Description: Common conceptual models for unsaturated flow often rely on the oversimplified representation of medium pores as a bundle of cylindrical capillaries and assume that the matric potential is attributed to capillary forces only. The adsorptive surface forces are ignored. It is often assumed that aqueous flow is negligible when a soil is near or at the residual water content. These models are successful at high and medium water contents but often give poor results at low water contents. These models do not apply to conditions at which water content is less than the residual water content. We extend the lower bound of existing water-retention functions and conductivity models from residual water content to the oven-dry condition (i.e., zero water content) by defining a state-dependent, residual-water content for a soil drier than a critical value. Furthermore, a hydraulic conductivity model for smooth uniform spheres was modified by introducing a correction factor to describe the film flow-induced hydraulic conductivity for natural porous media. The total unsaturated hydraulic conductivity is the sum of those due to capillary and film flow. The extended retention and conductivity models were verified with six datasets from the literature. Results show that, when the soil is at high and intermediate water content, there is no difference between the un-extended and the extended models; when the soil is at low water content, the un-extended models overestimate the water content but under-estimate the conductivity while the extended models match the retention and conductivity measurements well.
Date: September 28, 2010
Creator: Zhang, Z. F.
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