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Hydrology 2016, 3(3), 23; doi:10.3390/hydrology3030023

Determination of Watershed Infiltration and Erosion Parameters from Field Rainfall Simulation Analyses

Hydrologic Sciences and Biological & Agricultural Engineering, UC Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Academic Editor: Thomas Iserloh
Received: 5 April 2016 / Revised: 26 May 2016 / Accepted: 27 May 2016 / Published: 28 June 2016
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Abstract

Realistic modeling of infiltration, runoff and erosion processes from watersheds requires estimation of the effective hydraulic conductivity (Km) of the hillslope soils and how it varies with soil tilth, depth and cover conditions. Field rainfall simulation (RS) plot studies provide an opportunity to assess the surface soil hydraulic and erodibility conditions, but a standardized interpretation and comparison of results of this kind from a wide variety of test conditions has been difficult. Here, we develop solutions to the combined set of time-to-ponding/runoff and Green– Ampt infiltration equations to determine Km values from RS test plot results and compare them to the simpler calculation of steady rain minus runoff rates. Relating soil detachment rates to stream power, we also examine the determination of “erodibility” as the ratio thereof. Using data from over 400 RS plot studies across the Lake Tahoe Basin area that employ a wide range of rain rates across a range of soil slopes and conditions, we find that the Km values can be determined from the combined infiltration equation for ~80% of the plot data and that the laminar flow form of stream power best described a constant “erodibility” across a range of volcanic skirun soil conditions. Moreover, definition of stream power based on laminar flows obviates the need for assumption of an arbitrary Mannings “n” value and the restriction to mild slopes (<10%). The infiltration equation based Km values, though more variable, were on average equivalent to that determined from the simpler calculation of steady rain minus steady runoff rates from the RS plots. However, these Km values were much smaller than those determined from other field test methods. Finally, we compare RS plot results from use of different rainfall simulators in the basin and demonstrate that despite the varying configurations and rain intensities, similar erodibilities were determined across a range of infiltration and runoff rates using the laminar form of the stream power equation. View Full-Text
Keywords: rainfall-runoff modeling; rainfall simulations; effective hydraulic conductivity; infiltration; laminar or turbulent flows; erodibility rainfall-runoff modeling; rainfall simulations; effective hydraulic conductivity; infiltration; laminar or turbulent flows; erodibility
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Grismer, M.E. Determination of Watershed Infiltration and Erosion Parameters from Field Rainfall Simulation Analyses. Hydrology 2016, 3, 23.

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