Numerical modeling of water flow and salt transport in bare saline soil subjected to evaporation

Xiaolong Geng, Michel C. Boufadel

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41 Scopus citations


A numerical study, based on a density-dependent variably saturated groundwater flow model MARUN, was conducted to investigate subsurface flow and salt transport in bare saline aquifers subjected to evaporation, which was simulated using the bulk aerodynamic formulation. As evaporation was assumed to depend on the pore moisture, the evaporation flux evolved gradually causing a gradual increase in the pore salinity. This is in contrast to prior studies where the high salinity was imposed instantaneously on the ground surface. Key factors likely affecting subsurface hydrodynamics were investigated, including saturated hydraulic conductivity, capillary drive, relative humidity in the air, and surrounding groundwater replenishment. The simulations showed two temporal regimes where the first consists of rapid evaporation for a duration of hours followed by slow evaporation, until evaporation ceases. In the absence of surrounding groundwater replenishment, evaporation-induced density gradient generated an upward water flow initially, and then the flow decreased at which time a high density salt "finger" formed and propagated downwards. Capillary properties and atmospheric condition had significant impacts on subsurface moisture distribution and salt migration in response to the evaporation. The results also suggested that the presence of subsurface water replenishment to the evaporation zone tended to produce a steady evaporation rate at the ground surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-438
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - May 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • Bulk aerodynamic formulation
  • Groundwater flow
  • MARUN model
  • Salt precipitation
  • Transient evaporation


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