National Research Program


Physical Characteristics that Determine Flow in the Unsaturated Zone

Flow in the unsaturated zone profoundly influences the degradation as well as the loss and replenishment of available water resources. Unsaturated-zone physical characteristics, such as hydraulic conductivity and water retention, are essential to the determination of water and solute fluxes into groundwater and to the understanding of surface-subsurface interactions. The theory describing these unsaturated-zone influences has not been adequately tested and may in fact be invalid for certain important cases. Limitations of present laboratory and field techniques are a major hindrance to large-scale hydrological application of unsaturated flow theory because critical physical characteristics cannot be measured with the required speed and accuracy. The objectives are to test the validity of existing theories related to unsaturated-zone fluxes and correct or extend them where necessary; to develop fast, accurate, practical methods for measuring unsaturated-zone fluxes and the physical characteristics that determine them; to apply and promote routine use of these experimental and theoretical methods in hydrological studies where the unsaturated zone plays an important role; and to assess the importance of complicating influences (termperature gradients, dispersion, hysteresis, etc.) on water and solute fluxes. For additional information about work being done by this project, see project's home page.

REPORTS PUBLISHED 2003-2012

Nimmo, J.R., 2012 (web publication 12/12/11) Preferential flow occurs in unsaturated conditions: Hydrological Processes, v. 26, no. 5, p. 786-789. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 127 KB, published by Wiley as a U.S. Government work in the public domain)

Perkins, K. S., Nimmo, J.R., and Medeiros, A.C., 2012, Effects of native forest restoration on soil hydraulic properties, Auwahi, Maui, Hawaiian Islands: Geophysical Research Letters, 39:L05405, doi:10.1029/2012GL051120. (on-line abstract or on-line paper in pdf format, 325 KB, published by the American Geophysical Union, not subject to U.S. copyright)

Mirus, B.B., Ebel, B.A., Heppner, C.S., Loague, K., 2011, Assessing the detail needed to capture rainfall-runoff dynamics with physics-based hydrologic response simulation: Water Resources Research, v. 47, W00H10, doi:10.1029/2010WR009906. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Mirus, B.B., Loague, K., Cristea, N.C., Burges, S.J., Kampf, S.K., 2011, A synthetic hydrologic-response dataset: Hydrological Processes, v. 25, no. 23, p. 3688-3692. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.8185. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Mirus, B.B., Perkins, K.S., and Nimmo, J.R., 2011, Assessing controls on perched saturated zones beneath the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5222 (DOE/ID-22216), 20 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 6.3 MB)

Perkins, K.S., 2011, Measurement and Modeling of Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity, in Elango, L., ed., Hydraulic Conductivity - Issues, Determination and Applications: InTech Publishing, Chapter 21, ISBN: 978-953-307-288-3. (open-access available at http://www.intechopen.com/articles/show/title/measurement-and-modeling-of-unsaturated-hydraulic-conductivity or on-line article in pdf format, 544 KB)

Perkins, K.S., Nimmo, J.R., Rose, C.E. and Coupe, R.H., 2011, Field tracer investigation of unsaturated zone flow paths and mechanisms in agricultural soils of northwestern Mississippi, USA: Journal of Hydrology, v. 396, no. 1-2, p. 1-11. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Caputo, M.C., de Carlo, L., Masciopinto, C., and Nimmo, J.R., 2010, Measurement of field-saturated hydraulic conductivity on fractured rock outcrops near Altamura (Southern Italy) with an adjustable large ring infiltrometer: Environmental Earth Sciences, v. 60, no. 3, p. 583-590. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Ebel, B.A., and Nimmo, J.R.,, 2010, Simple estimation of fastest preferential contaminant travel times in the unsaturated zone: Application to Rainier Mesa and Shoshone Mountain, Nevada: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, v. 7, no. 3, p. 3879-3930. (on-line abstract or on-line discussion paper in pdf format, 10891 KB, open-access journal)

Ebel, B.A., and Nimmo, J.R., 2010, Hydraulic property and soil textural classification measurements for Rainier Mesa, Nevada Test Site, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1264, 17 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 9.2 MB)

Nimmo, J.R., 2010, Theory for Source-Responsive and Free-Surface Film Modeling of Unsaturated Flow: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 9, no. 2, p. 295–306. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., 2010, Response to  Germann's "Comment on 'Theory for Source-Responsive and Free-Surface Film Modeling of Unsaturated Flow'": Vadose Zone Journal, v. 9, no. 2, p. 1102–1104.

Ebel, B.A., and Nimmo, J.R., 2009, Estimation of unsaturated zone travel times for Rainier Mesa and Shoshone Mountain, Nevada Test Site, Nevada using a source-responsive preferential-flow model: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1175, 74 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 3.15 MB)

Mirus, B.B., Perkins, K.S., Nimmo, J.R., and Singha, K., 2009, Hydrologic Characterization of Desert Soils with Varying Degrees of Pedogenesis -- II. Inverse Modeling for Unsaturated Hydraulic Properties: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 8, no. 2, p. 496–509. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., 2009, Vadose Water, in Likens, G.E., ed., Encyclopedia of Inland Waters: Oxford, UK, Elsevier, v. 1, p. 766-777.

Nimmo, J.R., Andraski, B.J., and Muñoz-Carpena, R., 2009, UZIG/USGS Research--Advances through Interdisciplinary Interaction: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 8, no. 2, p. 411-413. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., Perkins, K.S., Schmidt, K.M., Miller, D.M., Stock, J.D., and Singha, K., 2009, Hydrologic Characterization of Desert Soils with Varying Degrees of Pedogenesis -- I. Field Experiments Evaluating Plant-Relevant Soil-Water Behavior: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 8, no. 2, p. 480–495. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., Schmidt, K.M., Perkins, K.S., and Stock, J.D., 2009, Rapid Measurement of Field-Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity for Areal Characterization: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 8, no. 1, p. 142-149. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Perkins, K., and Nimmo, J., 2009, High-quality unsaturated zone hydraulic property data for hydrologic applications: Water Resources. Research, 45, W07417, doi:10.1029/2008WR007497. (on-line abstract or on-line artilce in pdf format, 637 KB, published by the American Geophysical Union, not subject to US copyright)

Nimmo, J.R., 2008, The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon by H. Darcy--translated by P. Bobeck [Book Review]: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 7, no. 4, p. 1311-1312.

Nimmo, J.R., and Perkins, K.S., 2008, Effect of soil disturbance on recharging fluxes: Case study on the Snake River Plain, Idaho National Laboratory, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 16, no. 5, p. 829-844. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Perkins, K.S., 2008, Laboratory-measured and property-transfer modeled saturated hydraulic, conductivity of Snake River Plain aquifer sediments at the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5169, 14 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 1.2 MB)

Wang, B., Jin, M., Yang, L., Wang, W., and Nimmo, J.R., 2008, Estimating aquifer recharge by applied tracer method in Hebei Plain: Journal of Hydrology, v. 356, p. 209-222. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Delin, G.N., Healy, R.W., Lorenz, D.L., and Nimmo, J.R., 2007, Comparison of local- to regional-scale estimates of ground-water recharge in Minnesota, USA: Journal of Hydrology, v. 334, p. 231-249. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Heppner, C.S., Nimmo, J.R., Folmar, G.J., Gburek, W.J., and Risser, D.W., 2007, Multiple-methods investigation of recharge at a humid-region fractured rock site, Pennsylvania, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 15, p. 915-927. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., 2007, Simple predictions of maximum transport rate in unsaturated soil and rock : Water Resources Research, v. 43, W05426, doi:10.1029/2006WR005372. (on-line journal article)

Nimmo, J.R., Herkelrath, W.N., and Laguna Luna, A.M., 2007, Physically based estimation of soil water retention from textural data: General framework, new models, and streamlined existing models: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 6, no. 4, p. 766-773. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Nolan, B.T., Healy, R.W., Taber, P.E., Perkins, K.S., Hitt, K.J., and Wolock, D.M., 2007, Factors influencing ground-water recharge in the eastern United States: Journal of Hydrology, v. 332, p. 187-205. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Perkins, K.S., and Winfield, K.A., 2007, Property transfer modeling to estimate unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of deep sediments at the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5093, 22 p. (on-line abstract or on-line publication in pdf format, 1.07 MB

Nimmo, J.R., and Perkins, K.S., 2006, Effect of soil disturbance on aquifer recharge - case study on the Snake River Plain, Idaho National Laboratory, USA: 34th Congress, Bejing, October 9-13, 2006, International Association of Hydrogeologists [Proceedings] - CD only.

Winfield, K.A., Nimmo, J.R., Izbicki, J.A., and Martin, P.M., 2006, Resolving structural influences on water-retention properties of alluvial deposits: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 5, p. 706-719, doi:10.2136/vzj2005.0088 (on-line abstract of journal article)

Caputo, M.C., and Nimmo, J.R., 2005, Quasi-steady centrifuge method for unsaturated hydraulic properties: Water Resources Research, v. 41, doi:10.1029/2005WR003957 (on-line abstract of journal article)

Heppner, C.S., and John R. Nimmo, J.R., 2005, A computer program for predicting recharge with a master recession: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5172, 8 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 226 KB)

Nimmo, J.R., 2005, Unsaturated-zone flow processes, in Anderson, M.G., and Bear, J., eds., Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences: Part 13--Groundwater: Chichester, UK, Wiley, v. 4, p. 2,299-2,322, doi:10.1002/0470848944.hsa161 (on-line abstract) .

Nimmo, J.R., Healy, R.W., and Stonestrom, D.A., 2005, Aquifer recharge, in Anderson, M.G., and Bear, J., eds., Encyclopedia of Hydrological Science: Part 13--Groundwater: Chichester, UK, Wiley, v. 4, p. 2,229-2,246, doi:10.1002/0470848944.hsa161a (on-line abstract)

Nimmo, J.R., and Landa, E.R., 2005, The soil-physics contributions of Edgar Buckingham: Soil Science Society of America Journal, v. 69, p. 328-342. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Perkins, K.S., 2005, Aquifer recharge estimates based on unsaturated zone measurements, southern New Jersey: San Jose State University, M.S. thesis, 87 p.

Rousseau, J.P., Landa, E.R., Nimmo, J.R., Cecil, L.D., Knobel, L.L., Glynn, P.D., Kwicklis, E.M., Curtis, G.P., Stollenwerk, K.G., Anderson, S.R., Bartholomay, R.C., Bossong, C.R., and Orr, B.R., 2005, Review of the transport of selected radionuclides in the interim risk assessment for the Radioactive Waste Management Complex, Waste Area Group 7 Operable Unit 7-13/14, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5026, 283 p. in 2 volumes. (on-line volume 1 (text) in pdf format, 2.4 MB or on-line volume 2 (figures) in pdf format, 3.3 MB)

Šimunek, J., and Nimmo, J.R., 2005, Estimating soil hydraulic parameters from transient flow experiments in a centrifuge using parameter optimization technique: Water Resources Research, v. 41, no. 4, doi:10.1029/2004WR003379. (on-line abstract of journal article)

Winfield, K.A., 2005, Development of property-transfer models for estimating the hydraulic properties of deep sediments at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5114, 59 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format, 1.56MB)

Heilweil, V.M., Solomon, D.K., Perkins, K.S., and Ellett, K.M., 2004, Gas-partitioning tracer test to quantify trapped gas during recharge: Ground Water, v. 42, p. 589-600. (on-line abstract)

Nimmo, J.R., 2004, Aggregation - Physical aspects in Hillel, D., ed., Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment: London, Elsevier, p. 28-35.

Nimmo, J.R., 2004, Porosity and Pore Size Distribution, in Hillel, D., ed. Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment: London, Elsevier, p. 295-303.

Nimmo, J.R., Rousseau, J.P., Perkins, K.S., Stollenwerk, K.G., Glynn, P.G., Bartholomay, R.C., and Knobel, L.L., 2004, Hydraulic and geochemical framework of the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory vadose zone: Vadose Zone Journal, v. 3, p. 6-34. (on-line abstract)

Baehr, A.L., Kaufman, L.J., Perkins, K.S., and Nolan, B.T., 2003, Estimating spatial variability of recharge in southern New Jersey from unsaturated-zone measurements: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4288, 31 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report in pdf format - 3.6MB)

Landa, E.R., and Nimmo, J.R., 2003, The life and scientific contributions of Lyman J. Briggs: Soil Science Society of America Journal, v. 67, p. 681-693. (on-line abstract)

Nimmo, J.R., 2003, How fast does water flow in an unsaturated macropore?: Evidence from field and lab experiments, in Alvarez-Benedi, J., and Marinero, P., eds., Estudios de la Zona No Saturada del Suelo, v. VI: Valladolid, Spain, Instituto Tecnologico de Castilla y Leon, p. 1-8.

Nimmo, J.R., Stonestrom, D.A., and Healy, R.W., 2003, Aquifer recharge in Stewart, B.A., and Howell, T.A., eds., Encyclopedia of Water Science: New York, Marcel Dekker, p. 22-25.

Perkins, K.S., 2003, Measurement of sedimentary interbed hydraulic properties and their hydrologic influence near the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4048, 19 p. (on-line report in pdf format)

Su, G.W., Nimmo, J.R., and Dragila, M.I., 2003, Effect of isolated fractures on accelerated flow in unsaturated porous rock: Water Resources Research, v. 39, no. 12, p. 1-1 - 1-5. (on-line abstract)

Winfield, K.A., 2003, Spatial variability of sedimentary interbed properties near the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4142, 36 p. (on-line abstract or on-line report, pdf format 1.1MB)

Constantz, J., Jasperse, J., Seymour, D., and Su, G., 2002, Use of temperature to estimate streambed conductance, Russian River, California in Kenny, J.F., ed., Ground Water/Surface Water Interactions, AWRA 2002 Summer Specialty Conference Proceedings: American Water Resources Association, Middleburg, Virginia, p. 595-600.

Cox, M., Rosenberry, D., Su, G., Conlon, T., Lee, K., and Constantz, J., 2002, Comparison of methods to estimate streambed seepage rates in Kenny, J.F., ed., Ground Water/Surface Water Interactions, AWRA 2002 Summer Specialty Conference Proceedings: American Water Resources Association, Middleburg, Virginia, p. 519-523.

Nimmo, J.R., 2002, Meter-to-kilometer scaling of preferential flow in the unsaturated zone, in Findikakis, A.N., ed., Bridging the Gap between Measurements and Modeling in Heterogeneous Media--Proceedings of the International Groundwater Symposium, Berkeley, California, March 25-28, 2002: IAHR, Madrid, Spain, CD-ROM.


FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT, CONTACT:
John R. Nimmo
U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd, MS421, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Email: jrnimmo@usgs.gov
Telephone: 650-329-4537

For information on additional projects in the National Research Program, see Indexes to NRP projects and bibliographies.

*For articles in Adobe® (.PDF) format, please note that you can download a free copy of Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® here. Also see Adobe® accessibility information, Information for users with disabilities, if applicable.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://water.usgs.gov/nrp/proj.bib/nimmo.html
Page Contact Information: Linda Friedman
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Mar-2014 11:28:33 EST