Journal article

Modelling solute transport in structured soils: Performance evaluation of ADR and TRM models

The movement of chemicals through the soil to the groundwater or discharged to surface waters represents a degradation of these resources. In many cases, serious human and stock health implications are associated with this form of pollution. The chemicals of interest include nutrients, pesticides, salts, and industrial wastes. Recent studies have shown that current models and methods do not adequately describe the leaching of nutrients through soil, often underestimating the risk of groundwater contamination by surface-applied chemicals and overestimating the concentration of resident solutes. This inaccuracy results primarily from ignoring soil structure and nonequilibrium between soil constituents, water, and solutes. A multiple sample percolation system (MSPS), consisting of 25 individual collection wells, was constructed to study the effects of localized soil heterogeneities on the transport of nutrients (NO−3, Cl−, PO3−4) in the vadose zone of an agricultural soil predominantly dominated by clay. Very significant variations in drainage patterns across a small spatial scale were observed (one-way ANOVA, p < 0.001 indicating considerable heterogeneity in water flow patterns and nutrient leaching. Using data collected from the multiple sample percolation experiments, this paper compares the performance of two mathematical models for predicting solute transport, the advective-dispersion model with a reaction term (ADR), and a two-region preferential flow model (TRM) suitable for modelling nonequilibrium transport. These results have implications for modelling solute transport and predicting nutrient loading on a larger scale.


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