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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Rainwater, Ken
item Gitz, Dennis
item Stout, John
item Smith, Loren
item Zartman, Richard

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/18/2006
Publication Date: 7/20/2006
Citation: Rainwater, K., Gitz, D.C., Stout, J.E., Smith, L., Zartman, R. 2006. Estimating aquifer recharge through playas of the great plains using temperature probes. Annual Conference of Universities Council on Water Resources/National Institute for Water Resources.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The magnitude of recharge through playa wetlands in the High Plains has often been debated, but rarely been quantified. The ephemeral nature of playas makes it difficult and expensive to observe the filling and drying/draining cycles. Rugged, inexpensive tools to demonstrate the movement of water below the root zone area are needed to observe the recharge process. We performed “proof of concept” studies to evaluate temperature as an indicator of infiltration/recharge in playa wetlands. Single-ringed infiltrometers with embedded Cu-constantan thermocouples and Hobo probes at 50, 100, 150 and 200 cm soil depths were used to quantify infiltration and temperature. At two playas, one infiltrometer was installed in a clay-textured soil, characteristic of the playa bottom, and one was installed in coarse-textured soil adjacent to the playa. After filling the infiltrometers, we assumed differences in soil temperature over time would be caused by the infiltrating water. At least of 70 cm of water was pumped into each infiltrometer at approximately 1.3 cm/min. Temperature differences were noted at the 50- and 100-cm depths at all locations after infiltration. The magnitude of temperature change was positively correlated with the rate of infiltration, and negatively correlated with the soil depth. These temperature readings were in good agreement with the time and quantity of water added. This new field application has great potential to improve the understanding and predicting the life of the High Plains aquifer.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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