An analysis is presented to determine unsaturated zone hydraulic parameters based on detailed water content profiles, which can be readily acquired during hydrological investigations. Core samples taken through the unsaturated zone allow for the acquisition of gravimetrically determined water content data as a function of elevation at 3 inch intervals. This dense spacing of data provides several measurements of the water content within the capillary fringe, which are utilized to determine capillary pressure function parameters via least-squares calibration. The water content data collected above the capillary fringe are used to calculate dimensionless flow as a function of elevation providing a snapshot characterization of flow through the unsaturated zone. The water content at a flow stagnation point provides an in situ estimate of specific yield. In situ determinations of capillary pressure function parameters utilizing this method, together with particle-size distributions, can provide a valuable supplement to data libraries of unsaturated zone hydraulic parameters. The method is illustrated using data collected from plots within an agricultural research facility in Wisconsin.
Additional publication details
Unsaturated flow characterization utilizing water content data collected within the capillary fringe