American Society of Civil Engineers

Effects of Unsaturated Zone on Ground-Water Mounding

by D. M. Sumner, (Hydro., U.S. Geological Survey, 224 W. Central Parkway, Ste. 1006, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714), D. E. Rolston, (Prof., Univ. of California, Dept. of Land, Air, and Water Resourc., Davis, CA 95616), and M. A. Mariño, M.ASCE, (Prof., Univ. of California, Dept. of Hydro. Sci. and Civ. and Envir. Engrg., Davis, CA)

Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1999, pp. 65-69, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Discussion: by Hubert J. Morel-Seytoux E-mail:    (See full record)
Abstract: The design of infiltration basins used to dispose of treated wastewater or for aquifer recharge often requires estimation of ground-water mounding beneath the basin. However, the effect that the unsaturated zone has on water-table response to basin infiltration often has been overlooked in this estimation. A comparison was made between two methods used to estimate ground-water mounding—an analytical approach that is limited to the saturated zone and a numerical approach that incorporates both the saturated and the unsaturated zones. Results indicate that the error that is introduced by a method that ignores the effects of the unsaturated zone on ground-water mounding increases as the basin-loading period is shortened; as the depth to the water table increases, with increasing subsurface anisotropy; and with the inclusion of fine-textured strata. Additionally, such a method cannot accommodate the dynamic nature of basin infiltration, the finite transmission time of the infiltration front to the water table, or the interception of the basin floor by the capillary fringe.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Recharge basins
Unsaturated flow
Vadose zone