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The Islamic University of Gaza- Civil Engineering Department

Irrigation and Drainage- ECIV 5327

Lecture 3: Soil Water Relationships

Prepared by
Husam Al-Najar

Soil Properties
Texture: The relative size distribution of the mineral soil particles

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifications:

Sand: 0.05 – 2.0 mm

Silt: 0.002 - 0.05 mm

Clay: <0.002 mm

Textural triangle: USDA Textural Classes

Coarse vs. Fine, Light vs. Heavy Affects water movement and storage

Structure: how soil particles are grouped or arranged

Affects root penetration and water intake and movement

• Visible to the Naked Eye and Vary in Size.
• They are Gritty when rubbed between Fingers.
• Sand Particles do not Adhere to one another and are therefore not Sticky.


Silt Particles are smaller than sand. The silt particles are too
small to be seen without a microscope. It feels smooth but not
sticky, even when wet.

Clays are the smallest class of mineral particles. They adhere
together to form a sticky mass when wet and form hard clods
when dry.

• Relative proportions of the various soil separates (sand, silt and clay) in a

• Terms such as sandy loam, silty clay, and clay loam are used to identify
soil texture.

• Soil Components are separated using Mechanical Analysis, Sieving for
Sand and Rate of Settling in Pipette for Silt and Clay.

• From the mechanical analysis, the proportions of sand, silt and clay are

• The actual soil texture is determined using the Soil Textural Triangle e.g. for
a Soil with 50% sand, 20% silt and 30% clay, the texture is Sandy Clay Loam.

• Arranged in the increasing order of heaviness, there are 12 soil textures
namely: sand, loamy sand, sandy loam, loam, silt loam, silt, sandy clay
loam, silty clay loam, clay loam, sandy clay, silty clay and clay.

USDA Textural Triangle .

These charges make them adhere together. COLLOIDAL MATERIAL • The smaller particles (< 0.001 mm) of clay and similar sized organic particles) have colloidal properties and can be seen with an electronic microscope. . Humus improves the water holding capacity of the soil. • The colloidal particles have a very large area per unit weight so there are enough surface charges to which water and ions can be attracted.

soil structure affects root growth Improved Low infiltration infiltration .

Bulk Density Bulk Soil Particle volume Pore volume Bulk Soil = Particle volume + pore volume Bulk density = dry weight (kg) / soil volume (m3) Between 800 and 1500 kg/m3 .

g/cm 3 Ms Ms = mass of dry soil. g/cm 3 Ms Ms = mass of dry soil.6 .Dry Bulk Density (b): Typical values 1. g Vs = volume of solids.6 g/cm3 The mass of oven. cm Vb Particle Density (p): Typical values: 2.1 . g 3 b  Vb = volume of soil sample.dry soil (105oC during 24 hours) b = soil bulk density.60% volume of pores  b     1  100% volume of soil  p  .1.7 g/cm3 The density of solid material P = soil particle density. cm 3  p  Vs Porosity (): The fraction of the volume of the soil occupied by the pores: Typical values: 30 .2.

Improvement of water quality . Reservoir for water for the crop during dry periods 3. Most crops require an unsaturated medium for growth 2. although just above the water table the soil may still saturated (capillary fringes) • Water in the unsaturated zone is termed soil moisture. is the level in the soil where the pressure equals the atmospheric pressure.Unsaturated • The water table. • The region above the water table is called unsaturated zone. • Important features of the unsaturated zone are: 1. while groundwater usually refers to water below the water table. Soil Moisture Saturated.

Saturated.Unsaturated system .

Water retention force: The force which retains moisture in the soil against gravity (Capillary force). h = 2 δ / rpg where.s-2). Equating the lifting force to the downward force (the weight of the water column) gives: 2 π r δ Cos α = π r2 h p g The contact angle α between water and wall of capillary tends towards zero (Cos α =1). p = density of water (1000).075 . h = height of capillary rise (m). acting on the internal circumstances of the capillary (2 π r). The lifting force of water in the capillary tube is the vertical component of the surface tension F2 = δ Cos α. r = radius of capillary (m). so that under equilibrium (no flow) conditions. δ = 0. g = acceleration due to gravity (9.81 m.

15 h 4 10 r .Capillary rise in relation to the radius of the capillary tube 0.

Schematization of a clayey and a sandy soil into a bundle of capillary tube Θ is The Moisture content .

Soil Water Potential • Description – Measure of the energy status of the soil water – Important because it reflects how hard plants must work to extract water – Units of measure are normally bars or atmospheres – Soil water potentials are negative pressures (tension or suction) – Water flows from a higher (less negative) potential to a lower (more negative) potential .

Soil Water Potential Components t  g  m  o – t = total soil water potential – g = gravitational potential (force of gravity pulling on the water) – m = matric potential (force placed on the water by the soil matrix – soil water “tension”) – o = osmotic potential (due to the difference in salt concentration across a semi-permeable membrane. m. normally has the greatest effect on release of water from soil to plants . such as a plant root) – Matric potential.

g (24 hours at 105oC) Ms = mass of dry soil. g . Water in Soils Soil water content Mw Mass water content (m) m  m = mass water content (fraction) Ms Mw = mass of water evaporated.

V =  Vb V = As m As = apparent soil specific gravity = b/w (w = density of water = 1 g/cm3) As = b numerically when units of g/cm3 are used m = mass water content (fraction) .Volumetric water content (v) V = volumetric water content (fraction) Vw = volume of water Vw Vb = volume of soil sample v  At saturation.

Equivalent depth of water (d) – d = volume of water per unit land area = (v A L) / A = v L – d = equivalent depth of water in a soil layer – L = depth (thickness) of the soil layer Volumetric Water Content & Equivalent Depth Equivalent Depth .



Total Pore Space: 50% Very Large Pores: 15% (Gravitational Water) 3.0 mm Very Small Pores: 15% (Unavailable Water) 3.75 mm .5 mm. Volumetric Water Content & Equivalent Depth Typical Values for Agricultural Soils Soil Solids (Particles): 50% 12.75 mm Medium-sized Pores: 20% (Plant Available Water) 5.

Water-Holding Capacity of Soil Effect of Soil Texture Coarse Sand Silty Clay Loam Dry Soil Gravitational Water Water Holding Capacity Available Water Unavailable Water .

Field Capacity (FC or fc) Soil water content where gravity drainage becomes negligible Soil is not saturated but still a very wet condition Traditionally defined as the water content corresponding to a soil water potential (SWP) of -1/10 to -1/3 bar .

Permanent Wilting Point (WP or wp) Soil water content beyond which plants cannot recover from water stress (dead) Still some water in the soil but not enough to be of use to plants Traditionally defined as the water content corresponding to -15 bars of SWP .

Soil water potential curves .


“unitless” (in/in.wp Units: depth of available water per unit depth of soil. or mm/mm) Measured using field or laboratory methods .Permanent Wilting Point AWC = fc .Available Water: Water held in the soil between field capacity and permanent wilting point “Available” for plant use Available Water Capacity (AWC)= Field capacity .

ggfhththtyj . Soil Hydraulic Properties and Soil Texture …….

• Fraction available water depleted (fd)  fc  v  fd     fc  wp  (fc .v) = soil water deficit (SWD) v = current soil volumetric water content • Fraction available water remaining (fr)  v  wp  fr     fc  wp  (v .wp) = soil water balance (SWB) .

(inches or centimeters) – AWC = available water capacity of the soil. need to sum up the layer-by-layer TAW’s . (inches or centimeter) – If different soil layers have different AWC’s.• Total Available Water (TAW) TAW = (AWC) (Rd) – TAW = total available water capacity within the plant root zone. (inches of H2O/inch or centimeter of soil) – Rd = depth of the plant root zone.

(AWCN) (LN) . .L = thickness of soil layer.1.TAW = (AWC1) (L1) + (AWC2) (L2) + . (inches or centimeter) . . N: subscripts represent each successive soil layer . 2.

15 m/m For 0.000 kg water = 18. Find the required amount of water to increases the water to the level of available water.05 = 18. Actual field status: Total soil mass = 1000 m2 X 0.3 X 0.3 cm = 0.3m X 1200 kg/m3 = 360.000 kg Actual water content = 360.045 m X 1000 m2 = 45 m3 The required amount of water = 45 -18 = 27 m3 . The 30 cm layer is a clay loam texture and the actual water content is 5% by weight.Example: A farm has a total area 1000 m2.000 Litter = 18 m3 Level of available water From the table AWC for clay loam 0.000 X 0.000 kg The soil layer of 30 cm contains 18.15 = 0.045 m Water volume for the field (1000 m2) = 0.

Basin vs. etc.g. Furrow) • Water temperature .) • Soil cracking • Tillage practices • Method of application (e.. Water Infiltration: The entry of water into the soil Influencing Factors: • Soil texture • Initial soil water content • Surface sealing (structure.

Cumulative Infiltration Depth vs. Time For Different Soil Textures .

66% 337.5% sand) . (Goris and Samain. 62% sand) Sandy clay loam Sandy loess soil 258.5 Dark brown / reddish Sandy clay loam 963. 16. Sandy regosol 87% sand).48 (21% clay. 2001. 21% silt. 30% silt.6 loess sand) Top layer is loamy sand (9% clay. 13% silt. silt 34%.42 brown (25% clay. Infiltration rate Local Classification Texture ( mm / hr) Loess soil Sandy loam (sand 58%. clay 6%) 404. 1079 0% silt.5% clay.66 (23% clay. 92. 20% Loessial sandy soil silt.5% clay. The lower profile is loam 471.5% silt. 56% sand) The top layer is sandy loam (14% clay. 2005). 4% silt. Khalaf. 49% sand) Sandy loess soil over Sandy loam (17. Deeper profile is sand (7. 66% sand). Water Infiltration Rates and Soil Texture Classification & Characteristics of Different Soil Types in Gaza Strip.

1998 . Soil Map of Gaza Strip Source. Ministry of Planning.

Constant Irrigation Application Rate .Soil Infiltration Rate vs.

. A good soil should have moisture contents between 5 and 60% and for peat or organic soils. it can be greater than 100%. Methods of Measuring Soil Water Content • i) By Feel: This is by far the easiest method. weigh again and obtain the weight of water by subtraction. The type of soil is important. put in oven at 105 oC for about 48 hours. Assessment by feel is good for experienced people who have sort of calibrated their hands. • ii) Gravimetric Method: This is equal to: Mw Mass of Water Pm   M s Mass of Dry Solids • Weigh wet soil in a container.

Mw Dw Mw Pv  and Pv  x D sin ce Dw 1 Ms Ms b D b Pv  Pm x D where D is the bulk density of the soil b b . (iii) Volumetric water content. This is equal to: Vw Volume of Water Pv   Vs Va Vw Total Volume of Undisturbed Soil Sample • Recall that volume = mass/density i. Pv.e. Methods of Measuring Soil Water Content Contd.

. • Within the probe is a radioactive source e. • (iv) Neutron Probe: It consists of a probe lowered down a hole in the soil. • The source emits fast neutrons. some of which are slowed down when they collide with water molecules (due to hydrogen molecules). beryllium (435 years life span).g. Methods of Measuring Soil Water Content Contd. • Close to the source is a detector. • A box (rate meter or rate scalar) is at the top. • A cloud of slow neutrons (thermal neutrons) build up near the probe and are registered by the rate meter or rate scalar which measures the number of slowed down neutrons.

Diagram of Neutron Probe The method is quick but very expensive. . It is also dangerous since it is radioactive and must be used with care.

nylon or fibreglass. • Various porous bodies needed are gypsum. • Resistance units are measured and the instrument needs to be calibrated against matric suction or volumetric moisture content (Pv). The method is insensitive in wet soils <0. • The instrument is relatively cheap but it takes a long time to equilibrate or react e.5 to 15 bars and more. It measures from 0. • The porous body when buried equilibrates with the soil water and the readings are obtained through the resistance meters attached to the electrodes.5 bars.g. . 48 hours. Methods of Measuring Soil Water Suction • i) Electrical Resistance Unit: This consists of a porous body with two electrodes embedded into it.

Electrical Resistance Blocks & Meters .

A point is reached when the water in the tensiometer is at equilibrium with the soil water. Water moves out from the porous tip to the surrounding soil (as suction is more in the soil). The gauge is usually calibrated in centibars or millibars. • ii) Tensiometer: Tensiometer operates on the principle that a partial vacuum is developed in a closed chamber when water moves out through the porous ceramic tip to the surrounding. • A vacuum gauge or a water or mercury manometer can measure the tension. . • After the porous cup is put in the soil. The reading of the gauge is then taken and correlated to moisture content using a calibration curve. the tensiometer is filled with water. Methods of Measuring Soil Water Suction Contd.

48 in) Based on Root Zone Depth Porous Ceramic Tip Vacuum Gauge (0-100 centibar) . Tensiometer for Measuring Soil Water Potential Water Reservoir Variable Tube Length (12 in.

.sand. c) Use the soil texture triangle to arrange the following soil textures regarding to the increase of gravitational water: (sandy loam.clay loam). b) Find the percentage of clay in soil (2). 30% silt. 4 a) Determine the actual soil texture using the Soil Textural Triangle for: Soil with 60% sand and 10% clay. Assignment No.loam. Soil with 20% sand.clay.

On the light of solutions a and b.01mm). could you explain the problem of Palm trees in the inland desert of Libya after the transfer of groundwater by the great river to the coastal area. while the water table is at 0. 5 The sandy land surface level at Al-Mawasi area in Khanyounis is at 4 MSL. but showing considerable yield and growth. Most of the palm trees there are not irrigated. Assignment No. Find the minimum root depth of the Palm trees in Al-Mawasi area. . although it has high evapotranspiration rate. assuming the radius of the pores for Sand: 0.0 MSL.02mm What is the maximum drop in water table. that the palm trees in (a) can survive in silt soil (the radius of the pores for Silt: 0.