Location: National Soil Erosion ResearchTitle: Hydrologic assessment of blind inlet performance in a drained closed depression
Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/13/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Closed depressions or 'potholes' are often drained with surface inlets to facilitate crop production, but surface inlets such as tile risers can transport sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants directly from fields to nearby streams or drainage ditches. Replacing a traditional tile riser with a blind inlet has the potential to decrease sediment and nutrient losses from closed depressions, but few studies have examined if blind inlets cause increased ponding in closed depressions. This study examined flow characteristics for 549 storm events over a 12 year period for two closed depressions in northeastern Indiana. Results showed that blind inlet infiltration rates declined over time. In closed depressions with extensive tillage, findings suggest that blind inlets may have a service life of 8-10 years before infiltration capacity becomes greatly reduced. Blind inlet service life may be longer in fields with no-tillage. Blind inlets did not influence the frequency of flow, but they may increase or decrease the length of ponding in fields compared to a tile riser. The effect of blind inlets on ponding duration is likely dependent on the amount of subsurface tile drainage in the fields. Thus, the amount of subsurface drainage in a field should be considered prior to installing blind inlets in closed depressions.
Technical Abstract: Surface inlets installed in agricultural closed depressions can transport sediment- and nutrient-laden runoff directly to receiving streams or water bodies. Replacing tile risers with blind inlets has the potential to decrease these sediment and nutrient loads, but adoption of blind inlets has been met with hesitation from producers who fear that changes to the surface inlet may result in additional water ponding, crop damage, or crop loss. The objectives of this study were to assess hydrologic performance of blind inlets over time and to determine whether blind inlets influenced the hydrology of a closed depression compared to a tile riser. Hydrograph characteristics including flow duration, time to peak flow, peak flow rate, and cumulative flow were evaluated for 549 storm events over a 12-year period (2006-2017) for a pair of closed depressions in northeastern Indiana. Surface water could be drained in both depressional areas with either a tile riser or blind inlet. Results showed that blind inlet infiltration rates declined approximately linearly over time (1.4 cm h-1 yr-1). While changes in infiltration were largely controlled by annual tillage practices at the study sites, findings suggest that blind inlets have an effective service life of 8 to 10 years under the study conditions. Surface water management practice significantly influenced depression hydrology; however, the practices functioned differently between fields. Blind inlets did not influence the frequency of discharge, but they may increase or decrease the duration of flow and cumulative flow compared to a tile riser depending on the extent of subsurface tile drainage within the closed depression. Findings from this study underscore the inherent connections between surface and subsurface hydrologic processes in drained closed depressions and how these connections may influence both water quantity and water quality.