University Of Tasmania

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Determining the frequency, depth and velocity of preferential flow by high frequency soil moisture monitoring

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 10:56 authored by Marcus HardieMarcus Hardie, Lisson, S, Richard DoyleRichard Doyle, Cotching, W
Preferential flow in agricultural soils has been demonstrated to result in agrochemical mobilisation to shallowgroundwater. Landmanagers and environmental regulators need simple cost effective techniques for identifying soil – land use combinations in which preferential flow occurs. Existing techniques for identifying preferential flowhave a range of limitations including; often being destructive, non in situ, small sampling volumes, or are subject to artificial boundary conditions. This study demonstrated that high frequency soil moisture monitoring using a multi-sensory capacitance probe mounted within a vertically rammed access tube, was able to determine the occurrence, depth, and wetting front velocity of preferential flow events following rainfall. Occurrence of preferential flow was not related to either rainfall intensity or rainfall amount, rather preferential flow occurred when antecedent soil moisture content was below 226 mm soil moisture storage (0–70 cm). Results indicate that high temporal frequency soil moisture monitoring may be used to identify soil type – land use combinations in which the presence of preferential flow increases the risk of shallow groundwater contamination by rapid transport of agrochemicals through the soil profile. However use of high frequency based soil moisture monitoring to determine agrochemical mobilisation risk may be limited by, inability to determine the volume of preferential flow, difficulty observing macropore flow at high antecedent soil moisture content, and creation of artificial voids during installation of access tubes in stony soils.


Publication title

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

Rights statement

Crown Copyright © 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Terrestrial systems and management not elsewhere classified