Lateral Effect

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Version:  2.8.1
Release date:  February 2015


R.W.Skaggs, G.M Chescheir, and B.D. Phillips

A method was developed to estimate the lateral effect of a single drainage ditch on wetland hydrology. The method can be used to calculate the distance of influence of a single ditch constructed through a wetland, where the distance of influence is defined as the width of a strip adjacent to the ditch that is drained such that it will no longer satisfy the wetland hydrologic criterion. Simulation analyses were conducted with DRAINMOD to define the minimum, or threshold, drainage intensity that would result in failure of a site to satisfy the wetland hydrologic criterion. Analyses were conducted for five hydric soils spanning a wide range of profile hydraulic transmissivities. DRAINMOD was used to predict water table fluctuations between parallel ditches for a 50-year period of climatological record. For each soil, simulations were conducted for a range of ditch spacings and depths to determine the combinations that would result in the land midway between the ditches just barely satisfying the wetland hydrologic criterion. Analyses were conducted for climatological conditions for three locations in eastern North Carolina. Results for Wilmington, North Carolina, showed that the threshold drainage intensities would result in water table drawdown from an initially ponded surface to a depth of 25 cm in approximately 6 days. That is, ditch depths and spacings sufficient to lower the water table from the surface to a depth of 25 cm in a threshold time of about 6 days would result in hydrologic conditions that would just barely satisfy the wetland hydrologic criterion for that location. The threshold time is denoted T25 and is used as a surrogate for quantifying the water table drawdown rate of sites that barely satisfy the wetland hydrologic criterion. T25 was found to depend somewhat on drain depth, but it was essentially constant for all five of the soils examined. Similar results were obtained for the other two locations, but because of differences in weather and in the growing season, the threshold time (T25) was found to be dependent on location. The T25 value is also dependent on surface depressional storage, decreasing with increasing storage. The discovery that water table conditions barely satisfying the wetland hydrologic criterion are well correlated to the time required for water table drawdown of 25 cm (T25 values) makes it possible to predict the effects of subsurface drains on wetland hydrology. The lateral effect of a single ditch on wetland hydrology can be computed by using T25 values in solutions to the Boussinesq equation for water table drawdown due to drainage to a single drain. While the method was developed for drainage ditches, it may also be used for subsurface drains.

Project Objective

Quantify the lateral effect (distance of hydrologic influence) of a single ditch using proper drainage theory, climatic variables, and soil properties.