Soil fissures and small cracks develop as a result of matrix shrinkage; upon wetting, the soil matrix volume increases by swelling, thereby partially closing the cracks and fissures. We propose a model for flow and transport accounting for the geometrical deformation of both the soil matrix and the fracture porous systems, as well as for the dynamics of hydraulic properties in response to the domain deformations.
We present follow-up work to previous work extending the classical rigid (RGD) approach formerly proposed by Gerke and van Genuchten, to account for shrinking effects (SHR) in modeling water flow and solute transport in dual-permeability porous media. In this study we considered three SHR scenarios, assuming that aggregate shrinkage may change either: (i) the hydraulic properties of the two pore domains, (ii) their relative fractions, or (iii) both hydraulic properties and fractions of the two domains. The objective was to compare simulation results obtained under the RGD and the SHR assumptions to illustrate the impact of matrix volume changes on water storage, water fluxes, and solute concentrations during an infiltration process bringing an initially dry soil to saturation and a drainage process starting from an initially saturated soil. For an infiltration process, the simulated wetting front and the solute concentration propagation velocity, as well as the water fluxes and water and solute exchange rates, for the three SHR scenarios significantly deviated from the RGD. By contrast, relatively similar water content profiles evolved under all scenarios during drying. Overall, compared to the RGD approach, the effect of changing the hydraulic properties and the weight of the two domains according to the shrinkage behavior of the soil aggregates induced a much more rapid response in terms of water fluxes and solute travel times, as well as a larger and deeper water and solute transfer from the fractures to the matrix during wetting processes.