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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Location of agricultural drainage pipes and assessment of agricultural drainage pipe conditions using ground penetrating radar

Authors
item Allred, Barry
item Redman, Dave -

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental & Engineering Geophysics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2009
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Citation: Allred, B.J., Redman, D. 2010. Assessment of Agricultural Drainage Pipe Conditions Using Ground Penetrating Radar. Journal of Environmental & Engineering Geophysics. 15(3):119-134.

Interpretive Summary: Farmers and land improvement contractors need better methods for not only finding buried agricultural drainage pipes but also determining the condition of the drainage pipe with respect to water conveyance. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) has already been shown capable of finding drainage pipe, and it is possible that GPR can additionally provide information on drainage pipe condition. The potential for using GPR to determine drainage pipe water conveyance functionality was evaluated at a test plot specially designed for this research project. The test plot contained four drain lines, one open to flow and comprised of clay tile along part of its length with the rest constructed of corrugated plastic tubing (CPT); one comprised of CPT with an isolated obstruction near the midpoint, preventing through-flow of water; one comprised of CPT but filled with soil; and one comprised of CPT but severed in near its midpoint, producing a partial obstruction to water flow. Ground penetrating radar was tested under wet soil conditions with the water table either above or below the drain lines. Given suitable shallow hydrologic conditions, it was found that GPR can provide useful insight on drainage pipe water conveyance functionality. In particular, GPR can help determine whether there is an isolated pipe obstruction present along the drain line that is capable of completely blocking the flow of water. However, a partial obstruction that still allows a significant amount of water flow through the drain line will be difficult to detect. Therefore, the findings of this research project support the feasibility of using GPR not only to locate buried agricultural drainage pipes but to also determine their condition regarding water conveyance functionality.

Technical Abstract: Methods are needed to not only locate buried agricultural drainage pipe, but to also determine if the pipes are functioning properly with respect to water delivery. The primary focus of this research project was to confirm the ability of ground penetrating radar (GPR) to locate buried drainage pipe and then determine if GPR provides insight into drain line water conveyance functionality. Ground penetrating radar surveys using 250 MHz transmitter/receiver antennas were conducted at a specially designed test plot under drained, moderately wet soil conditions (water table below drain lines) and undrained, extremely wet soil conditions (water table above drain lines). The test plot contained four drain lines: one a clay tile to corrugated plastic tubing (CPT) drain line that was completely open to flow; one comprised of CPT with an isolated obstruction near the midpoint, completely preventing through-flow of water; one comprised of CPT but filled with soil; and one comprised of CPT but severed near its midpoint, producing a partial obstruction to water flow. Subsequent GPR computer modeling simulations were employed to assist with interpretation of the GPR field data. Results of the GPR field surveys indicate that given suitable shallow hydrologic conditions, GPR not only finds drainage pipes, but can also determine the position along a drain line where there is an isolated obstruction that completely blocks water flow. However, results show that a partial pipe obstruction is difficult to locate using GPR. Surprisingly, the soil-filled drain line was clearly detectable under both soil hydrologic conditions tested. The GPR computer modeling simulations indicate that soil had likely settled within the pipe, and that the GPR responses obtained at the test plot for the soil-filled pipe were responses representative of a pipe that was in fact only partially filled with soil. Overall, these research results provide valuable information for those contemplating the use of GPR to locate agricultural drainage pipes and then determine their functionality.

Last Modified: 9/22/2014
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