Applications of Soil Physics by Daniel Hillel (Auth.)

By Daniel Hillel (Auth.)

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Fine-textured /. Instability of Wetting Fronts during Infiltration 33 the flow of water in unsaturated soil has only lately come to the attention of soil physicists. A very convincing pictorial demonstration of this effect at the transition from a layer of fine-textured material into an underlying layer of coarser material (of larger pores) was published by Hill a n d Parlange (1972). They postulated that the formation of fingers in this case is due to an instability at an a i r - w a t e r interface which is gravity driven and is more pronounced as the pore size of the coarser sand increases.

During " o r d i n a r y " episodes of rainfall or irrigation, therefore, infiltration may be regarded in effect as an absorption process. Experimental results also suggest that hysteresis is not nearly so significant in swelling soils as it is in coarse granular soils (Smiles, 1976). A very challenging problem related to infiltration into swelling soils is how to account for the role of cracks. As pointed out by Miller (1975), when a field of swelling soil is allowed to dry on top, in due time a system of regularly spaced surface cracks tends to appear.

Runoff 45 Inducement than was possible in ancient times. Runoff can now be increased severalfold by means of mechanical treatment (stone clearing, smoothing, and compaction) as well as by a variety of chemical treatments to seal and stabilize the surface. The soil surface can be m a d e water repellent or impermeable either by the application of mechanical barriers to water movement, such as plastic, aluminum foil, concrete, or sheet metal, or by the artificial formation of an impervious soil crust with the aid of various materials such as sodic salts and petroleum distillation byproducts (Myers, 1961,1963; Hillel, 1967).

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