Thesis: Hydrology of dynamic water repellent soils
Water repellent soils have been known for a thousand years yet there is still not a satisfactory hydrological description of water flow processes in such soils. The dynamic nature of water repellence is not currently accounted for well by hydrological theory, in part due to the lack of non-destructive observations of water flow in water repellent soils. This research project aims to develop new understanding of water flow at the interface of repellent and non-repellent soils by using non-destructive measurement methods such as thermal infrared imaging and electrical resistivity tomography. These methods allow us to see inside the soil, to observe how water repellence breaks down and builds up over wet-dry cycles and ultimately to develop new process descriptions to move theory forward.
Why my research is important
Water repellent soils are currently estimated to cost $330 million per year from grain production in Western Australia and likely a significant fraction of this cost in mine-site rehabilitation efforts as well. This project will improve understanding of how to monitor, manage and ameliorate water repellent soils by:
• Developing novel approaches to monitoring soil hydrology and water repellence non-invasively;
• Improving understanding of the physics of water flow in soils with dynamic water repellence; and
• Improving understanding of the hydrological implications of water repellence mitigation strategies.