Combined Effect of Infiltration, Capillary Barrier and Sloping Layered Soil on Flow and Solute Transfer in a Heterogeneous Lysimeter


This aim of this paper is to describe a study of the combined effect of infiltration, capillary barrier and sloping layered soil on both flow and solute transport processes in a large, physical model (1 × 1 × 1.6 m3) called LUGH (Lysimeter for Urban Groundwater Hydrology) and a 3D numerical flow model. Sand and a soil composed of a bimodal sand-gravel mixture were placed in the lysimeter to simulate one of the basic structural and textural elements of the heterogeneity observed in the vadose zone under an infiltration basin of Lyon (France). Water and an inert tracer (KBr) were injected from the top of the lysimeter using a specific water sprinkler system and collected at 15 different outlets at the bottom. The outlet flows and the 15 breakthrough curves obtained presented high heterogeneity, emphasising the establishment of preferential flows resulting from both capillary barrier and soil layer dip effects. Numerical modelling led to better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for these heterogeneous transfers and it was also used to perform a sensitivity analysis of the effects of water velocity (water and solute flux fed by the sprinkler) and the slope interface. The results show that decreasing velocity and increasing the slope of the interface can lead to the development of preferential flows. In addition, the offset of the centre of gravity of the flow distribution at the output increases linearly as a function of the slope angle of the layered soil. This paper provides relevant information on the coupling between hydrodynamic processes and pollutant transfer in unsaturated heterogeneous soil and emphasizes the role of the geometry of the interfaces between materials and boundary conditions as key factors for preferential flow.

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L. Bien, D. Predelus, L. Lassabatere, T. Winiarski and R. Angulo-Jaramillo, "Combined Effect of Infiltration, Capillary Barrier and Sloping Layered Soil on Flow and Solute Transfer in a Heterogeneous Lysimeter," Open Journal of Modern Hydrology, Vol. 3 No. 3, 2013, pp. 138-153. doi: 10.4236/ojmh.2013.33018.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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