Applications of Hydraulic Properties Models on Microscopic Flow in Unsaturated Porous Media


1 National Center of Excellence for Environmental and Hazardous Waste Management (NCE-EHWM), Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok 10140, Thailan

2 Sustainable Water and Energy Research Group (SWERG), School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

3 Sterling College, Level 3, 770 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia


Several existing equations for solving the non-linear soil-hydraulic properties are introduced and validated to field and laboratory measured data. Models for non-linear hydraulic properties of unsaturated porous media arise from statistical and mathematical fit through the measured data and they can be expressed in forms of unsaturated permeability versus either pressure head or volumetric moisture content. This paper presents the difference models: Gardner, Knuze et al., Haverkamp et al., van Genuchten and Saxton et al. for calculation of hydraulic properties coefficients, typically unsaturated permeability. The accurate and computational efficiency of these five existing models are evaluated for a series of study cases simulating hydraulic properties of unsaturated porous media. The results indicate that all existing models can be applied to homogenous and heterogenous unsaturated porous media, dry and wet cycles and laboratory and field measuring data. Besides, the statistical fit model is inefficient compared to mathematical fit models. Among the mathematical fit models, van Genuchten model is the most promising model. Gardner model can be competitive with van Genuchten model and Haverkamp et al. model is less efficient than others. The mathematical fit models appear to be attractive alternatives to estimate the unsaturated permeability, although there are concerns regarding the stability behaviour of the occupied air in pores, which need to be resolved. The air movement in unsaturated porous media affected the unsaturated permeability, which gives the difference results between wet and dry cycle. Both of unsaturated permeability and volumetric water content of dry cycle were higher than ones of wet cycle. This suggests that the velocity of air-releasing during a wet process was higher than the velocity of air-entering during a dry process. The infiltration is the most important land applications. So, the wet cycle hydraulic properties test might be concerned. Moreover, most of infiltration fields locate on the mixed grain media. So too, the pore-size distribution could affect the unsaturated permeability of porous media. It was observed that the finer material, the lower unsaturated permeability.