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The specific yield of a rock or soil, with respect to water, is the ratio of (1) the volume of water which, after being saturated, it will yield by gravity to (2) its own volume. Specific retention represents the water retained against gravity drainage. The specific yield and retention when added together are equal to the total interconnected porosity of the rock or soil. Because specific retention is more easily determined than specific yield, most methods for obtaining yield first require the determination of specific retention. Recognizing the great need for developing improved methods of determining the specific yield of water-bearing materials, the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Department of Water Resources initiated a cooperative investigation of this subject. The major objectives of this research are (1) to review pertinent literature on specific yield and related subjects, (2) to increase basic knowledge of specific yield and rate of drainage and to determine the most practical methods of obtaining them, (3) to compare and to attempt to correlate the principal laboratory and field methods now commonly used to obtain specific yield, and (4) to obtain improved estimates of specific yield of water-bearing deposits in California. An open-file report, 'Specific yield of porous media, an annotated bibliography,' by A. I. Johnson, D. A. Morris, and R. C. Prill, was released in 1960 in partial fulfillment of the first objective. This report describes the second phase of the specific-yield study by the U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Laboratory at Denver, Colo. Laboratory research on column drainage and centrifuge moisture equivalent, two methods for estimating specific retention of porous media, is summarized. In the column-drainage study, a wide variety of materials was packed into plastic columns of 1- to 8-inch diameter, wetted with Denver tap water, and drained under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. The effects of cleaning the porous media; of different column diameters; of dye and time on drainage; and of different methods of drainage, wetting, and packing were all determined. To insure repeatability of porosity in duplicate columns, a mechanical technique of packing was developed.
In the centrifuge moisture-content study, the centrifuge moisture-equivalent (the moisture content retained by a soil that has been first saturated and then subjected to a force equal to 1,000 times the force of gravity for 1 hour) test was first reviewed and evaluated. It was determined that for reproducible moisture-retention results the temperature and humidity should be controlled by use of a controlled-temperature centrifuge. In addition to refining this standard test, the study determined the effect of length of period of centrifuging and of applied tension on the drainage results.
The plans for future work require the continuation of the laboratory standardization study qith emphasis on investigation of soil-moisture tension and unsaturated-permeability techniques. A detailed study in the field then will be followed by correlation and evaluation of laboratory and field methods.
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USGS Numbered Series
Specific Yield--Column drainage and centrifuge moisture content