Ag Data Commons
Browse (761.93 kB)

Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho (Lysimeter)

Download (761.93 kB)
posted on 2024-02-13, 14:00 authored by Mark Seyfried

Lysimeters are instruments that measure water and/or solute movement in soils. The primary purpose for these lysimeters was to measure evapotranspiration (ET); these data describe changes in soil water during the snow-free season. In addition to measuring changes in total soil water, soil water content profiles and soil temperature profiles were measured within or adjacent to the lysimeters and are reported. Two pairs of soil lysimeters were installed in the RCEW in 1967, one pair at the Lower Sheep Creek climate station (designated the east and west lysimeters), separated, center to center, by 3.6 m, and the other pair at the Reynolds Mountain climate station (designated north and south), separated by 4.7 m. These lysimeters were hydraulic weighing lysimeters in which an inner cylindrical tank containing soil is set within a slightly larger outer cylinder. The inner cylinder rests on a coil of 0.05 m diameter butyl tubing filled with liquid (different low-freezing point liquids were used). The inner cylinder was 1.22 m deep and 1.47 m in diameter. The butyl tubing was hydraulically connected underground to a pressure transducer or manometer. The soil in each lysimeter was extracted from near the lysimeter sites. A soil core was taken by repeatedly excavating a soil cylinder of slightly larger diameter than the lysimeter and forcing the lysimeter sleeve over the soil to the depth of the sleeve (1.22 m). A metal plate was then forced across the cylinder bottom and welded to it in place. The inner cylinder, thus filled with soil, was then transported to the previously excavated outer cylinder via crane and set on the butyl tubing. A neutron probe access tube was installed in the center of each lysimeter to monitor soil water content changes with depth, and two 1.2 m ceramic suction "candles" were placed at the bottom of the lysimeters through a separate entrance. This operation resulted in an undisturbed soil monolith with extant vegetation in place. This is critical for two reasons: (1) Growing native vegetation under natural conditions is problematic in this environment, and plant development is slow. (2) The soil horizonation, particularly the argillic and calcic horizons which are both strongly embedded in coarse fragments, would be essentially impossible to reproduce artificially.

Resources in this dataset:

  • Resource Title: Soil Moisture.

    File Name:

    Resource Description: Data for Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho (Lysimeter)




Data contact name

Seyfried, Mark

Data contact email


USDA Agricultural Research Service

Intended use

These data can be used to compare the ET regimes for different environments in the RCEW or for testing and/or parameterization of rangeland ET models. Estimation of ET on rangelands is complicated because a significant bare ground component is present (often 50%), ET is routinely limited by soil water availability, and numerous plant species are present at a given site. This is further complicated within the RCEW by the high degree of spatial variability introduced by the wide range of climate and soil conditions in relatively short distances.

Use limitations

Although the lysimeters became operational in 1968, there were a number of problems associated with the measurement instrumentation, and consistent digital data are not available until 1976 at Lower Sheep Creek and 1979 at Reynolds Mountain. Data collected through 1984 are daily or monthly values. Hourly data are reported from January 1 of 1985 through 1991. Despite excellent calibration statistics for all four lysimeters, comparison of the paired lysimeters often reveals considerable differences. Additionally, the lysimeter data are difficult to interpret during times when there was significant snow cover. Data obtained during those times tend to be more variable than other times. Lightening strikes in 1992 interrupted data collection, and the systems were discontinued.

Temporal Extent Start Date


Temporal Extent End Date



  • Not specified

Geographic Coverage


ISO Topic Category

  • environment
  • farming

Ag Data Commons Group

  • Great Basin
  • Long-Term Agroecosystem Research

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

lysimeters; solutes; evapotranspiration; soil water; soil water content; soil temperature; temperature profiles; streams; climate; liquids; neutron probes; ceramics; vegetation; indigenous species; plant development

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

ARS National Program Number

  • 211
  • 215

Primary article PubAg Handle

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Seyfried, Mark (2021). Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho (Lysimeter). USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager