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Permeability and Seepage

N. Sivakugan
Duration = 17 minutes
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What is permeability?
A measure of how easily a fluid (e.g., water)
can pass through a porous medium (e.g.,
soils)
Loose soil
- easy to flow
- high permeability
Dense soil
- difficult to flow
- low permeability
water
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Bernoullis Equation
1. Kinetic energy

datum
z
fluid particle
The energy of a fluid particle is
2. Strain energy

3. Potential energy

- due to velocity
- due to pressure
- due to elevation (z) with respect to a datum
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Bernoullis Equation

datum
z
fluid particle
Expressing energy in unit of length:
+

+

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Bernoullis Equation

datum
z
fluid particle
For flow through soils, velocity (and thus
velocity head) is very small. Therefore,
+

+

0

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Some Notes
If flow is from A to B, total head is higher at
A than at B.
water
A
B
Energy is dissipated in
overcoming the soil
resistance and hence
is the head loss.
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Some Notes
Pressure head = pore water pressure/
w

Elevation head = height above the selected datum
At any point within the flow regime:
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Some Notes
Hydraulic gradient (i) between A and B is
the total head loss per unit length.
water
A
B
AB
B A
l
TH TH
i

=
length AB, along the
stream line
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Darcys Law
Velocity (v) of flow is proportional to the
hydraulic gradient (i) Darcy (1856)
v = k i
Permeability
or hydraulic conductivity
unit of velocity (cm/s)
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Large Earth Dam
SHELL
FOUNDATION
SHELL
CORE
blanket
filter
cutoff
crest
riprap
free board
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Permeability Values (cm/s)
10
-3
10
-6

10
0

clays gravels sands silts
Coarse
Fines
For coarse grain soils, k = f(e or D
10
)
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Stresses due to Flow
X
soil
h
w

L
Static Situation (No flow)
z
o
v
=
w
h
w
+
sat
z
u =
w
(h
w
+ z)
o
v
'
=
'
z
At X,
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Stresses due to Flow
Downward Flow
h
w

L
flow
X
soil
z
o
v
=
w
h
w
+
sat
z

w
h
w
+
w
(L-h
L
)(z/L)
o
v
'
=
'
z +
w
iz
At X,
h
L

u =
w
h
w

u =
w
(h
w
+L-h
L
)
as for static case
=
w
h
w
+
w
(z-iz)
=
w
(h
w
+z) -
w
iz
Reduction due to flow
Increase due to flow
u =
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Stresses due to Flow
flow
Upward Flow
h
w

L
X
soil
z
o
v
=
w
h
w
+
sat
z

w
h
w
+
w
(L+h
L
)(z/L)
o
v
'
=
'
z -
w
iz
At X,
h
L

u =
w
h
w

u =
w
(h
w
+L+h
L
)
as for static case
=
w
h
w
+
w
(z+iz)
=
w
(h
w
+z) +
w
iz
Increase due to flow
Reduction due to flow
u =
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Quick Condition in Granular Soils
During upward flow, at X:
o
v
'
=
'
z -
w
iz
flow
h
w

L
X
soil
z
h
L

)
`

= i z
w
w

'
Critical hydraulic gradient (i
c
)
If i > i
c
, the effective stresses is negative.
i.e., no inter-granular contact & thus failure.
- Quick condition
Seepage Terminology
concrete dam
impervious strata
soil
Stream line is simply the path of a water molecule.
datum
h
L

TH = 0 TH = h
L

From upstream to downstream, total head steadily decreases
along the stream line.
Seepage Terminology
Equipotential line is simply a contour of constant
concrete dam
impervious strata
soil
datum
h
L

TH = 0 TH = h
L

TH=0.8 h
L

Flownet
A network of selected stream lines and equipotential
lines.
concrete dam
impervious strata
soil
curvilinear
square
90
Quantity of Seepage (Q)
d
f
L
N
N
kh Q =
.per unit length normal to the plane
# of flow channels
# of equipotential drops
impervious strata
concrete
dam
h
L

head loss from upstream to
downstream
Heads at a Point X
impervious strata
concrete
dam
datum
X
z
h
L

TH = h
L

TH = 0
Total head = h
L
- # of drops from upstream x Ah
Ah
Elevation head = -z
d
L
N
h
=
Piping in Granular Soils
datum
concrete
dam
impervious strata
soil
h
L

At the downstream, near the dam,
Ah = total head drop
Al
l
h
i
exit
A
A
=
the exit hydraulic gradient
Piping in Granular Soils
datum
concrete
dam
impervious strata
soil
h
L

If i
exit
exceeds the critical hydraulic gradient (i
c
), firstly
the soil grains at exit get washed away.
no soil; all water
This phenomenon progresses towards the upstream, forming a
free passage of water (pipe).
Piping in Granular Soils
Piping is a very serious problem. It leads to downstream
flooding which can result in loss of lives.
concrete
dam
impervious strata
soil
Therefore, provide adequate safety factor against piping.
exit
c
piping
i
i
F =
typically 5-6
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Piping Failures
Baldwin Hills Dam after it failed by
piping in 1963. The failure occurred
when a concentrated leak developed
along a crack in the embankment,
eroding the embankment fill and
forming this crevasse. An alarm was
raised about four hours before the
failure and thousands of people were
evacuated from the area below the
dam. The flood that resulted when the
dam failed and the reservoir was
released caused several millions of
dollars in damage.
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Piping Failures
Fontenelle Dam, USA (1965)
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Filters
Used for:
facilitating drainage
preventing fines from being washed away
Used in:
earth dams
retaining walls
Filter Materials:
granular soils
geotextiless
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Granular Filter Design
Two major criteria:
(a) Retention Criteria
(b) Permeability Criteria
- to prevent washing out of fines
- to facilitate drainage and thus avoid
build-up of pore pressures
Filter grains must not be too coarse
Filter grains must not be too fine
granular filter
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Granular Filter Design
Retention criteria:
D
15, filter
< 5 D
85, soil

- after Terzaghi & Peck (1967)
Permeability criteria:
D
15, filter
> 4 D
15, soil

average filter pore size
D
15, filter
< 20 D
15, soil

D
50, filter
< 25 D
50, soil

- after US Navy (1971)
GSD Curves for the soil and filter must be parallel
Drainage Provisions in Retaining Walls
drain pipe
granular soil
weep hole
geosynthetics