Hydrological Processes, Volume 33, Issue 4
- Anthology ID:
Hydroclimatic controls on runoff activation in an artificially drained, near‐level vertisolic clay landscape in a Prairie climate
Vivekananthan Kokulan | Merrin L. Macrae | Genevieve Ali | David A. Lobb
Water quality problems are frequently influenced by hydrological processes, particularly in landscapes in which land drainage has been modified. The expansion of agricultural tile drainage in the Northern Great Plains of North America is occurring, yet is controversial due to persistent water quality problems such as eutrophication. Runoff‐generating mechanisms in North American tile‐drained landscapes in vertisolic soils have not been investigated but are important for understanding the impacts of tile drainage on water quantity and quality. This study evaluated the role of climate drivers on the activation of overland (OF) and tile (TF) flow and groundwater flow responses (GWT) on tile‐drained and nontile‐drained farm fields in Southern Manitoba, Canada. The response times of different flow paths (OF, TF, and GWT) were compared for 23 hydrological events (April–September 2015, 2016) to infer dominant runoff generation processes. Runoff responses (all pathways) were more rapid following higher intensity rainfall. Subsurface responses were hastened by wetter antecedent conditions in spring and delayed by the seasonal soil–ice layer. The activation of OF did not differ between the tiled and nontiled fields, suggesting that tile drains do little to reduce the occurrence of OF in this landscape. Rapid vertical preferential flow into tiles via preferential flow pathways was uncommon at our site, and the soil profile instead wet up from the top down. These conclusions have implications for the expansion of tile drainage and the impact of such an expansion on hydrological and biogeochemical processes in agricultural landscapes.