Unsaturated Soil Hydraulic Properties Identification using Numerical Inversion and In-Situ Experiments from Mnasra Area, Morocco

  • Hamid QanzaEmail author
  • Abdellatif Maslouhi
  • Said Abboudi
  • Hachimi Mustapha
  • Abderrahim Hmimou
Water Resources and Hydrologic Engineering


In soil physics, accurate estimation of hydrodynamic properties is essential for effective groundwater management. Experimentally, determination of these properties in the laboratory or in-situ conditions is difficult step, long and may involve uncertainties significant for the vast majority practice use. Frequently, inverse methods were established to determine accurate parameters in the field scale based on measured soil moisture and hydraulic conductivity over time and depth. These inversions methods involve hydraulic soil-models using adapted optimization algorithms that ensure a best combination of parameters minimizing a cost function. In this work, direct and inverse optimization approaches has been proposed to estimate the effective hydraulic parameters, based on the temporal description of the soil physical and hydraulic parameters using field water content measurements from located in Mnasra area (northwest of Morocco). The Levenberg Marquardt optimization algorithm coupling with the vadose zone model (VZM), numerical code in Fortran, has been used to inverse estimation of hydraulic parameters based on transients soil water content measurements. These uses have been conducted using temporal measurements of soil moisture in depths: 20, 40, 60 and 80 cm. The estimated properties are in good agreement with those measured in-situ. Overall, it was concluded that this technique can greatly widen the range of hydrological problems admissible for inversion and can be used for many applications in hydrologic engineering, either alone or in conjunction with traditional techniques.


unsaturated soil hydraulic parameters in situ measurements vadose zone model inverse modeling levenbergmarquardt algorithm 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work was partially supported by the Ibn-Tofail University, Morocco, the Integrated Action Morocco-France MA/10/225, Egide project: N°22689YH and the program: Euro-Mediterranean 3+3 Hydrinv.


  1. Abbasi, F., Feyen, J., and Van Genuchten, M. T. (2004). “Two-dimensional simulation of water flow and solute transport below furrows: Model calibration and validation.” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 290, Nos. 1–2, pp. 63–79, DOI: Scholar
  2. Abbaspour, K. C., Sonnleitner, M. A., and Schulin, R. (1999). “Uncertainty in estimation of soil hydraulic parameters by inverse modeling: Example lysimeter experiments.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 63, No. 3, pp. 501–509, DOI: Scholar
  3. Alletto, L., Pot, V., Giuliano, S., Costes, M., Perdrieux, F., and Justes, E. (2015). “Temporal variation in soil physical properties improves the water dynamics modeling in a conventionally-tilled soil.” Geoderma, Vol. 243, pp. 18–28, DOI: Scholar
  4. Ankeny, M. D., Ahmed, M., Kaspar, T. C., and Horton, R. (1991). “Simple field method for determining unsaturated hydraulic conductivity.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 55, pp. 467–470, DOI: Scholar
  5. Barakat, A., Hilali, A., Baghdadi, M. E., and Touhami, F. (2019). “Assessment of shallow groundwater quality and its suitability for drinking purpose near the Béni-Mellal wastewater treatment lagoon (Morocco).” Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, pp. 1–20, DOI:
  6. Belfort, B. and Lehmann, F. (2005). “Comparison of equivalent conductivities for numerical simulation of one-dimensional unsaturated flow.” Vadose Zone Journal, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 1191–120, DOI: Scholar
  7. Benseddik, B., El Mrabet, E., El Mansouri, B., Chao, J., and Kili, M. (2017). “Delineation of artificial recharge zones in Mnasra Aquifer (NW, Morocco).” Modeling Earth Systems and Environment, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 10, DOI: Scholar
  8. Beydoun, H. and Lehmann, F. (2006). “Expériences de drainage et estimation de paramètres en milieu poreux non saturé.” Comptes Rendus Geoscience, Vol. 338, No. 3, pp. 180–187, DOI: Scholar
  9. Brunetti, G., Šimůnek, J., Bogena, H., Baatz, R., Huisman, J. A., Dahlke, H., and Vereecken, H. (2019). “On the information content of cosmic-ray neutron data in the inverse estimation of soil hydraulic properties.” Vadose Zone Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, DOI:
  10. Carrera, J. and Neuman, S. P. (1986). “Estimation of aquifer parameters under transient and steady state conditions: 3. Application to synthetic and field data.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 228–242, DOI: Scholar
  11. Charoenhirunyingyos, S., Honda, K., Kamthonkiat, D., and Ines, A. V. (2011). “Soil moisture estimation from inverse modeling using multiple criteria functions.” Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, Vol. 75, No. 2, pp. 278–287, DOI: Scholar
  12. Doetsch, J., Linde, N., Coscia, I., Greenhalgh, S. A., and Green, A. G. (2010). “Zonation for 3D aquifer characterization based on joint inversions of multi method cross hole geophysical data.” Geophysics, Vol. 75, No. 6, pp. G53–G64, DOI: Scholar
  13. Draper, N. R. and Smith, H. (1981). Applied regression analysis, (2nd ed.), John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY, USA.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  14. Durner, W. and Iden, S. C. (2011). “Extended multistep outflow method for the accurate determination of soil hydraulic properties near water saturation.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 47, No. 8, DOI:
  15. Eching, S. O. and Hopmans, J. W. (1993). “Optimization of hydraulic functions from transient outflow and soil water pressure data.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 57, No, 5, pp. 1167–1175, DOI: Scholar
  16. Finsterle, S. (2004). “Multiphase inverse modeling.” Vadose Zone Journal, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 747–762, DOI: Scholar
  17. Freire, A. G., de Alencar, T. L., Chaves, A. F., do Nascimento, Í. V., de Assis Júnior, R. N., van Lier, Q. D. J., and Mota, J. C. A. (2018). “Comparison of devices for measuring soil matric potential and effects on soil hydraulic functions and related parameters.” Agricultural Water Management, Vol. 209, pp. 134–141, DOI: Scholar
  18. Gao, G., Abubakar, A., and Habashy, T. M. (2012). “Joint petrophysical inversion of electromagnetic and full-waveform seismic data.” Geophysics, Vol. 77, No. 3, pp. WA3–WA18, DOI: Scholar
  19. Hachimi, M. and Maslouhi, A. (2016). “Hydrodynamic characterization using the disc infiltrometer of Loukkos soils (Morocco).” J. Mater. Environ. Sci., pp. 3300–3312.Google Scholar
  20. Haddout S., Igouzal M., and Maslouhi A. (2017). “Modeling the effect of salt water intrusion in the Sebou River estuary (Morocco).” Russian Meteorology and Hydrology, Vol. 42, pp. 803–811, DOI: Scholar
  21. Haverkamp, R., Ross, P. J., Smettem, K. R. J., and Parlange, J. Y. (1994). “Three-dimensional analysis of infiltration from the disc infiltrometer: 2. Physically based infiltration equation.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 30, No. 11, pp. 2931–2935, DOI: Scholar
  22. Hmimou, A., Maslouhi, A., Tamoh, K., and Candela, L. (2014). “Experimental monitoring and numerical study of pesticide (carbofuran) transfer in an agricultural soil at a field site.” Comptes Rendus Geoscience, Vol. 346, Nos. 9–10, pp. 255–261, DOI: Scholar
  23. Hopmans, J. W., Simůnek, J., Romano, N., and Durner, W. (2002). “Water retention and storage: Inverse methods.” Methods of soil analysis: Part 4 - Physical methods, J.H. Dane and G.C. Topp, Ed., SSSA Book Series No. 5., SSSA, Madison, WI, USA, p. 963–1004.Google Scholar
  24. Ibnoussina, M. H., Maslouhi, A., and Zeraouli, M. (2006). “Impact of the clay amendment on the leaching nitric nitrogen in the sandy soil.” Elect J Environ Agric Food Chem, Vol. 5, pp. 1522–1530.Google Scholar
  25. IUSS Working Group WRB (2014). World reference base for soil resources 2014 - International soil classification system for naming soils and creating legends for soil maps (update 2015), World Soil Resources Reports No. 106, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
  26. Kirkland, M. R., Hills, R. G., and Wierenga, P. J. (1992). “Algorithms for solving Richards’ equation for variably saturated soils.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 28, No. 8, pp. 2049–2058, DOI: Scholar
  27. Laigle, D. (1991). Une application de la modelisation mathematique et de l’optimisation de parametres a la dynamique de l’eau et des nitrates dans un sol agricole, Interpretation et simulation de mesures in situ en plaine d’alsace, PhD Thesis, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France.Google Scholar
  28. Lazarovitch, N., Ben-Gal, A., Simůnek, J., and Shani, U. (2007). “Uniqueness of soil hydraulic parameters determined by a combined Wooding inverse approach.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 71, No. 3, pp. 860–865, DOI: Scholar
  29. Lehmann, F. and Ackerer, P. (1997). “Determining soil hydraulic properties by inverse method in one-dimensional unsaturated flow.” Journal of Environmental Quality, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 76–81, DOI: Scholar
  30. Marouane, B., Dahchour, A., Dousset, S., and El Hajjaji, S. (2015). “Monitoring of nitrate and pesticide pollution in Mnasra, Morocco soil and groundwater.” Water Environment Research, Vol. 87, No. 6, pp. 567–575, DOI: Scholar
  31. Marquardt, D. W. (1963). “An algorithm for least-squares estimation of nonlinear parameters.” Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 431–441, DOI: Scholar
  32. Mustapha, H., Abdellatif, M., Karim, T., and Hamid, Q. (2018). “Estimation of soil hydraulic properties of basin loukkos (Morocco) by inverse modeling.” KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 1407–1419, DOI: Scholar
  33. Nachtergaele, F. (2001). “Soil taxonomy - A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys: Second edition, by Soil Survey Staff, 1999, USDA-NRCS, Agriculture hand-book number 436.” Geoderma, Vol. 99, Nos. 3–4, pp. 336–337, DOI: Scholar
  34. Naseri, M., Iden, S. C., Richter, N., and Durner, W. (2019). “Influence of stone content on soil hydraulic properties: Experimental investigation and test of existing model concepts.” Vadose Zone Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, DOI:
  35. ORMVAG (2011). “Environmental situation in the Gharb region.” 4th National Scientific Day of Environment and Health, Mohammedia, Morocco.Google Scholar
  36. Osborne, M. R. (1976). “Nonlinear least squares — The Levenberg algorithm revisited.” The ANZIAM Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 343–357, DOI: Scholar
  37. Perroux, K. M. and White, I. (1988). “Designs for disc permeameters 1.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 52, No. 5, pp. 1205–1215, DOI: Scholar
  38. Qanza, H., Maslouhi, A., and Abboudi, S. (2016). “Experience of inverse modeling for estimating hydraulic parameters of unsaturated soils.” Russian Meteorology and Hydrology, Vol. 41, Nos. 11–12, pp. 779–788, DOI: Scholar
  39. Qanza, H., Maslouhi, A., Hachimi, M., and Hmimou, A. (2018). “Inverse estimation of the hydrodispersive properties of unsaturated soil using complex-variable-differentiation method under field experiments conditions.” Eurasian Soil Science, Vol. 51, No. 10, pp. 1229–1239, DOI: Scholar
  40. Rallo, G., Provenzano, G., Castellini, M., and Sirera, À. P. (2018). “Application of EMI and FDR sensors to assess the fraction of transpirable soil water over an olive grove.” Water, Vol. 10, No. 2, p. 168, DOI: Scholar
  41. Rezaei, M., Seuntjens, P., Joris, I., Boënne, W., Van Hoey, S., Campling, P., and Cornelis, W. M. (2016). “Sensitivity of water stress in a twolayered sandy grassland soil to variations in groundwater depth and soil hydraulic parameters.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 487–503, DOI: Scholar
  42. Richards, L. A. (1931). “Capillary conduction of liquids through porous mediums.” Physics, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp. 318–333, DOI: Scholar
  43. Ritter, A., Hupet, F., Muñoz-Carpena, R., Lambot, S., and Vanclooster, M. (2003). “Using inverse methods for estimating soil hydraulic properties from field data as an alternative to direct methods.” Agricultural Water Management, Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 77–96, DOI: Scholar
  44. Russo, D., Bresler, E., Shani, U., and Parker, J. C. (1991). “Analyses of infiltration events in relation to determining soil hydraulic properties by inverse problem methodology.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 27, No. 6, pp. 1361–1373, DOI: Scholar
  45. Saâdi, Z. and Maslouhi, A. (2003). “Modeling nitrogen dynamics in unsaturated soils for evaluating nitrate contamination of the Mnasra groundwater.” Advances in Environmental Research, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 803–823, DOI: Scholar
  46. Sabatier, P. C. (2000). “Past and future of inverse problems.” Journal of Mathematical Physics, Vol. 41, No. 6, pp. 4082–4124, DOI: Scholar
  47. Sanayei, H. R. Z., Talebbeydokhti, N., and Rakhshandehroo, G. R. (2019). “Analytical solutions for water infiltration into unsaturated-semi-saturated soils under different water content distributions on the top boundary.” Iranian Journal of Science and Technology, DOI:
  48. Schwarzel, K., Simunek, J., Stoffregen, H., Wessolek, G., and van Genuchten, M. T. (2006). “Estimation of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of peat soils: Laboratory versus field data.” Vadose Zone Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 628–640, DOI: Scholar
  49. Shouse, P. J. and Mohanty, B. P. (1998). “Scaling of near-saturated hydraulic conductivity measured using disc infiltrometers.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 1195–1205, DOI: Scholar
  50. Šimůnek, J. and Genuchten, M. V. (1996). “Estimating unsaturated soil hydraulic properties from tension disc infiltrometer data by numerical inversion.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 32, No. 9, pp. 2683–2696, DOI: Scholar
  51. Sonnleitner, M. A., Abbaspour, K. C., and Schulin, R. (2003). “Hydraulic and transport properties of the plant-soil system estimated by inverse modelling.” European Journal of Soil Science, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 127–138, DOI: Scholar
  52. Van Genuchten, M. T. (1980). “A closed-form equation for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils 1.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, pp. 892–898, DOI: Scholar
  53. Vandervaere, J. P., Vauclin, M., and Elrick, D. E. (2000). “Transient flow from tension infiltrometers I. The two-parameter equation.” Soil Science Society of America Journal, Vol. 64, No. 4, pp. 1263–1272, DOI: Scholar
  54. Wallor, E., Herrmann, A., and Zeitz, J. (2017). “Hydraulic properties of drained and culti vated fen soils part II—Model-based evaluation of generated van Genuchten parameters using experimental field data.” Geoderma, DOI: Scholar
  55. White, I., Sully, M. J., and Perroux, K. M. (1992). “Measurement of surface-soil hydraulic properties: Disk permeameters, tension infiltrometers, and other techniques.” Advances in Measurement of Soil Physical Properties: Bringing Theory Into Practice, (advances in measu), pp. 69–103, DOI: 10.2136/sssaspecpub30.c5.Google Scholar
  56. Yeh, W. W. G. (1986). “Review of parameter identification procedures in groundwater hydrology: The inverse problem.” Water Resources Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 95–108, DOI: Scholar

Copyright information

© Korean Society of Civil Engineers 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.L.I.R.N.E-Laboratory (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Natural Resources and Environment)University of IbnTofailKenitraMorocco
  2. 2.L.I.R.N.E-Laboratory (Laboratory for Natural Resources and Environment)University of IbnTofailKenitraMorocco
  3. 3.I.R.T.E.S-M.3.MUniversité de Téchnologie Belfort-MontbéliardBelfort CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations