Irrigation Hydrology: Crossing Scales

by Wesley W. Wallender,
Mark E. Grismer,

Abstract: Hydrology is the science concerned with distribution, circulation, and properties of water of the earth and its atmosphere, across the full range of time and space scales. Subject matter ranges widely from chemical and physical properties to the relation of water to living things. Irrigation hydrology is constrained to analysis of irrigated ecosystems in which water storage, applications, or drainage volumes are artificially controlled in the landscape and the spatial domain of processes varies from micrometers to tens of kilometers while the temporal domain spans from seconds to centuries. The continuum science of irrigation hydrology includes the surface, subsurface (unsaturated and groundwater systems), atmospheric, and plant subsystems. How do we scale up highly nonlinear physical, chemical, and biological processes understood at natural scales to macro- and mega-scales at which we measure and manage irrigated agroecosystems? How do we measure, characterize, and include natural heterogeneity in scaling nonlinear process? In this paper, we discuss scaling issues and related research opportunities in irrigation hydrology with the hope of helping the irrigation-drainage engineering/science profession better address scaling problems in formulating designs affecting irrigated ecosystems.

Subject Headings: Irrigation | Biological processes | Fouling | Water circulation | Chemical properties | Ecosystems | Water storage


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