The representativeness of soil pore water extracted by suction lysimeters in ground-water monitoring studies is a problem that often confounds interpretation of measured data. Current soil water sampling techniques cannot delineate from which soil volume a pore water sample is extracted, neither macroscopic, microscopic, or preferential flowpath. This research was undertaken to compare δ18O and Br− values of extracted suction lysimeters samples from intact soil cores with samples obtained by the direct extraction methods of centrifugation and azeotropic distillation. Also, the study was concerned with determining what portion of soil pore water is sampled by each method and explaining differences in concentrations of the extracted water from each method to allow a determination of the accuracy and viability of the three methods of extraction. Intact soil cores (30 cm diameter by 40 cm height) were extracted from two different sites. Site 1 was rapid infiltration basin number 50, near Altamonte Springs in Seminole County, Florida. Site 2 was the Missouri Management System Evaluation Area (MSEA) near Centralia in Boone County, Missouri. Isotopically (18Oδ) labeled water and bromide concentrations within water samples taken by suction lysimeters was compared with samples obtained by methods of centrifugation and azeotropic distillation. The 18Oδ water was analyzed by mass spectrometry while bromide concentration, applied in the form of KBr was measured using standard IC procedures. Water collected by centrifugation and azeotropic distillation data were about 0.25‰ more negative than that collected by suction lysimeter values from a sandy soil and about 2–7‰ more negative from a well structured soil. Results indicate that the majority of soil water in well-structured soil is strongly bound to soil grain surfaces and is not easily sampled by suction lysimeters. In cases where a sufficient volume of water has passed through the soil profile and displaced previous pore water, suction lysimeters will collect a representative sample of soil pore water from the sampled depth interval. It is suggested that for stable isotope studies monitoring precipitation and soil water, suction lysimeter be installed at shallow depths (10 cm). Samples should also be coordinated with precipitation events. The data also suggest that each extraction method samples a separate component of soil-pore water. Centrifugation can be used with success, particularly for efficient sampling of large areas. Azeotropic distillation is more appropriate when strict qualitative and quantitative data on sorption desorption, and various types of kinetic studies may be needed.
Soil–water sampling DelO18 Azeotropic distillation Macropores Unsaturated zone Soil–water classes Capillary water Gravitational water Hygroscopic water Preferential flowpaths