Physics of Desaturation in Porous Materials

by Nikolas F. White, Res. Civ. Engr.; Texaco Res. Labs., Bellaire, TX; formerly, Grad. Res. Asst., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO,
Harold R. Duke, Agric. Engr.; USDA, Fort Collins, CO,
Daniel K. Sunada, (A.M.ASCE), Asst. Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO,
Arthur T. Corey, (M.ASCE), Prof. of Agric. Engrg.; Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO,

Serial Information: Journal of the Irrigation and Drainage Division, 1970, Vol. 96, Issue 2, Pg. 165-191

Document Type: Journal Paper


Previous investigations of the hydraulic properties of porous materials have been primarily empirical, i.e., correlations have been based upon experimental data. A physical description of the desaturation process in porous media is developed by analyzing both discrete and continuous desaturation mechanisms. The desaturation process is characterized by three distinct phases: the boundary-effect zone, the transition zone (primary and secondary), and the residual desaturation zone. Mathematical relationships are developed to related saturation to capillary pressure and to entry pressure which corresponds to a characteristic dimension of the medium.

Subject Headings: Porous media | Material properties | Hydraulic properties | Empirical equations | Correlation | Hydrologic data | Domain boundary | Pore pressure

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