The increasing use of ground water from many major aquifers in the United States has required a more thorough understanding of gravity drainage, or specific yield. This report describes one phase of specific yield research by the U.S. Geological Survey's Hydrologic Laboratory in cooperation with the California Department of Water Resources.
An earlier phase of the research concentrated on the final distribution of moisture retained after drainage of saturated columns of porous media. This report presents the phase that concentrated on the distribution of moisture retained in similar columns after drainage for various periods of time. Five columns, about 4 cm in diameter by 170 cm long, were packed with homogenous sand of very fine, medium, and coarse sizes, and one column was packed with alternating layers of coarse and medium sand. The very fine materials were more uniform in size range than were the medium materials. As the saturated columns drained, tensiometers installed throughout the length recorded changes in moisture tension. The relation of tension to moisture content, determined for each of the materials, was then used to convert the tension readings to moisture content. Data were then available on the distribution of retained moisture for different periods of drainage from 1 to 148 hours. Data also are presented on the final distribution of moisture content by weight and volume and on the degree of saturation.
The final zone of capillary saturation was approximately 12 cm for coarse sand, 13 cm for medium sand, and 52 cm for very fine sand. The data showed these zones were 92 to 100 percent saturated.
Most of the outflow from the columns occurred in the earlier hours of drainage--90 percent in 1 hour for the coarse materials, 50 percent for the medium, and 60 percent for the very fine. Although the largest percentage of the specific yield was reached during the early hours of .drainage, this study amply demonstrates that a very long time would be required to reach drainage equilibrium. In the layered columns the middle (medium sand) layer functioned as a hanging water column accelerating the drainage of the overlying coarse-sand layer. After the middle layer started to drain, the moisture distribution as retained in all three layers showed trends similar to that obtained when the same materials were tested in homogenous columns.
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USGS Numbered Series
Specific yield - laboratory experiments showing the effect of time on column drainage