The portable surface capacitance insertion probe was used to measure the in situ water content of near surface soil layers. The probe readings were calibrated against gravimetric samples collected over a wide range of water contents, and were found to be very closely correlated. The capacitance probe was used repeatedly in time and space at a field site where ridges and furrows ensured a regular pattern of soil water variations. The observed spatial variations of the water content were related to topography and land mangement. The degree of variability was dependent on the average water content.