Stochastic modeling of salt accumulation in the root zone due to capillary flux from brackish groundwater

S. H.H. Shah, R. W. Vervoort, Samir Suweis, A. J. Guswa, Andrea Rinaldo, S. E.A.T.M. Van Der Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Groundwater can be a source of both water and salts in semiarid areas, and therefore, capillary pressure-induced upward water flow may cause root zone salinization. To identify which conditions result in hazardous salt concentrations in the root zone, we combined the mass balance equations for salt and water, further assuming a Poisson-distributed daily rainfall and brackish groundwater quality. For the water fluxes (leaching, capillary upflow, and evapotranspiration), we account for osmotic effects of the dissolved salt mass using Vant Hoff's law. Root zone salinity depends on salt transport via capillary flux and on evapotranspiration, which concentrates salt in the root zone. Both a wet climate and shallow groundwater lead to wetter root zone conditions, which in combination with periodic rainfall enhances salt removal by leaching. For wet climates, root zone salinity (concentrations) increases as groundwater is more shallow (larger groundwater influence). For dry climates, salinity increases as groundwater is deeper because of a drier root zone and less leaching. For intermediate climates, opposing effects can push the salt balance either way. Root zone salinity increases almost linearly with groundwater salinity. With a simple analytical approximation, maximum concentrations can be related to the mean capillary flow rate, leaching rate, water saturation, and groundwater salinity for different soils, climates, and groundwater depths.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW09506
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume47
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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