In agricultural fields, tile drains represent potential pathways for the migration of solutes, such as nitrates, in groundwater and surface water bodies. Tile drain flow is controlled by the temporal and spatial dynamics of the shallow groundwater table, which results from complex interactions between climate, topography and soil heterogeneity. Studies on the effect of topsoil heterogeneity on shallow water and drainage dynamics by fully 3D surface water and groundwater flow modeling are limited. The objective of our study is to demonstrate the use of depth specific electrical conductivity (EC) estimates to improve hydrological simulations in a tile-drained field. The model was applied to a field site in Denmark where times series of drainage discharge and water table elevations are available. Clay-rich soil zones were identified in a tile-drained field using depth specific electrical conductivity estimates generated by the inversion of apparent electrical conductivity data measured using an electromagnetic induction instrument. One model that included the low-permeability clayey zones in the soil layers down to a depth of 1.2 m was compared to a simpler model that assumed homogeneous soil layers. Both models simulate drainage discharge that compares well to the observations. However, including the clayey zones improves the simulation of hydraulic heads, and water table fluctuations, and generates flooded areas that are more representative of those observed during the wet seasons. Our results suggest that the simulation of water table fluctuations can be improved when the soil heterogeneity determined from depth specific EC estimates is included in integrated hydrological models. A better representation of the subsurface flow dynamics will also improve subsequent simulations of the transport and fate of agrochemical substances leaching from fields such as nitrate, which may deteriorate the quality of groundwater and surface water bodies.
- Programområde 2: Vandressourcer