A Method for Partitioning Surface and Subsurface Flow Using Rainfall Simulaton and Two-Dimensional Surface Electrical Resistivity Imaging

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:15 AM
Austin M Carey, Ginger B Paige, Scott N Miller, Bradley James Carr and W Steven Holbrook, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States
In semi-arid rangeland environments understanding how surface and subsurface flow processes and their interactions are influenced by watershed and rainfall characteristics is critical. However, it is difficult to resolve the temporal variations between mechanisms controlling these processes and challenging to obtain field measurements that document their interactions. Better insight into how these complex systems respond hydrologically is necessary in order to refine hydrologic models and decision support tools. We are conducting field studies integrating high resolution, two-dimensional surface electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) with variable intensity rainfall simulation, to quantify real-time partitioning of rainfall into surface and subsurface response. These studies are being conducted at the hillslope scale on long-term runoff plots on four different ecological sites in the Upper Crow Creek Watershed in southeastern Wyoming. Variable intensity rainfall rates were applied using the Walnut Gulch Rainfall Simulator in which intensities were increased incrementally from 49 to 180 mm hr-1 and steady-state runoff rates for each intensity were measured. Two 13.5 m electrode arrays at 0.5 m spacing were positioned on the surface perpendicular to each plot and potentials were measured at given time intervals prior to, during and following simulations using a dipole-dipole array configuration. The configuration allows for a 2.47 m depth of investigation in which magnitude and direction of subsurface flux can be determined. We used the calculated steady state infiltration rates to quantify the variability in the partial area runoff response on the ecological sites. Coupling this information with time-lapse difference inversions of ERI data, we are able to track areas of increasing and decreasing resistivity in the subsurface related to localized areas of infiltration during and following rainfall events. We anticipate implementing this method across a variety of ecological sites in the Upper Crow Creek in order to characterize the variable hydrologic response of this complex rangeland watershed. This information is being used to refine current physically based hydrologic models and watershed assessment tools.