# Darcy¶s

Law and Flow
Philip B. Bedient
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Rice University
Darcy allows an estimate of:
 the velocity or flow rate moving within the aquifer
 the average time of travel from the head of the
aquifer to a point located downstream
Darcy¶s Law
 Darcy¶s law provides an
accurate description of the flow
of ground water in almost all
hydrogeologic environments.
Flow in Aquifers
Darcy¶s Experiment (1856):
Flow rate determined by Head loss dh = h
1
- h
2
Darcy¶s Law
 Henri Darcy established empirically that the
flux of water through a permeable formation
is proportional to the distance between top
and bottom of the soil column.
 The constant of proportionality is called the
hydraulic conductivity (K).
 V = Q/A, V e ± ¨h, and V e 1/¨L
Darcy¶s Law
V = ± K (¨h/¨L)
and since
Q = VA (A = total area)
Q = ± KA (dh/dL)
Hydraulic Conductivity
 K represents a measure of the ability for flow
through porous media:
 Gravels - 0.1 to 1 cm/sec
 Sands - 10
-2
to 10
-3
cm/sec
 Silts - 10
-4
to 10
-5
cm/sec
 Clays - 10
-7
to 10
-9
cm/sec
Conditions
 Darcy¶s Law holds for:
1. Saturated flow and unsaturated flow
3. Flow in aquifers and aquitards
4. Flow in homogeneous and
heterogeneous systems
5. Flow in isotropic or anisotropic media
6. Flow in rocks and granular media
Darcy Velocity
 V is the specific discharge (Darcy velocity).
 (±) indicates that V occurs in the direction of
 Specific discharge has units of velocity.
 The specific discharge is a macroscopic
concept, and is easily measured. It should be
noted that Darcy¶s velocity is different «.
Darcy Velocity
 ...from the microscopic velocities
associated with the actual paths if
individual particles of water as they wind
their way through the grains of sand.
 The microscopic velocities are real, but
are probably impossible to measure.
Darcy & Seepage Velocity
 Darcy velocity is a fictitious velocity
since it assumes that flow occurs across
the entire cross-section of the soil
sample. Flow actually takes place only
through interconnected pore channels.
A = total area
A
v
voids
Darcy & Seepage Velocity
 From the Continuity Eqn:
 Q = A v
D
= A
V
V
s
± Where:
Q = flow rate
A = total cross-sectional area of
material
A
V
= area of voids
V
s
= seepage velocity
V
D
= Darcy velocity
Darcy & Seepage Velocity
 Therefore: V
S
= V
D
( A/A
V
)
 Multiplying both sides by the length of the
medium (L)
V
S
= V
D
( AL / A
V
L ) = V
D
( V
T
/ V
V
)
 Where:
V
T
= total volume
V
V
= void volume
 By Definition, V
v
/ V
T
= n, the soil porosity
 Thus V
S
= V
D
/ n
Equations of Groundwater Flow
 Description of ground water flow is based on:
Darcy¶s Law
Continuity Equation - describes
conservation of fluid mass
during flow through a porous
medium; results in a partial
differential equation of flow.
 Laplace¶s Eqn - most important in math
Derivation of 3-D GW Flow
Equation from Darcy¶s Law

¯
¯x
¡V
x
´ )

¯
¯y
¡V
y
´ )

¯
¯z
¡V
z
´ )
= 0
Mass In - Mass Out = Change in Storage

V
x
+
¯
¯x
V
x
´ )

VV
x
z
y
Derivation of 3-D GW Flow
Equation from Darcy¶s Law

¯
¯x
¡K
x
¯h
¯x

'

+
'
¦
¯
¯y
¡K
y
¯h
¯y

'

+
'
¦
¯
¯z
¡K
z
¯h
¯z

'

+
'
¦
= 0
Replace V
x
, V
y
, and V
z
with Darcy using
x
,
y
, and
z
Divide out constant V, and assume K
x
= K
y
= K
z
= K

x
2
h
xx
2

x
2
h
xy
2

x
2
h
xz
2
= 0
\
2
h = 0 called Laplace Eqn.
Transient Saturated Flow

¯
¯x
K
x
xh
xx

'

+
'
¦
+
x
xy
K
y
xh
xy

'

+
'
¦
+
x
xz
K
z
xh
xz

'

+
'
¦
S
s
xh
xt

¯
¯x
¡V
x
´ )

¯
¯y
¡V
y
´ )

¯
¯z
¡V
z
´ )
=
¯
¯t
¡n
´ )
A change in h will produce change in V and n, replaced
with specific storage S
s
= Vg(E + n&). Note, E is
the compressibility of aquifer and B is comp of water,
therefore,
Solutions to GW Flow Eqns.

x
2
h
xx
2

x
2
h
xy
2

x
2
h
xz
2
= 0
\
2
h = 0 called Laplace Eqn.
Solutions for only a few simple problems can be
obtained directly - generally need to apply numerical
methods to address complex boundary conditions.
h
0
h
1
Transient Saturated Flow

¯
¯x
xh
xx

'

+
'
¦

x
xy
xh
xy

'

+
'
¦

x
xz
xh
xz

'

+
'
¦
=
S
s
K
xh
xt
Simplifying by assuming K = constant in all dimensions
And assuming that S = S
s
b, and that T = Kb yields

x
2
h
xx
2
+
x
2
h
xy
2
+
x
2
h
xz
2
!
S
s
K
xh
xt

2
h !
S
T
xh
xt
from Jacob, Theis
Simplifying by assuming K = constant in all dimensions
and assuming that Transmissivity T = Kb and
Q = flow rate to well at point (x,y) yields

2
h
xx
2

x
2
h
xy
2
=
Q x, y

T
Example of Darcy¶s Law
 A confined aquifer has a source of recharge.
 K for the aquifer is 50 m/day, and n is 0.2.
 The piezometric head in two wells 1000 m
apart is 55 m and 50 m respectively, from a
common datum.
 The average thickness of the aquifer is 30
m, and the average width of aquifer is 5 km.
Compute:
 a) the rate of flow through the aquifer
 (b) the average time of travel from the head of the
aquifer to a point 4 km downstream
 *assume no dispersion or diffusion
The solution
 Cross-Sectional area=
30(5)(1000) = 15 x 10
4
m
2
(55-50)/1000 = 5 x 10
-3
 Rate of Flow for K = 50 m/day
Q = (50 m/day) (75 x 10
1
m
2
)
= 37,500 m
3
/day
 Darcy Velocity:
V = Q/A = (37,500m
3
/day) / (15
x 10
4
m
2
) = 0.25m/day
And
 Seepage Velocity:
V
s
= V/n = (0.25) / (0.2) =
 Time to travel 4 km downstream:
T = 4(1000m) / (1.25m/day) =
3200 days or 8.77 years
 This example shows that water moves
very slowly underground.
Limitations of the
Darcian Approach
1. For Reynold¶s Number, Re, > 10 or where the flow
is turbulent, as in the immediate vicinity of pumped
wells.
2. Where water flows through extremely fine-grained
materials (colloidal clay)
Darcy¶s Law:
Example 2
 A channel runs almost parallel to a river, and they
are 2000 ft apart.
 The water level in the river is at an elevation of 120
ft and 110ft in the channel.
 A pervious formation averaging 30 ft thick and with
K of 0.25 ft/hr joins them.
 Determine the rate of seepage or flow from the
river to the channel.
Confined Aquifer
Confining ayer
Aquifer
30 ft
Example 2
 Consider a 1-ft length of river (and channel).
Q = KA [(h
1
± h
2
) / L]
 Where:
A = (30 x 1) = 30 ft
2
K = (0.25 ft/hr) (24 hr/day) = 6 ft/day
 Therefore,
Q = [6 (30) (120 ± 110)] / 2000
= 0.9 ft
3
/day/ft length = 0.9 ft
2
/day
Permeameters
 Apply Darcy¶s Law to find K:
V/t = Q = KA(h/L)
or:
K = (VL) / (Ath)
 Where:
V = volume flowing in time t
A = cross-sectional area of the sample
L = length of sample
 t = time of flow

Darcy allows an estimate of:
 the velocity or flow rate moving within the aquifer  the average time of travel from the head of the aquifer to a point located downstream

Darcy¶s Law
 Darcy¶s law provides an accurate description of the flow of ground water in almost all hydrogeologic environments.

Flow in Aquifers .

h2 .Darcy¶s Experiment (1856): Flow rate determined by Head loss dh = h1 .

 V = Q/A. V E ± ¨h.  The constant of proportionality is called the hydraulic conductivity (K). and V E 1/¨L .Darcy¶s Law  Henri Darcy established empirically that the flux of water through a permeable formation is proportional to the distance between top and bottom of the soil column.

Darcy¶s Law V = ± K (¨h/¨L) and since Q = VA (A = total area) Q = ± KA (dh/dL) .

Hydraulic Conductivity  K represents a measure of the ability for flow through porous media:  Gravels  Sands  Silts  Clays 0.1 to 1 cm/sec 10-2 to 10-3 cm/sec 10-4 to 10-5 cm/sec 10-7 to 10-9 cm/sec .

Flow in rocks and granular media . 2. Flow in isotropic or anisotropic media 6.Conditions  Darcy¶s Law holds for: 1. 3. 4. Saturated flow and unsaturated flow Steady-state and transient flow Flow in aquifers and aquitards Flow in homogeneous and heterogeneous systems 5.

 The specific discharge is a macroscopic concept. and is easily measured. It should be noted that Darcy¶s velocity is different «.  (±) indicates that V occurs in the direction of the decreasing head. .Darcy Velocity  V is the specific discharge ( Darcy velocity).  Specific discharge has units of velocity.

 The microscopic velocities are real..from the microscopic velocities associated with the actual paths if individual particles of water as they wind their way through the grains of sand.Darcy Velocity  .. . but are probably impossible to measure.

Darcy & Seepage Velocity  Darcy velocity is a fictitious velocity since it assumes that flow occurs across the entire cross-section of the soil sample. Av voids A = total area . Flow actually takes place only through interconnected pore channels.

Darcy & Seepage Velocity  From the Continuity Eqn:  Q = A vD = AV Vs ± Where: Q = flow rate A = total cross-sectional area of material AV = area of voids Vs = seepage velocity VD = Darcy velocity .

Darcy & Seepage Velocity  Therefore: VS = VD ( A/AV)  Multiplying both sides by the length of the medium (L) VS = VD ( AL / AVL ) = VD ( VT / VV )  Where: VT = total volume VV = void volume  By Definition. the soil porosity  Thus VS = VD / n . Vv / VT = n.

describes conservation of fluid mass during flow through a porous medium.Equations of Groundwater Flow  Description of ground water flow is based on: Darcy¶s Law Continuity Equation .  Laplace¶s Eqn . results in a partial differential equation of flow.most important in math .

Derivation of 3-D GW Flow Equation from Darcy¶s Law z VV x y x Vx  xx .

Mass Out =  Change in Storage x x x  . Vx  Mass In .

VV x  .

VV y  .

VV z ! 0 xx xy xz .

y. and assume Kx= Ky= Kz = K x 2h x 2h x 2h   !0 2 2 2 xx xy xz  2 h ! 0 called Laplace Eqn. and z x ¨ x h ¸ x ¨ x h ¸ x ¨ x h ¸ ©V K x ¹ ©V K z ¹ ! 0 ©V K y ¹ x x ª x x º x y ª x y º x z ª x z º Divide out constant V. . Vy.Derivation of 3-D GW Flow Equation from Darcy¶s Law Replace Vx. and Vz with Darcy using x.

Transient Saturated Flow x x x x  .

VV x  .

VV y  .

VV z ! .

Vn xx xy xz xt  A change in h will produce change in V and n. replaced with specific storage Ss = Vg(E + n&). therefore. E is the compressibility of aquifer and B is comp of water. Note. x ¨ x h ¸ x ¨ x h ¸ x ¨ x h ¸ xh ©K x ¹ ©K z ¹ S s ©K y ¹ x x ª x x º x y ª x y º x z ª x z º xt .

Solutions for only a few simple problems can be obtained directly .generally need to apply numerical methods to address complex boundary conditions.Solutions to GW Flow Eqns. h0 h1 2 2 2  . x h x h x h   !0 2 2 2 xx xy xz  2 h ! 0 called Laplace Eqn.

Transient Saturated Flow Simplifying by assuming K = constant in all dimensions And assuming that S = Ssb. Theis T xt . and that T = Kb yields x ¨x h ¸ x ¨x h ¸ x ¨x h ¸ S s x h © ¹ © ¹ ! © ¹ x x ªx x º x y ªx y º x z ªx z º K x t  x 2 h x 2 h x 2 h S s xh   2 ! 2 2 xx xy xz K xt S xh 2  h! from Jacob.

y) yields Q .Steady State Flow to Well Simplifying by assuming K = constant in all dimensions and assuming that Transmissivity T = Kb and Q = flow rate to well at point (x.

y h x h  ! 2 2 T xy xx 2 2  .x.

 The average thickness of the aquifer is 30 m.2.Example of Darcy¶s Law  A confined aquifer has a source of recharge.  The piezometric head in two wells 1000 m apart is 55 m and 50 m respectively.  K for the aquifer is 50 m/day. from a common datum. and n is 0. . and the average width of aquifer is 5 km.

Compute:  a) the rate of flow through the aquifer  (b) the average time of travel from the head of the aquifer to a point 4 km downstream  *assume no dispersion or diffusion .

25m/day .The solution  Cross-Sectional area= 30(5)(1000) = 15 x 104 m2  Hydraulic gradient = (55-50)/1000 = 5 x 10-3  Rate of Flow for K = 50 m/day Q = (50 m/day) (75 x 101 m2) = 37.500m3/day) / (15 x 104 m2) = 0.500 m3/day  Darcy Velocity: V = Q/A = (37.

25) / (0.25 m/day (about 4.And  Seepage Velocity: Vs = V/n = (0. .1 ft/day)  Time to travel 4 km downstream: T = 4(1000m) / (1.25m/day) = 3200 days or 8.77 years  This example shows that water moves very slowly underground.2) = 1.

2.Limitations of the Darcian Approach 1. as in the immediate vicinity of pumped wells. Re. For Reynold¶s Number. Where water flows through extremely fine-grained materials (colloidal clay) . > 10 or where the flow is turbulent.

25 ft/hr joins them.Darcy¶s Law: Example 2  A channel runs almost parallel to a river. and they are 2000 ft apart.  A pervious formation averaging 30 ft thick and with K of 0.  The water level in the river is at an elevation of 120 ft and 110ft in the channel.  Determine the rate of seepage or flow from the river to the channel. .

Confined Aquifer Confining ayer Aquifer 30 ft .

25 ft/hr) (24 hr/day) = 6 ft/day  Therefore.9 ft3/day/ft length = .9 ft2/day = 0. Q = [6 (30) (120 ± 110)] / 2000 0.Example 2  Consider a 1-ft length of river (and channel). Q = KA [(h1 ± h2) / L]  Where: A = (30 x 1) = 30 ft2 K = (0.

Constant head Permeameter  Apply Darcy¶s Law to find K: V/t = Q = KA(h/L) or: K = (VL) / (Ath)  Where: V = volume flowing in time t A = cross-sectional area of the sample L = length of sample h = constant head  t = time of flow .