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1.1 This guide covers a review of the test methods for determining hydraulic conductivity in unsaturated soils and sediments. Test methods for determining both field-saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity are described.
1.2 Measurement of hydraulic conductivity in the field is used for estimating the rate of water movement through clay liners to determine if they are a barrier to water flux, for characterizing water movement below waste disposal sites to predict contaminant movement, and to measure infiltration and drainage in soils and sediment for a variety of applications. Test methods are needed for measuring hydraulic conductivity ranging from 1 × 10−2 to 1 × 10−8 cm/s, for both surface and subsurface layers, and for both field-saturated and unsaturated flow.
1.3 For these field test methods a distinction must be made between “saturated” (Ks) and “field-saturated” (Kfs) hydraulic conductivity. True saturated conditions seldom occur in the vadose zone except where impermeable layers result in the presence of perched water tables. During infiltration events or in the event of a leak from a lined pond, a “field-saturated” condition develops. True saturation does not occur due to entrapped air (1). The entrapped air prevents water from moving in air-filled pores that, in turn, may reduce the hydraulic conductivity measured in the field by as much as a factor of two compared to conditions when trapped air is not present (2). Field test methods should simulate the “field-saturated” condition.
1.4 Field test methods commonly used to determine field-saturated hydraulic conductivity include various double-ring infiltrometer test methods, air-entry permeameter test methods, and borehole permeameter tests. Many empirical test methods are used for calculating hydraulic conductivity from data obtained with each test method. A general description of each test method and special characteristics affecting applicability is provided.
1.5 Field test methods used to determine unsaturated hydraulic conductivity in the field include direct measurement techniques and various estimation methods. Direct measurement techniques for determining unsaturated hydraulic conductivity include the instantaneous profile (IP) test method and the gypsum crust method. Estimation techniques have been developed using borehole permeameter data and using data obtained from desorption curves (a curve relating water content to matric potential).
1.6 The values stated in either SI units or inch-pound units [presented in brackets] are to be regarded separately as standard. The values stated in each system may not be exact equivalents; therefore, each system shall be used independently of the other. Combining values from the two systems may result in non-conformance with the standard.
1.6.1 The gravitational system of inch-pound units is used when dealing with inch-pound units. In this system, the pound (lbf) represents a unit of force (weight), while the unit for mass is slugs. The rationalized slug unit is not given, unless dynamic (F = ma) calculations are involved.
1.7 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.
1.8 This guide offers an organized collection of information or a series of options and does not recommend a specific course of action. This document cannot replace education or experience and should be used in conjunction with professional judgment. Not all aspects of this guide may be applicable in all circumstances. This ASTM standard is not intended to represent or replace the standard of care by which the adequacy of a given professional service must be judged, nor should this document be applied without consideration of a project's many unique aspects. The word “Standard” in the title of this document means only that the document has been approved through the ASTM consensus process.
2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.
D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids
D2434 Test Method for Permeability of Granular Soils (Constant Head)
D3385 Test Method for Infiltration Rate of Soils in Field Using Double-Ring Infiltrometer
D3740 Practice for Minimum Requirements for Agencies Engaged in Testing and/or Inspection of Soil and Rock as Used in Engineering Design and Construction
D4643 Test Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by Microwave Oven Heating
D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data
ICS Number Code 07.060 (Geology. Meteorology. Hydrology)
UNSPSC Code 81151800(Oceanography and hydrology)
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ASTM D5126 / D5126M-90(2010)e1, Standard Guide for Comparison of Field Methods for Determining Hydraulic Conductivity in Vadose Zone, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2010, www.astm.orgBack to Top