Characterization of Soil Moisture Distribution and Movement Under the Influence of Watering-Dewatering Using AHFO and BOTDA Technologies

Ding-Feng Cao, Bin Shi, Hong-Hu Zhu, Chao-Sheng Tang, Zhan-Pu Song, Guang-Qing Wei, Ankit Garg

Environmental and Engineering Geoscience (2018) 1-14.

https://doi.org/10.2113/EEG-2117

Abstract: The infiltration and distribution of water through unsaturated soil determine its mechanical and hydrological properties. However, there are few methods that can accurately capture the spatial distribution of moisture inside soil. This study aims to demonstrate the use of actively heated fiber optic (AHFO) and Brillouin optical time domain analysis (BOTDA) technologies for monitoring soil moisture distribution as well as strain distribution. In addition to a laboratory model test, finite element analyses were conducted to interpret the measurements. During the experiment, the fine particle migration was also measured to understand its influence on soil hydraulic conductivity. The results of the experiment indicate that (i) for a soil that has never experienced a watering-dewatering cycle, water infiltration can be accurately calculated using the Richards’ equation; (ii) migration of fine soil particles caused by the watering-dewatering cycle significantly increases the hydraulic conductivity; and (iii) two critical zones (drainage and erosion) play significant roles in determining the overall hydraulic conductivity of the entire soil. This study provides a new method for monitoring the changes in soil moisture, soil strain, and hydraulic conductivity. The observations suggest that the effect of fine particles migration should be considered while evaluating soil moisture distribution and water movement.

Keywords: Soil Moisture, Distributed Monitoring, Richards’ Equation, Fiber Optic Sensor, Fine Particles

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