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Assessing the movement of water through soil

Estimating the rate of percolation

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To find out whether water moves through soil slowly in all layers of the soil or only in the uppermost layers, you can dig a pit to examine the soil's subsurface layers. This may involve using such hand tools as a post-hole digger, auger, or shovel. If the soil is rocky or if a large or deep hole is needed, hiring a backhoe operator to dig the pit for you may be a good option.

For details on how to conduct such an investigation, consult the Soil Quality Test Kit Guide, by USDA–NRCS, available on the Web at

Once you've prepared a pit and finished logging the soils exposed in it, you can measure relative differences in the rates of movement of water at different elevations (different depths). You can then identify where rates are relatively slow. Consider, for example, installing a pair of infiltrometers, one at the surface and near the soil test pit, and the other at the bottom of the pit. By comparing the results from the two locations, you can measure the relative differences in the rate of water movement.

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