On the mechanism of field-scale solute transport: Insights from numerical simulations and field observations Academic Article uri icon


  • Field-scale transport of conservative and reactive solutes through a deep vadose zone was analyzed by means of two different model processes for the local description of the transport. The first is the advection dispersion equation (ADE) model, and the second is the mobile-immobile (MIM) model. The analyses were performed by means of three-dimensional (3-D), numerical simulations of flow and transport considering realistic features of the flow system, pertinent to a turf field irrigated with treated sewage effluents (TSE). Simulated water content and concentration profiles were compared with available measurements of their counterparts. Results of the analyses suggest that the behavior of both solutes in the deep vadose zone of the Glil Yam site is better quantified by the MIM model than by the ADE model. Reconstruction of the shape of the measured solute concentration profiles using the MIM model required relatively small mass transfer coefficient, γ, and relatively large volume fraction of the immobile water, θim. This implies that for an initially non-zero solute concentration profile, as compared with the MIM model, the ADE model may significantly overestimate the rate at which solutes are loaded in the groundwater. On the contrary, for an initially zero solute concentration profile, as compared with the MIM model, the ADE model may significantly underestimate solute velocities and early arrival times to the water table. These findings stem from the combination of relatively small γ and relatively large θim taken into account in the MIM model. In the first case, this combination forces a considerable portion of the solute mass to reside in the immobile region of the water-filled pore space, while the opposite is true in the second case.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014