Faculty Publications


Comparison of numerical simulation of solute transport with observed experimental data in a silt loam subsoil

Document Type



Adsorption, Dispersion, Ion transport, Modeling, Soil column, Solute

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Environmental Geology





First Page


Last Page



Solute transport experiments were conducted on loamy soils of north-eastern Iowa, USA, and the results were compared with a numerical solution of a classical advection-dispersion transport model developed in this study. Flow experiments in the laboratory on undisturbed soil columns showed a flow rate of water much higher than was estimated from the soil properties and grain-size analysis data, suggesting preferential flow regime in the soil. In contrast, the relative concentration peaks of Cl- and Br- in the effluent were only approximately 70% of those predicted by the classical advection-dispersion equation (ADE). In addition, the experimental breakthrough curves (BTCs) showed greater tailings of these ions than the model solution. These observations suggest a loss of solute mass during transport from the dynamic flowing regions to a stagnant, immobile water phase in the soil matrix. Experiments in small disturbed soil columns showed that movement of Cl- and Br- is in good agreement with predictions of the classical ADE when the tracers are applied as a continuous source. However, in the case of a pulse source, the BTCs of Cl- and Br- matched the model only in the ascending part of the curves. Such variation indicates greater retardation of these ions than that of simulation, probably caused by the decrease in soil permeability due to cation exchange reactions in the soil involving monovalent and divalent cation pairs such as K+-Ca2+ and K+-Mg2+. In addition, retardation occurred as a result of the continuous saturation of soil columns which seemed to have caused an expansion of clay minerals, thus resulting in decreased soil permeability. In both the continuous and the pulse-source experiments, K+ was not detected in the effluent samples, which seemed to have been lost in exchange reactions and adsorption.

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version