Title page for ETD etd-11262007-142211

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Schwartz, Benjamin Farley
URN etd-11262007-142211
Title Hydrogeophysical quantification of infiltration and recharge through soil-filled sinkholes using Time Domain Reflectometry and Electrical Resistivity Tomography
Degree PhD
Department Geosciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Schreiber, Madeline E. Committee Chair
Burbey, Thomas J. Committee Member
Daniels, Walter Lee Committee Member
Rimstidt, james Donald Committee Member
White, William B. Committee Member
  • mantled karst
  • deep drainage
  • potential recharge
  • karst hydrology
  • concentrated recharge
  • diffuse recharge
Date of Defense 2007-11-16
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation presents the results of a detailed physical and hydrogeophysical study of two soil-filled sinkholes mantled by ancient New River fluvial terrace deposits. Research was performed at the Virginia Tech Kentland Experimental Farms in Whitethorne, Virginia, USA between fall 2003 and spring 2007, and focused on characterizing infiltration, deep drainage, and recharge through soil-filled sinkholes. Using hydrogeophysical methods, the spatial and temporal distribution of soil moisture was modeled and potential recharge was quantified in two soil-filled sinkholes.

Access-tube time domain reflectometry (TDR) was used to derive one-dimensional (1-D) soil moisture profiles. During access-tube installation, 470 soil samples were obtained from depths between 0.3 and to 9.0 m and characterized both physically and chemically. Using these data, a TDR calibration method was developed. Physio-chemical, TDR moisture, and 1-D electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) data were used to derive a numerically optimized form of Archie’s Law which was used to convert ERT measurements into volumetric soil moisture. These results led to development of 2-D ERT-derived distributions of soil moisture in three transects across the two sinkholes in two terraces. Potential recharge was quantified using time-series ERT data with comparison to modeled cumulative potential evapotranspiration (PET) and cumulative precipitation between May 17 and October 9, 2006. The patterns of ERT-derived potential recharge values compared well with those expected from PET and precipitation data. Over the monitoring period from late spring to early fall during this study, results showed that a period of intense rain followed by a 31-day period of consistent rain, in which the rate of precipitation was equal to or exceeded PET, were the only periods in which significant amounts of potential recharge occurred (from 19 to 31% of cumulative precipitation during the study). Spatial distributions of ERT-derived moisture clearly revealed that significant amounts of infiltration occurred on sinkhole flanks and bottoms. Runoff during periods of intense rain flowed to the topographically lowest point in the sinkholes where it infiltrated and resulted in localized zones of enhanced infiltration and potential recharge to the water table.

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