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Evaluation of Surface Runoff Generation Processes Using a Rainfall Simulator: A Small Scale Laboratory Experiment
Michaela Danáčová, Peter Valent, Roman Výleta
Department of Land and Water Resources Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Slovak University of Technology, Radlinského 11, 810 05 Bratislava, Slovakia

Published: 21 December 2017 by IOP Publishing in IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
IOP Publishing, Volume 95; 10.1088/1755-1315/95/2/022016
Abstract: Nowadays, rainfall simulators are being used by many researchers in field or laboratory experiments. The main objective of most of these experiments is to better understand the underlying runoff generation processes, and to use the results in the process of calibration and validation of hydrological models. Many research groups have assembled their own rainfall simulators, which comply with their understanding of rainfall processes, and the requirements of their experiments. Most often, the existing rainfall simulators differ mainly in the size of the irrigated area, and the way they generate rain drops. They can be characterized by the accuracy, with which they produce a rainfall of a given intensity, the size of the irrigated area, and the rain drop generating mechanism. Rainfall simulation experiments can provide valuable information about the genesis of surface runoff, infiltration of water into soil and rainfall erodibility. Apart from the impact of physical properties of soil, its moisture and compaction on the generation of surface runoff and the amount of eroded particles, some studies also investigate the impact of vegetation cover of the whole area of interest. In this study, the rainfall simulator was used to simulate the impact of the slope gradient of the irrigated area on the amount of generated runoff and sediment yield. In order to eliminate the impact of external factors and to improve the reproducibility of the initial conditions, the experiments were conducted in laboratory conditions. The laboratory experiments were carried out using a commercial rainfall simulator, which was connected to an external peristaltic pump. The pump maintained a constant and adjustable inflow of water, which enabled to overcome the maximum volume of simulated precipitation of 2.3 l, given by the construction of the rainfall simulator, while maintaining constant characteristics of the simulated precipitation. In this study a 12-minute rainfall with a constant intensity of 5 mm/min was used to irrigate a corrupted soil sample. The experiment was undertaken for several different slopes, under the condition of no vegetation cover. The results of the rainfall simulation experiment complied with the expectations of a strong relationship between the slope gradient, and the amount of surface runoff generated. The experiments with higher slope gradients were characterised by larger volumes of surface runoff generated, and by shorter times after which it occurred. The experiments with rainfall simulators in both laboratory and field conditions play an important role in better understanding of runoff generation processes. The results of such small scale experiments could be used to estimate some of the parameters of complex hydrological models, which are used to model rainfall-runoff and erosion processes at catchment scale.
Keywords: calibration, infiltration, irrigated, physical properties, Rainfall Simulators, Surface Runoff Generated
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