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Field validation of a water and solute transport model for the unsaturated zone

Field validation of a water and solute transport model for the unsaturated zone

Pages 51-55 1994

Models that are to be used for describing natural processes require validation prior to their widespread use to ensure that they describe those processes adequately. Validation should be carried out by comparing field measurements with model predictions based on independently measured input data, without any optimisation to the observations. This has rarely been achieved for the movement of water and solute through the unsaturated zone. This paper describes the validation of a model based on numerical solutions of Richards' equation and the advection-dispersion equation. Model predictions were compared with average bromide distributions obtained at three sampling times during a six month period of natural rainfall after surface application. The model was provided with independently measured soil hydraulic properties, rainfall and evaporation data. Dispersion was described by the molecular diffusion coefficient modified by water content. Good agreement between model predictions and measured bromide distributions was observed. The model predicted adequately the peak location, spread and asymmetry of the bromide pulse at each of the sampling times. No additional mechanism such as preferential flow was necessary to predict the solute pulse asymmetry. This study provides some confidence that traditional soil physics theory can be applied successfully to describe water and solute transport in at least some field soils.

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