Articles | Volume 3, issue 3
30 Sep 1999
30 Sep 1999

Hydrological processes and water resources management in a dryland environment II: Surface redistribution of rainfall within fields

J. A. Butterworth, F. Mugabe, L. P. Simmonds, and M. G. Hodnett

Abstract. Soil water movement was studied within fields on two different soil types, a red clay soil and a duplex soil of sand over clay, at the Romwe Catchment in southern Zimbabwe. Each study site comprised two fields and formed a surface water sub-catchment (1.0-2.4 ha) from which runoff was gauged. Soil moisture was measured in-situ at up to 20 locations within each sub-catchment over an entire cropping season and the following dry season. Maize was cultivated at both sites according to the farmers' normal cropping practice and crop yields were recorded.
Surface redistribution of rainfall through localised runon and runoff was shown to be an important process in both sub-catchments with rainfall concentration factors between 0.2 and 2.7 for major rainfall events. This process was a key factor controlling deep drainage to groundwater. Results indicate that surface water redistribution is of particular importance for groundwater recharge in years with low or evenly distributed rainfall, when it would not otherwise have occurred. The soil water conditions created by surface redistribution of rainfall are also actively exploited by farmers who vary cropping practices within fields to maximise crop yields and reduce the risks of crop failure.