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4

Water Removal and Wellpointing

4.1

SUMPS

Whenever excavation is taken into the water table, groundwater will enter
the excavation. Water can also enter the excavation from precipitation and
surface runoff.
Water removal is much simpler when the bottom of the excavation is
above the surface of the ground water (the phreatic line). Surface runoff
water which accumulates in a pool within the excavation can be removed by
pumping from a sump. Sumps are made at a low area in the excavation by
burying a container (such as a 55 gallon drum) with its upper rim level with
or just below ground surface. As water accumulates in the drum, it is
pumped away from the site.
Sumps may not be adequate to handle both precipitation and surface
runoff. Precipitation, of course, cannot be prevented from falling into an
excavation, so even if the surface runoff is diverted, one or more small
sumps may still be needed.
4.2

DRAINAGE DITCHES

Surface runoff may be kept out of an excavated area by a system of ditches.


The shape of the cross-section of the ditch is not important as long as the

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

sides are stable. Ditches should be lined when placed in soils which can
slough off as water ows through. Geotextiles may be used for this purpose.
In lieu of a lining, the ditch may be lled with a narrowly grade gravel or
crushed stone. In addition, porous pipe may be placed in the ditch to
increase its ow capacity.
Ditches must be designed and constructed with sufcient carrying
capacity for the anticipated runoff ow. Local contractors experience may
be the best source of design data. If needed, porous pipe capacities may be
obtained from the manufacturer, and the amount of water a gravel-lled
ditch can carry may be estimated as illustrated in the example which follows:
A trapezoidal ditch averaging 18 inches wide and 18 inches deep has been
placed on a 2% slope, and lled with narrowly graded gravel. How much water
can the ditch carry without overowing?
Darcys Law can be used:
Q kiA
The value of k must be assumed. Many empirical charts list values for gravel
ranging from 1 to 10 cm/sec. Use an intermediate value of 5. Then
Q 50:02182:542 209 cm2 =sec 3:3 gpm:
The discharge from a ditch is small, as the example indicates. It may be
increased by increasing its cross section and/or slope. The increase gained by
either alternative is linear, but the cost increase is more than linear.
Increasing the slope results in progressively deeper ditches, so a system of
ditches will generally consist of relatively short segments, each emptying into
a sump. This avoids excess digging as well as the undesirable possibility of
the ditch going into the water table.
In the preceding example, the capacity will obviously vary directly
with the assumed value of k. The difference between choosing values at the
lower or upper range of gravel permeability could well be the difference
between an acceptable or unacceptable design.
Sumps and ditches placed to divert or remove surface water are
generally referred to as drainage facilities. The various processes used to
remove water from below the water table (which may sometimes include
sumps and ditches), are referred to as dewatering. Knowing the actual value
of k is of major importance in all dewatering applications (and also in
grouting applications, as covered in later chapters). Field tests to determine
k are generally done after a job has been contracted, and prior to the start of
eld work. For preliminary estimates, many empirical relationships can be
found in texts and technical publications. Some of these are shown in
Figure 4.1 and Table 4.1. Permeability values from laboratory tests are also

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.1 Empirical relationships among grain size, uniformity coefcient,


and permeability.

TABLE 4.1 Degree of Permeability


Descriptive term
High
Medium
Low
Very low
Impermeable

k, cm/sec
1

10
101
103
105
107

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and over
to 103
to 105
to 107
and less

Soils
Gravel and coarse sand
Medium and ne sand
Very ne sand
Silts
Clays

used, but represent for granular materials a value somewhere between the
vertical and horizontal permeabilities. For most dewatering methods, it is
the horizontal value that is critical. Permeability values most appropriate for
eld work can be obtained from pumping tests.

4.3

WELLPOINTS

When water is withdrawn from a point below the groundwater surface, a


concavity is formed in that surface above the withdrawal point. Generally,
this concavity will reach down to the withdrawal point. The initial and nal
elevations of groundwater in the vicinity of the withdrawal point are shown
in Figure 4.2. The radius R is related to the pumping and recharging rates
and represents an equilibrium between these two factors. If the pumping
rate is increased, the distance R will increase by an amount m, and an
additional volume of soil (represented by the shaded area) will become dry.
Because the drawdown is linear and the soil volume is a cubic function,
continued increase in pumping rate from one withdrawal point soon
becomes an inefcient process. Because the rate of groundwater slope
change is greatest near the well, efciency is obtained for eld work by using
a number of closely spaced points of withdrawal. Pumping tests done on site
use only one withdrawal point, and may show somewhat different discharge
volumes than will be achieved with the individual points of a eld
installation. Such tests do, however, give reliable values of permeability.

FIGURE 4.2 Drawdown from a well or well point.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pumping tests are done in many ways and under many different
conditions of soil stratication and water table location. Details of eld
pumping tests to determine permeability are given in Chapter 15.
The use of wells for dewatering goes back at least to an 1838 record at
a job in England where pumping was done from large shafts to lower the
local water table and permit tunnel construction to proceed under dry
conditions. Wellpointing developed from this early beginning with a big
technological spurt some sixty years ago. The large shafts of early usage
have reduced to screens and slotted pipe ranging from two to 12 inches in
diameter. These wellpoints are placed by jetting, whenever soil conditions
make this practical. In augured or drilled holes, the annular space between
the wellpoint and the walls of the hole are lled with lter sand specically
graded to reduce clogging, yet permit free ow of groundwater to the
wellpoint. Groups of wellpoints are connected to an aboveground pipe
called a header, which leads to a pump, as in Figure 4.3.
When pumping equipment is at the surface, the depth of wells and
wellpoints that can be pumped is limited to the lift supplied by air pressure.
In practice, because of equipment inefciencies, gravity lifts seldom go
above 15 feet. The use of a single stage system is shown in Figure 4.3.

FIGURE 4.3 Well points and header. (Mooney, W.G., Ground Water
Control, Civil Engineering, ASCE, March, 1963, pp 123129. Reproduced
by permission of ASCE, Reston, VA.)

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.4 Multiple stage well point system.

Dewatering to depths below those for which gravity lift is adequate can be
done with multi-stage systems, as illustrated in Figure 4.4.
Spacing of wellpoints varies with local conditions, principally with the
grading and stratication of the soil prole. Charts such as shown in
Figure 4.5 are useful to practitioners in the preliminary design of a wellpoint
system.

4.4

DEEP WELLS

In construction practice, wellpointing systems are widely used for


dewatering large areas to shallow depths. Multiple stages can be used
when the required dewatering depth exceeds pump suction lift. When site
restrictions of other considerations rule against the use of multiple stages,
and the need for deeper dewatering remains, deep wells are generally used.
The major operating difference between wellpoints and deep wells is that the
pumping system is placed at the bottom of the hole in wells, rather than at
the top of the hole for wellpoints. Thus, the effective operating depth of a
deep well is a function of its discharge pressure, rather than its suction
capacity.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.5 Approximate data for well point system design.

Deep well construction is more complex than simple wellpoint


construction, because of the necessity to provide power and communication
to the pump as well as a discharge pipe. Well diameters are larger to
accommodate the pump, and parts or all of the hole may need casing. A
screen and lter are needed around the pump, and lter design is critical
because of the high discharge capacity of the pump.
The pumps used at the bottom of the well are referred to as
submersibles, and are specially designed for this specic use. An alternate
method of removing water from a deep hole is called an eductor or ejector
system, illustrated in Figure 4.6, which uses supply water forced through a
venturi to pull groundwater to the surface. Dewatering in the eld, even for
small projects beyond the scope of sumps and drainage ditches, is generally
done by a specialty contractor.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.6 Eductor system. (Powers, J.P., Construction Dewatering, p


321, John Wiley and Sons, 1981, NY. This material is used by permission of
John Wiley and Sons.)

The grain size limitations for various dewatering systems are shown in
Figure 4.7. A checklist for selection of drainage methods appears in
Table 4.2.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TABLE 4.2

Checklist for Selection of Predrainage Methods


Wellpoint
systems

Conditions
Soil
Silty and clayey
sands
Clean sands and
gravels
Stratied soils
Clay or rock at
subgrade
Hydrology
High
permeability
Low
permeability
Proximate
recharge
Remote
recharge
Schedule
Rapid
drawdown
required
Slow drawdown
permissible
Excavation
Shallow (<20 ft)
Deep (>20 ft)
Cramped
Characteristics
Normal spacing
Normal Range
of Capacity
Per unit
Total system
Efciency with
accurate
design

Suction wells

Deep wells

Ejector systems

Good

Poor

Poor to fair

Good

Good

Good

Good

Poor

Good
Fair to good

Poor
Poor

Poor to fair
Poor

Good
Fair to good

Good

Good

Good

Poor

Good

Poor

Poor to fair

Good

Good

Poor

Poor

Fair to good

Good

Good

Good

Good

OK

OK

Unsatisfactory

OK

OK

OK

OK

OK

OK
Multiple stages
required
Interferences

OK
Multiple stages
required
Interferences

OK
OK

OK
OK

OK

OK

2040 ft (612 m)

>50 ft (15 m)

1020 ft (36 m)

50400 gpm
2000
25,000 gpm
Good

253000 gpm
20060,000 gpm

0.140 gpm
Low1000 gpm

Fair

Poor

510 ft (1.5
3 m)

0.125 gpm
Low5000 gpm
Good

Source: Powers, P.J., Construction Dewatering, p. 238, John Wiley and Sons, 1981,
NY. This material is used by permission of John Wiley and Sons.

4.5

ELECTRO-OSMOSIS

Dewatering methods are limited to grain size ranges, as shown in Figure 4.7.
The nest treatment zone is labeled electro-osmosis. The electro-osmotic

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.7

Grain size limitations of various dewatering methods.

principle was demonstrated by Casagrande in the 1930s, and has been used
in the eld since then to dewater and stabilize clayey deposits. The accepted
theory of behavior starts with the fact that soil particles typically have a
negative surface charge. To balance this charge, cations in the pore water
migrate to the soil particles. When an electric current is imposed on the soil
mass through implanted electrodes, the cations migrate to the cathode, a
hollow pipe or tube, carrying most of the pore water with them.
Electro-osmotic ow rate is not a function of pore size, but is directly
related to the applied electrical charge. Power requirements are as high as
100 volts and 40 amperes. Typical ow volume is of the order of several
gallons per hour.
As the cations migrate toward the cathode, anions will migrate toward
the anode. Both movements are currently being used to eliminate hazardous
wastes.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FIGURE 4.8 Wellpoint system in operation.

4.6

SUMMARY

Surface and groundwater become problems at a construction site when


interference and delay result in costs which exceed the cost of water removal.
Sumps and drainage ditches, if adequate for the water volume involved, are
generally constructed by the on-site contractor. When more complex
measures are needed, such as wellpoint systems and/or deep wells, the total
water removal problem is handled by specialty contractors.
Wellpoints and wells are temporary systems, in that they must operate
continuously to maintain the lowered phreatic line. A competently designed
and properly functioning system can provide totally dry working condition
over large areas, as seen in Figure 4.8.

4.7

REFERENCES

1. Powers, Patrick, Construction Dewatering, 1981, John Wiley & Sons, NY.
2. Lux, Frederick, R.M. Rudolph, and R.K. Frithiof, Taking in the River, Civil
Engineering, pp 5254, July 1997, NY.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

3. Ward, W.H. The Use of Simple Relief Wells in Reducing Water Pressure A
Trench Excavation. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Geotechnical Engineering 119, pp 231236, October 1996.

Internet
http://www.gvi.net/soils/May.1995/nt-lasag.htm
http://www.usace.army.mil/inet/usace-docs/armytm5-818-5/chap5.pdf
4.8

PROBLEMS

4.1

A rectangular-shaped drainage ditch two feet wide and three feet deep,
placed on a three percent slope, and lled with half-inch crushed stone,
can carry how much water?
A boring log describes a granular stratum as well graded, medium
dense, medium sand, little silt. Estimate the permeability.
What other methods can be used to determine the permeability of a
eld deposit? What procedure is the most reliable?

4.2
4.3

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.