A unique vadose zone model for shallow aquifers: the Hetao irrigation district, China
Rapid population growth is increasing pressure on the world water resources. Agriculture will require crops to be grown with less water. This is especially the case for the closed Yellow River basin, necessitating a better understanding of the fate of irrigation water in the soil. In this paper, we report on a field experiment and develop a physically based model for the shallow groundwater in the Hetao irrigation district in Inner Mongolia, in the arid middle reaches of the Yellow River. Unlike other approaches, this model recognizes that field capacity is reached when the matric potential is equal to the height above the groundwater table and not by a limiting soil conductivity. The field experiment was carried out in 2016 and 2017. Daily moisture contents at five depths in the top 90 cm and groundwater table depths were measured in two fields with a corn crop. The data collected were used for model calibration and validation. The calibration and validation results show that the model-simulated soil moisture and groundwater depth fitted well. The model can be used in areas with shallow groundwater to optimize irrigation water use and minimize tailwater losses.