Up to now, field studies set up to measure field-saturated hydraulic conductivity to evaluate contamination risks, have employed small cylinders that may not be representative of the scale of measurements in heterogeneous media. In this study, a large adjustable ring infiltrometer was designed to be installed on-site directly on rock to measure its field-saturated hydraulic conductivity. The proposed device is inexpensive and simple to implement, yet also very versatile, due to its large adjustable diameter that can be fixed on-site. It thus allows an improved representation of the natural system’s heterogeneity, while also taking into consideration irregularities in the soil/rock surface. The new apparatus was tested on an outcrop of karstic fractured limestone overlying the deep Murge aquifer in the South of Italy, which has recently been affected by untreated sludge disposal, derived from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants. The quasi-steady vertical flow into the unsaturated fractures was investigated by measuring water levels during infiltrometer tests. Simultaneously, subsurface electrical resistivity measurements were used to visualize the infiltration of water in the subsoil, due to unsaturated water flow in the fractures. The proposed experimental apparatus works well on rock outcrops, and allows the repetition of infiltration tests at many locations in order to reduce model uncertainties in heterogeneous media.
Large ring infiltrometerFractured limestoneField-saturated hydraulic conductivity