The determination of infiltration--the downward entry of water into a soil (or sediment)--is receiving increasing attention in hydrologic studies because of the need for more quantitative data on all phases of the hydrologic cycle. A measure of infiltration, the infiltration rate, is usually determined in the field by flooding basins or furrows, sprinkling, or measuring water entry from cylinders (infiltrometer rings). Rates determined by ponding in large areas are considered most reliable, but the high cost usually dictates that infiltrometer rings, preferably 2 feet in diameter or larger, be used.
The hydrology of subsurface materials is critical in the study of infiltration. The zone controlling the rate of infiltration is usually the least permeable zone. Many other factors affect infiltration rate--the sediment (soil) structure, the condition of the sediment surface, the distribution of soil moisture or soil- moisture tension, the chemical and physical nature of the sediments, the head of applied water, the depth to ground water, the chemical quality and the turbidity of the applied water, the temperature of the water and the sediments, the percentage of entrapped air in the sediments, the atmospheric pressure, the length of time of application of water, the biological activity in the sediments, and the type of equipment or method used. It is concluded that specific values of the infiltration rate for a particular type of sediment are probably nonexistent and that measured rates are primarily for comparative use.
A standard field-test method for determining infiltration rates by means of single- or double-ring infiltrometers is described and the construction, installation, and operation of the infiltrometers are discussed in detail.