Effective porosity and flow rate with infiltration at low tensions into a well-structured subsoil Academic Article uri icon


  • A combination of tension infiltrometers and dye tracers was used to investigate the extent and nature of water movement at low tensions through the well-structured subsoil of Ships clay (very-fine, mixed, thermic, Chromic Hapluderts). Dyed-water was placed in the reservoirs of tension infiltrometers and allowed to infiltrate into the soil under seven tension sequences to separate different size pores effective in transmitting water. Flow patterns were then revealed by exposing dye-stained soil after each infiltration sequence. The results showed that, when water was supplied at tensions <24 cm, the effective porosity (fraction of pores that were stained) in this subsoil was primarily macro- and mesoporosity, which constituted about 5% of the total soil porosity. Underflow at 0-cm tension, macropores 0.5 mm and mesopores from 0.06 to 0.5 mm (radius for cylindrical pores or width for planar pores) contributed about 89% and 10% of the total water flux, respectively. Micropores <0.06 mm contributed the remaining 1% of the total water flux, but constituted about 95% of the total soil porosity. Dye stain patterns showed that water flow at tensions <24 cm in this structured subsoil was primarily controlled by slickenside fissures, root channels, and vertical fissures. The nonuniform flow pattern caused water to penetrate to depths as much as 11 times deeper than expected from a Green-Ampt model that considered the total soil porosity to be active in transmitting water. By replacing the air-filled porosity in the Green-Ampt model with the active macro- plus mesoporosity, calculated wetting front depths were close to the observed maximum dye depths. 1996 American Society of Agricultural Engineers.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Lin, H. S., McInnes, K. J., Wilding, L. P., & Hallmark, C. T.

complete list of authors

  • Lin, HS||McInnes, KJ||Wilding, LP||Hallmark, CT

publication date

  • December 1996