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Geostatic Stresses, Pore Water

Pressure and Effective Stresses

Dr. Tushara Chaminda

Department of Civil and

Environmental Engineering,
Faculty of Engineering,
Uni. of Ruhuna

Geostatic Stress :
is the stress acting at a point in a soil mass with
a horizontal top surface. The total stress is
computed as the total weight of a column of unit
area above the point.

v z

Ground Surface

unit weight of soil () is

constant throughout the
depth (z)

Unit area

If the soil is stratified (layered soil) and the unit

weight is different for each stratum, then the
vertical stress can conveniently be computed
by means of summation

v i zi
i 1


Pore Water Pressure

Hydrostatic or geostatic pore water pressure is
the pore water pressure in soil due to geologic

Excess pore water pressure is the pore water

pressure that results when soil is loaded.
Back pressure is the pore water pressure
applied directly to soil specimens during
laboratory testing.

Effective Stress
Effective soil stress is not the actual stress
acting at the areas of contact between soil
Effective soil stress corresponds to the stress
transmitted through the soil mineral skeleton.

Karl von Terzaghi (1883 -1963):

An Austrian civil engineer and
geologist, called the father of soil
He started modern soil mechanics
with his theories of consolidation,
lateral earth pressures, bearing
capacity, and stability

Effective soil stress is a stress state variable that is

useful to characterize behavior occurring in saturated
soils including volume change, permeability and shear
The difference between total stress () and the pore
water pressure (u) is equal to the effective stress ( ).


Consolidation of Saturated Soil

When saturated soils are loaded, they
develop excess pore water pressures that
dissipate over time.
As water flows from the soil the excess pore
water pressures dissipate resulting in
This process is referred to as primary

Compaction means
the removal of
air-filled porosity.

Consolidation means
the removal of
water-filled porosity.

Vertical stress distribution:

If the water table is below the depth z;

Where, v = max vertical stress (total vertical stress)

V z



' z sub

u w z

v z sat z sub z w

Example 1:
A soil profile is shown below. Calculate Total Stress, Pore water Pressure and
Effective stress at A, B, C and D.



Dry Sand, dry = 16.5 KN/m3



Ground Water Table

Clay, sat = 19.25 KN/m3

Impermeable layer

Example 2:
A layer of saturated clay 4 m thick is overlain by sand 5 m deep, the water table being
3 m below the surface. The saturated unit weights of the clay and sand are 19 and 20
kN/m3 respectively; above the water table the unit weight of the sand is 17 kN/m3. Plot
the values of total vertical stress and effective vertical stress against depth. If sand to a
height of 1 m above the water table is saturated with capillary water, how are the
above stresses affected?