Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Athanasios N. Papanicolaou

First Committee Member

Nandita Basu

Second Committee Member

Kathleen Stewart


In this study, a physically-based, modeling framework was developed to predict saturated hydraulic conductivity Ksat) dynamics in the Clear Creek Watershed (CCW), IA. The modeling framework integrated selected pedotransfer functions (PTFs) and watershed models with geospatial tools. A number of PTFs and watershed models were examined to select the appropriate models that represent the study site conditions. Models selection was based on statistical measures of the models' errors compared to the Ksat field measurements conducted in CCW under different soil, climatic and land use conditions. The study has shown that combined Rosetta and the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) predictions provided the best agreement to the measured Ksat values in the CCW compared to the other tested models. Therefore, Rosetta and WEPP were integrated with the Geographic Information System (GIS) tools by developing a program for data registries. The modeling framework allowed for visualization of the data in forms of geospatial maps and prediction of Ksat variability in CCW due to the seasonal changes in climate and land use activities.

Two seasons were selected to demonstrate K sat dynamics; specifically, the months of October and April, which corresponded to the before harvesting and before planting conditions, respectively. Baseline saturated hydraulic conductivity (K b) exhibited higher values on the northern part of the CCW compared to the southern part due to differences in soil texture. For bare saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kbr), the month of April had overall higher values than the month of October, because Kbr is inversely proportional to cumulative rainfall kinetic energy and spring season in Iowa are characterized by lower precipitation compared to the fall season.

Except for the ungrazed grassland areas, effective Ksat that accounts for land cover only (Ke-nr) did not change significantly with season, exhibiting the lowest values at the forest and urbanized areas in the CCW. The corn fields showed lower Ke-nr values than soybean fields due to different characteristics of the crops. The effects of rainfall on effective saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ke) were demonstrated by the single storm events of October 17th, 2007 and April 18th, 2008. The former showed higher Ke in CCW, because Ke is linearly proportional to rainfall depth and the October event had higher precipitation than the April event.

Statistical analysis of the Ksat data in CCW has shown that the geometric mean or median was more representative for the distributions of different expressions of saturated hydraulic conductivities due to their wide ranges. The values of Kb were the highest values among the other expressions of Ksat. Ke-nr values were smaller than Kb values, while Ke values were higher than Ke-nr.

The applicability of the pedotransfer functions and watershed models used within the developed modeling framework is limited to the investigated watershed and other watersheds in Iowa having similar soils, management practices, and climatic conditions, mostly in the semihumid region of eastern Iowa. As the proposed modeling framework was able to successfully capture the spatial and temporal variability of Ksat at the watershed scale, it would be advisable to repeat this study in different counties or even in other parts of the country, where arid or semi-arid conditions are ubiquitous, using different pedotransfer functions and watershed models. This can contribute to the development of ratings for many of the soil interpretations incorporated into the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) and update the Ksat data stored in the National Soil Information System (NASIS) database.


xii, 76 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 59-66).


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Copyright 2010 Yi-Jia Chang