Suitability of parametric models to describe the hydraulic properties of an unsaturated coarse sand and gravel

Groundwater
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Abstract

The performance of parametric models used to describe soil water retention (SWR) properties and predict unsaturated hydraulic conductivity (K) as a function of volumetric water content (θ) is examined using SWR and K(θ) data for coarse sand and gravel sediments. Six 70 cm long, 10 cm diameter cores of glacial outwash were instrumented at eight depths with porous cup ten-siometers and time domain reflectometry probes to measure soil water pressure head (h) and θ, respectively, for seven unsaturated and one saturated steady-state flow conditions. Forty-two θ(h) and K(θ) relationships were measured from the infiltration tests on the cores. Of the four SWR models compared in the analysis, the van Genuchten (1980) equation with parameters m and n restricted according to the Mualem (m = 1 - 1/n) criterion is best suited to describe the θ(h) relationships. The accuracy of two models that predict K(θ) using parameter values derived from the SWR models was also evaluated. The model developed by van Genuchten (1980) based on the theoretical expression of Mualem (1976) predicted K(θ) more accurately than the van Genuchten (1980) model based on the theory of Burdine (1953). A sensitivity analysis shows that more accurate predictions of K(θ) are achieved using SWR model parameters derived with residual water content (θr) specified according to independent measurements of θ at values of h where θ/h ∼ 0 rather than model-fit θr values. The accuracy of the model K(θ) function improves markedly when at least one value of unsaturated K is used to scale the K(θ) function predicted using the saturated K. The results of this investigation indicate that the hydraulic properties of coarse-grained sediments can be accurately described using the parametric models. In addition, data collection efforts should focus on measuring at least one value of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and as complete a set of SWR data as possible, particularly in the dry range.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Suitability of parametric models to describe the hydraulic properties of an unsaturated coarse sand and gravel
Series title Groundwater
DOI 10.1111/j.1745-6584.1998.tb02818.x
Volume 36
Issue 3
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 11 p.
First page 465
Last page 475