Articles | Volume 22, issue 1
Research article
05 Jan 2018
Research article |  | 05 Jan 2018

Shallow water table effects on water, sediment, and pesticide transport in vegetative filter strips – Part 1: nonuniform infiltration and soil water redistribution

Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, Claire Lauvernet, and Nadia Carluer

Abstract. Vegetation buffers like vegetative filter strips (VFSs) are often used to protect water bodies from surface runoff pollution from disturbed areas. Their typical placement in floodplains often results in the presence of a seasonal shallow water table (WT) that can decrease soil infiltration and increase surface pollutant transport during a rainfall-runoff event. Simple and robust components of hydrological models are needed to analyze the impacts of WT in the landscape. To simulate VFS infiltration under realistic rainfall conditions with WT, we propose a generic infiltration solution (Shallow Water table INfiltration algorithm: SWINGO) based on a combination of approaches by Salvucci and Entekhabi (1995) and Chu (1997) with new integral formulae to calculate singular times (time of ponding, shift time, and time to soil profile saturation). The algorithm was tested successfully on five distinct soils, both against Richards's numerical solution and experimental data in terms of infiltration and soil moisture redistribution predictions, and applied to study the combined effects of varying WT depth, soil type, and rainfall intensity and duration. The results show the robustness of the algorithm and its ability to handle various soil hydraulic functions and initial nonponding conditions under unsteady rainfall. The effect of a WT on infiltration under ponded conditions was found to be effectively decoupled from surface infiltration and excess runoff processes for depths larger than 1.2 to 2 m, being shallower for fine soils and shorter events. For nonponded initial conditions, the influence of WT depth also varies with rainfall intensity. Also, we observed that soils with a marked air entry (bubbling pressure) exhibit a distinct behavior with WT near the surface. The good performance, robustness, and flexibility of SWINGO supports its broader use to study WT effects on surface runoff, infiltration, flooding, transport, ecological, and land use processes. SWINGO is coupled with an existing VFS model in the companion paper (Lauvernet and Muñoz-Carpena, 2018), where the potential effects of seasonal or permanent WTs on VFS sediment and pesticide trapping are studied.

Short summary
Seasonal shallow water tables (WTs) in lowlands limit vegetation-buffer efficiency to control runoff pollution. Mechanistic models are needed to quantify true field efficiency. A new simplified algorithm for soil infiltration over WTs is tested against reference models and lab data showing WT effects depend on local settings but are negligible after 2 m depth. The algorithm is coupled to a complete vegetation buffer model in a companion paper to analyze pesticide and sediment control in situ.