Field-scale tests were performed to evaluate the effectiveness of the gas-phase partitioning tracer method for in-situ measurement of soil-water content. The tracer tests were conducted before and after a controlled infiltration event to evaluate performance at two water contents. Nonpartitioning (sulfur hexafluoride) and water-partitioning (difluoromethane) tracers were iniected into the test zone, and their effluent breakthrough curves were analyzed using the method of moments to calculate retardation factors for difluoromethane. Soil-water contents estimated using the tracer data were compared to soil-water contents obtained independently using gravimetric core analysis, neutron scattering, and bore-hole ground penetrating radar. For the test conducted under drier soil conditions, the soil-water content estimated from the tracer test was identical to the independently measured values of 8.6% (equivalent to water saturation of 23%). For the test conducted under wetter soil conditions, the tracer test derived soil-water content was 81% of the independently measured values of 12.2% (equivalent to water saturation of 32%). The reduced efficacy at the higher soil-water content may reflect the impact of advective and/or diffusive mass transfer constraints on gas-phase transport. The results presented herein indicate that the partitioning tracer method is an effective technique to measure soil-water content at the field scale, especially for sites with moderate to low soil-water contents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry