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* Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, Assam, India.
** Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam, India.

Unsaturated soils with hydraulic properties such as water retention and hydraulic conductivity are considered to be the
most crucial parameters for modeling flow process in unsaturated soils. Experimental determination of unsaturated
hydraulic conductivity (ku) is a challenging task and it requires a costly and skilled experimentation. Therefore, the normal
practice is to estimate ku from water retention characteristics. Water Retention Characteristic (designated as WRC)
includes the development of a graphical relationship between suction and water content (gravimetric or volumetric).
This indicates that the accuracy of ku is very much dependent on the unambiguous determination of WRC. In this study, a
tensiometer and volumetric water content probe have been used to measure soil suction and volumetric water content,
respectively of a local sand by using two different measurement procedures. The ku of the soil has been estimated based
on the WRC obtained. The main purpose of this investigation is to understand the extent of influence of different WRC
measurement procedures on ku estimation. The study indicates that the measurement procedures have moderate
influence on uniqueness of WRC of Brahmaputra sand and hence the estimated ku.
Keywords: Sandy Soil, Soil Suction, Volumetric Water Content, Water Retention Characteristic, Unsaturated Soil Hydraulic
Conductivity, Measurement, Estimation.

been developed by a number of researchers (Mualem,

The Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity Curve (UHCC) of a

1986; Rawls et al., 1991) to determine soil hydraulic

soil is defined as the relationship between the hydraulic

conductivity by assuming that the soil follows a particular

conductivity (ku) and the soil suction (ψ) or volumetric

relationship between the ku and the ψ (Gardner, 1958;

water content (θ) (Gribb, Kodesova, & Ordway, 2004). To

Brooks & Corey, 1964) and (or) water content (Averjanov,

model the flow of water in an unsaturated soil, it is

1950; Campbell, 1973). However, the disadvantage of

necessary to define the relationship between the ku and ψ

this approach is that, it requires several measured

(Fredlund, Xing, & Huang, 1994). The UHCC is considered

permeability data to determine the parameters of the

to be the most vital parameter required when performing

permeability equation (Fredlund et. al, 1994). Moreover,

seepage analysis for unsaturated soil. The UHCC curve is

each empirical permeability equation is soil specific and

required in analyzing the triggering of landslides due to

based on a limited amount of data. Therefore, such

rainfall infiltration and the modeling of flow and volume

permeability equation cannot be applied directly to other

change in collapsing soils, compacted soils, and

soils without characterizing it (Zaradny, 1993).

expansive clays. It is also required when modeling

In such a situation, estimation procedures are generally

contaminant migration in vadose zone and in the design

used to predict ku using the Water Retention Characteristic

of capillary barriers and cover systems. Existing field and

(WRC) of soil (Fredlund et al., 1994). The WRC is a graphical

laboratory methods of determining the ku are either time

relationship between water content (gravimetric, w, or

consuming, tedious or other logical difficulties (Stephens,

volumetric water content, θ) and measured suction

1996). Therefore, empirical permeability equations have

(matric suction, ψm, or total suction, ψ). Estimation


i-manager’s Journal on Civil Engineering, Vol. 5 l
No. 4 l
September - November 2015