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Spatial Variability of Surface and Subsurface Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity in a Semi-Arid Region: Results from a Field Campaign


The accurate estimation of saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) is of high relevance to correctly reproduce water movement in hydrological simulations. Yet, estimation of Ks is challenging particularly in semi-arid regions with particular soil surface characteristics like crusting and sealing. This study presents results of a field campaign in the semi-arid Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed, Arizona (US), where surface and subsurface Ks measurements were undertaken across the watershed. Results reveal that the following commonly-used assumptions used in estimation of Ks are not plausible in such regions: (i) Ks decreases with increasing soil depth, (ii) soils with coarse-grained texture (sandy loam) have higher surface Ks values compared to relatively fine-grained texture (fine sandy loam), and (iii) pedo-transfer functions are not reliable methods of estimating Ks. Our results also reveal that remote sensing data can provide useful information for estimation of surface and subsurface Ks values.

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