In situ monitoring of water percolation and solute transport using a vadose zone monitoring system Academic Article uri icon


  • Water percolation and tracer migration through the vadose zone underneath an ephemeral channel were studied using a vadose zone monitoring system (VMS) and application of a multitracer test. The VMS included flexible time-domain reflectometry (FTDR) probes for continuous tracking of water content profiles, and vadose zone sampling ports (VSPs) for frequent sampling of the deep vadose pore water at multiple depths. The VMS was installed directly under an infiltration pond with several infiltration rings containing a traceable solution. Water content measurements by the FTDR probes allowed detailed visualization of the vadose wetting process; VSP samples allowed the establishment of tracer breakthrough curves at various depths. Flow velocities and fluxes were calculated from both the wetting process and the tracer breakthrough curves. The multitracer experiment revealed an unsteady flow pattern strongly affected by the layered structure of the sediments. The tracer breakthrough curves indicated domination of a mobile–immobile flow mechanism controlling contaminant migration across the vadose zone. The experimental setup demonstrated the ability of the VMS to provide real-time monitoring of water flow and contaminant transport in the vadose zone.

publication date

  • January 1, 2009