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Infiltration of water and ethanol solutions in water repellent post wildfire soils

Beatty, Sarah M., Smith, James E.
Journal of hydrology 2014 v.514 pp. 233-248
aqueous solutions, contact angle, ethanol, infiltration rate, infiltrometers, mathematical models, porous media, soil water, temporal variation, water repellent soils, wettability, wildfires
Dynamic soil water repellency is a pending challenge in water repellency research. The dynamic change or temporal dependence of repellency is commonly expressed as the persistence of repellency. Persistence, or dynamic changes in contact angle, are however, difficult to directly measure and incorporate into mechanistic conceptual and numerical models. To provide insight into the mechanistic nature of infiltration in variably repellent porous media over larger spatial and temporal scales than afforded by commonly applied characterization approaches (i.e. drop tests), this study reports upon observations made during in situ 3D tension infiltration experiments conducted at a post-wildfire site. Tension infiltration tests have proven to be uniquely sensitive to changes in repellency over time. Tension infiltration experiments using mini-disk infiltrometers were conducted. Drop tests provided initial measures of repellency. Tension infiltration experiments were used to generate insights on longer term infiltration behaviours using water, ethanol, and aqueous-ethanol solutions. Molarity of Ethanol Drop (MED) – derived aqueous ethanol solutions (of 5%, 25% and 50% ethanol concentration) were used as intermediate infiltration fluids to generate greater insight into the transitional behaviours between repellent and apparently wettable infiltration. Early time infiltration rates are not reliable indicators of longer term infiltration rates. However, relating the two measures was informative in characterising repellency across materials and at different sites, while preserving temporal differences in fluid behaviours. Comparison of the late-time infiltration rates of aqueous solutions of varying ethanol concentrations proved a useful indicator of repellency and fractional wettability effects.