Non-linear hydraulic properties of woodchips necessary to design denitrification beds

Ehsan Ghane, Gary W. Feyereisen, Carl J. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Denitrification beds are being used to reduce the transport of water-soluble nitrate via subsurface drainage systems to surface water. Only recently has the non-linearity of water flow through woodchips been ascertained. To successfully design and model denitrification beds with optimum nitrate removal, a better understanding of flow in denitrification beds is needed. The main objectives of this study were to characterize the hydraulic properties of old degraded woodchips and provide a better understanding of the factors affecting flow. To achieve this goal, we conducted constant-head column experiments using old woodchips that were excavated from a four-year old denitrification bed near Willmar, Minnesota, USA. For Izbash's equation, the non-Darcy exponent (n) ranged from 0.76 to 0.87 that indicates post-linear regime, and the permeability coefficient (M10) at 10°C ranged from 0.9 to 2.6 cm s−1. For Forchheimer's equation, the intrinsic permeability of 5.6 × 10−5 cm2 and ω constant of 0.40 (at drainable porosity of 0.41) closely resembled the in-situ properties found in a previous study. Forchheimer's equation was better than that of Izbash's for describing water flow through old woodchips, and the coefficients of the former provided stronger correlations with drainable porosity. The strong correlation between intrinsic permeability and drainable porosity showed that woodchip compaction is an important factor affecting water flow through woodchips. Furthermore, we demonstrated the importance of temperature effects on woodchip hydraulics. In conclusion, the hydraulic properties of old woodchips should be characterized using a non-Darcy equation to help design efficient systems with optimum nitrate removal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-473
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding of this research was provided in part by Minnesota Discovery, Research and Innovation Economy; Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council; Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council; Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, and Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council. The funding sources were not involved in the study design, collection, analysis, interpretation of data, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Denitrifying bioreactor
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Hydraulic retention time
  • Temperature
  • Tile drainage
  • Woodchip bioreactor

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