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The analysis of two dimensional flow through a saturated soil mass involves determination of
quantity of seepage and distribution of seepage pressure and can be done with the methods
based on Laplace.
Laplaces equation governs the flow of an incompressible fluid, through an incompressible
homogeneous soil medium. Combining continuity equation and Darcys equations

For the case of isotropic soil the permeability coefficient is independent of direction (kx=ky=k)

The general solution of the Laplaces equation yields two sets of curves orthogonal to each
other namely Flow lines and Equipotential lines.
Flow lines and Equipotential lines together constitute a flow net.
A Flow line represents the path traced by an individual particle.
An equipotential line is a contour or line joining points of equal potential or head.

The space between any two adjacent flow lines is called flow channel.
The space enclosed between two adjacent flow lines and two successive equipotential lines is
called a field.

Properties of flow net:

1. Flow lines and equipotential lines cut each other at right angles, that is, they are
mutually orthogonal.
2. Each field is an approximate square and in a well constructed flow net one should be
able to draw a circle in a field touching all the four sides.
3. In a homogeneous soil, every transition in the shape of two types of curves will be
smooth, being either elliptical or parabolic in shape.
4. The rate of flow through each flow channel is same.
5. The same potential drop occurs between two successive equipotential lines.
6. Flow cannot occur across flow lines.

Applications of flow net:

A flow net can be used to determine:
1. Quantity of seepage
2. Seepage pressure at a point
3. Hydrostatic pressure at a point
4. Exit gradient

1. Upstream bed level GDAK represents 100% potential line and the downstream bed
level MCFJ represents 0% potential line.
2. KLM-First flow line and NP-Last flow line.
3. Draw a trial flow line ABC, right angle to upstream and downstream beds.
4. Starting from the upstream end, divide the first flow channel between the boundary
flow line KLM and the trial flow line ABC into approximate square flow fields by
drawing equipotential lines starting from the boundary flow line.
5. Extend downward the equipotential lines forming the sides of the squares.
6. The next flow line DEF is then drawn cutting the extensions of the equipotential lines
in such a way that a second flow channel is subdivided in to approximate square
7. The equipotential lines are further extended downwards and one more flow line GHJ
is drawn.
8. The flow net is thus extended keeping in view that all intersections of the flow lines
and equipotential lines are at 90 degrees.


Exit gradient is usually considered as a measure of the effect of the piping phenomenon. Piping
occurs if the exit hydraulic gradient at the downstream point approaches the critical hydraulic
The exit gradient is said to be critical when the upward disturbing force on the grain is just
equal to the submerged weight of the grain at the exit.