would
mainly be downward due to
gravity.
Water Movement

Water

Loam

Sand
Water Movement

Water
Water front does not Loam t1
move into sand until t2
loam is saturated t3
t4

Sand
Water Movement

Water front moves


into clay upon contact Water
with clay, but because
loam
it moves slow water
builds up above the
clay layer.
clay
Summary Points of Water Movement
1. Pore size is one of the most important fundamental
properties affecting how water moves through soil.
Larger pores as in sand conduct water more rapidly
than smaller pores in clay.
2. The two forces that allow water to move through soil
are gravitational forces and capillary forces. Capillary
forces are greater in small pores than in large pores.
3. Gravitational and capillary forces act simultaneously in
soils. Capillary action involves two types of attractions,
adhesion and cohesion. Adhesion is attraction of water
molecules to solid surfaces; cohesion is the attraction of
water molecules to each other. Gravity pulls water
downward when the water is not held by capillary
action. Thus gravity influences water in saturated soils.
4. Factors that affect water movement through soil include
texture, structure, organic matter and bulk density. Any
condition that affects soil pore size and shape will affect
water movement. Examples include compaction, tillage,
decayed root channels and worm holes.
5. The rate and direction of water moving through soil is
also affected by soil layers of different material. Abrupt
changes in pore size from one layer to the next affect
water movement. When fine soil overlies coarse soil,
downward water movement will temporally stop at the
fine coarse interface until the fine layer above the
interface is nearly saturation.
6. When a coarse soil is above a fine soil, the rapid water
movement in the coarse soil is greater than through the
clay and water will build up above the fine layer as the
water front comes in contact with the fine layer. This can
result in a build up of a perched water table if water
continues to enter the coarse layer.
Two Forces Responsible for
Water Movement in Soils

Gravity

Capillarity
Water movement

Source: Dept of Agriculture Bulletin 462, 1960


Capillarity

Spontaneous movement of water


into and through pore spaces in soil
without the aid of gravity.
Adhesion and Cohesion
Cohesion
Adhesion and Cohesion
adhesion
S
H U
cohesion R
F
oxygen
A
C
H H E

oxygen

H
Adhesion and Cohesion

droplet
adhesion

Cohesion
(H-bonding)

Surface
Adhesion and Cohesion

Strong adhesion Weak adhesion


Weak Adhesion
Adhesion to Soil Particles

Strong Adhesive Forces


Soil Pores
Adhesion and Cohesion capillarity
Adhesion to the tube or pore wall
Cohesion between water molecules
Capillarity
h = 0.15
r
Tube/Pore wall

adhesion
}

cohesion

Force down
Capillarity
h = 0.15
r

Small pores

h
Capillarity
Capillary fringe
Capillary pores in the zone of aeration draw up water
from the zone of saturation beneath the water table.
In very fine-grained soils, this capillary fringe can
saturate the soil above the water table
Tensiometer reading is negative
Capillary fringe is a part of vadose zone
Vadose Zone : the upper layer of the earth that contain
a three-phase system of solid, liquid, and gaseous
material.
Also called the zone of aeration or unsaturated zone.
Soil Pores and Pore Size Distribution

Texture
Density
Structure
Texture

Particle Size Large/coarse Medium Fine/Small


Sand Sandy clay Loam Clay Loam
Loamy Sand Silty clay Loam Sandy Clay
Sandy Loam Silt Loam Silty Clay
Silt Loam Clay

Pore Size Large/Macro Meso/Medium Micro/Small


Capillarity Weak Moderate Strong
Soil Pores

Sandy Silty Clayey


Capillarity Gravity
Dominated Dominated
Density
Depth in Profile
Arrangement of Particles
Compaction
Structure

Macropores

Micropores
MOISTURE CONTENT

Macropores

Micropores
Examples
Sand

Water

Clay
Initial Saturation

Sand Clay
Initial Saturation

Sandy Loam

Uncompacted Compacted
Same Texture and Density

Wet Moist
Quantification: Soil Water Energy
Gravitational Potential Energy

Water moves in response to


differences in potential energy,
from high potential energy to
low potential energy. High potential Energy

The greater the difference in height


The greater the difference in
Gravitational potential energy.
Low potential Energy
Gravitational Potential g
The potential energy of a unit quantity of water.

Unit quantities: volume


mass
weight
= mg

g = mgh
g = h (cm)
mg
The greater the height, the greater the potential energy.
Gravitational Potential

Height (cm)
Independent of soil
properties
100 a
ga = 100 cm

50 gb = 40 cm
40 b
soil
g = 0 Reference level

Difference in energy determines movement


Gravitational Potential
Height (cm) ga = 60 cm
100 a
gb = 0 cm

Reference level
40 b (g = 0)

ga gb
0 60 - 0 = 60 cm
Gravitational Potential

1. Gravitational potential energy is


due only to the height of an object
(water) above some reference point.

2. Gravitational potential energy is


independent of soil properties.
Capillary Potential Energy

(Matric Potential Energy)


Matric Potential

suction potential - capillarity

Narrow capillary tube high capillary rise h = 0.15


- strong force r
- compared to free water

Small particles, small pores

Applies to unsaturated soils


Primary Factors in Matric Potential

Texture, Density, Aggregation Moisture Content

Pore Size Distribution Which Pores are Filled


Capillarity and Soil Texture

Small pores
Strong suction
Strong capillarity

Large pores
Weak suction
Weak capillarity
Capillary Potential Energy

water

Dry soil

Suction potential energy

Matric potential energy


Capillary Potential
Porous block

Suction (capillarity)

100 cm m = -100 cm
(suction)

Dry soil

Vertical distance between the surface of the water and the porous cup.
Soil Texture

Sandy Soil
Porous block

suction
1000 cm
m = -1000cm
(suction)

Dry soil

Vertical distance between the surface of the water and the porous cup.
Soil Texture

Fine-textured soil

suction

10,000 cm m = -10,000 cm
(suction)

Dry soil

Vertical distance between the surface of the water and the porous cup.
Soil Texture

suction suction

Clay Sand

Unsaturated soils have negative matric potential energy


Submergence Potential
Submergence Potential (s)

Equal to the distance below a free water surface

Water Table

10 cm
Units of Potential

Centimeters of water
Bars
Pascals

1 bar = 1020 cm water (4oC)


1 KPa = 10 cm water
1 bar = 100 kPa
Total Potential Energy is the sum
of the gravitational, submergence,
and matric potential energies.

g + m + s = T
Gravitational Potential + Matric Potential = Total Potential

Height (cm)

50 a m = -65 cm g = 50 cm

T = -15 cm

20
10

g = 0
Reference level
Gravitational Potential + Matric Potential = Total Potential

Height (cm)

50 a m = -65 cm g = 50 cm

T = -15 cm

20
10 m = -5 cm g = 10 cm
b
T = 5 cm

g = 0
Reference level
Energy Differences
Height (cm)

50 a Ta = -15 cm

20
10 b Tb = 5 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Ta Tb = (-15cm) - 5cm = -20 cm


Which way will water move?
Height (cm)

50 a Ta = -15 cm

20
10 b Tb = 5 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Ta Tb = (-15cm) - 5cm = -20 cm


Determining the Direction of Water Flow

1. Sum the individual potentials at each point


2. Determine if there is a difference in potential
3. Water will move from the higher to the lower energy

4. Point A Point B

5. Water moves from high to low energy

Positive Point A to Point B

Negative Point B to Point A


Tensiometer
Quantifying Water Movement
Gradient

The driving force for water flow.


The difference in potential divided by the
Distance between the two points considered

total potential at point A total potential at point B


distance between points A and B

The stronger the gradient,


the greater the driving force
for water movement.
Gradient
Height (cm)

50 a Ta = -20 cm

20
10 b Tb =-100 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Difference in potential energy = -20 cm (-100 cm) = 80 cm


Distance between points A and B = 40 cm

Difference in total potential = 80 cm = 2


Gradient = Distance between the points = 40 cm
Height (cm)

50 ma = -100 cm
ga = 0 cm
a b
mb = -200 cm
Ref. 20
gb = 0 cm
10

0
Distance (cm)
5 25

Difference in total potential -100 - (-200) = 100 cm = 5


Distance between the points = 20 cm 20 cm
Gravitational Potential + Matric Potential = Total Potential

Height (cm)

50 a m = -95 cm g = 50 cm

T = -45 cm

20
10

g = 0
Reference level
Gravitational Potential + Matric Potential = Total Potential

Height (cm)

50 a m = -95 cm g = 50 cm

T = -45 cm

20
10 m = -25 cm g = 10 cm
b
T = -15 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Ta Tb = (- 45cm) - (-15cm) = -30 cm


Quantifying Water Movement
Gradient

The driving force for water flow.


The difference in potential divided by the
Distance between the two points considered

total potential at point A total potential at point B


distance between points A and B

The stronger the gradient,


the greater the driving force
for water movement.
Gradient
Height (cm)

50 a Ta = -20 cm

20
10 b Tb =-100 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Difference in potential energy = -20 cm (-100 cm) = 80 cm


Distance between points A and B = 40 cm

Difference in total potential = 80 cm = 2


Gradient = Distance between the points = 40 cm
Height (cm)

50 ma = -100 cm
ga = 0 cm
a b
mb = -200 cm
Ref. 20
gb = 0 cm
10

0
Distance (cm)
5 25

Difference in total potential -100 - (-200) = 100 cm = 5


Distance between the points = 20 cm 20 cm
Characterizing Soil Moisture Status
Water Content Based
Water Content Based
Soil Water Content
Water content by weight

Moist weight Dry weight Water weight


=
Dry soil weight Dry soil weight

Multiply by 100 to yield % water by weight

Water content by Volume

Volume Water
V = r2h Volume Soil

Multiply by 100 to yield % water by volume


Example:

You collect a 200 cm3 soil sample. Its moist weight is


150 g. After drying, the dry weight is 100 g.

Gravimetric water content:


Moist weight Dry weight Water weight
=
Dry weight Dry weight

150 g - 100g 50 g = 0.5 or 50%


100g
= 100g
Example:

You collect a 200 cm3 soil sample. Its moist weight is


150 g. After drying the dry weight is 100 g.

Volumetric water content:


Volume Water
Density of water
Volume Soil 1 g/cm3

150 g - 100g 50 g = 50 cm3 water = 0.25 or 25%


200 cm3 = 200 cm3 200 cm3 soil
Characterizing Soil Moisture Status

Energy-Based
Relating water content and matric potential (suction)
Characterizing Soil Water

Soil Core
porous plate

suction
Characterizing Soil Water

Moisture Release Curve


saturated
Soil Core

One soil
Water

* Remaining
In soil

Suction applied (cm) 10,000


Suction applied in 0
discrete increments.
Texture, Density

saturated Two Soils

Water
A
* Remaining
In soil
coarser

finer
B

Suction applied (cm) 10,000


0
Pore Size Distribution

saturated

Water

* Remaining
In soil

Suction applied (cm) 10,000


Soil Moisture Status
Soil Moisture Status

Saturation: Water content of soil when all pores are filled


Suction equivalent: 0 bars
0 KPa
0 cm water

Field Capacity: Water content of soil after drainage from saturation by gravity
Suction equivalent: -0.33 bars (or 0.10 bars)
- 33 KPa
- 330 cm water

Permanent: Water can no longer be accessed by plants


Wilting point Suction equivalent: -15 bars
-1500 KPa
- 15,000 cm water

Plant Available water: Field Capacity - PWP


Energy and Texture
Water Content (%) at
Field Perm. Wilting
Texture
Capacity Point
Smaller Sandy Loam 17 9
particles Loam 24 11
and pores
Clay 36 20
Heavy Clay 57 28
Practical Measures

saturated

Water

* Remaining
In soil

Suction applied (cm) 10,000


0
Direct Methods

Time Domain Reflectometry

Soil Resistance Blocks


The Rate of Water Movement
Hydraulic Conductivity
The ease with which water moves through soils

Strongly responsible for water distribution


within the soil volume.

Determines the rate of water movement in soil.

Texture
Density
Structure
Water content
Hydraulic Conductivity

Coarse Fine
uncompacted compacted
Determining Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity

Volume h * A
W time L
A
h
T
E
R
Volume =K h * A
A time L
L Soil

K = V*L
h*A*t
Approximate Ksat and Uses
Ksat (cm/h) Comments

36 Beach sand/Golf Course Greens

18 Very sandy soils, cannot filter


pollutants
1.8 Suitable for most agricultural,
recreational, and urban uses
0.18 Too slow for most uses

<3.6 x 10-5 Extremely slow; good if compacted


material is needed

Saturated hydraulic conductivity


Determining Saturated Flow
Determining Saturated Flow

Darcys Equation

Volume flow = Q = Ksat * gradient


Area * time

A
Gradient
Height (cm)

50 a Ta = -20 cm

20
10 b Tb =-100 cm

g = 0
Reference level

Difference in potential energy = -20 cm (-100 cm) = 80 cm


Distance between points A and B = 40 cm

Difference in total potential = 80 cm = 2


Gradient = Distance between the points = 40 cm
Darcys Equation

Difference in total potential = 80 cm = 2


Gradient = Distance between the points = 40 cm

Volume flow = Ksat * gradient


= Q
Area * time
(Q) = 5 cm/hr * 2
= 10 cm/hr
Height (cm)

50 ma = -100 cm
ga = 0 cm
a b
mb = -200 cm
Ref. 20
gb = 0 cm
10

0
Distance (cm)
5 25

Difference in total potential -100 - (-200) = 100 cm = 5


Distance between the points = 20 cm 20 cm

If Ksat = 5 cm/hr, then the flow (Q) = 5 cm/hr * 5 = 25 cm/hr