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# Permeability and Seepage

N. Sivakugan

Flow Nets
Philip B. Bedient
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Rice University
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## Permeability and Seepage

Flow Nets

Copyright2001

What is permeability?
A measure of how easily a fluid (e.g., water)
can pass through a porous medium (e.g.,
soils)
water

Loose soil

Dense soil

- easy to flow

- difficult to flow

- high permeability
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- low permeability 3

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Bernoullis Equation
The energy of a fluid particle is
made of:

1. Kinetic energy

fluid particle

- due to velocity

2. Strain energy

- due to pressure
datum

3. Potential energy
- due to elevation (z) with respect to a datum
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Bernoullis Equation
Expressing energy in unit of length:

Velocity head
+
Total head =

Pressure head
+

fluid particle

datum

Elevation head

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Bernoullis Equation
For flow through soils, velocity (and thus
velocity head) is very small. Therefore,

Velocity head
+
Total head =

Pressure head
+

fluid particle

datum

Elevation head
Total head = Pressure head + Elevation head
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Some Notes
If flow is from A to B, total head is higher at
A than at B.
Energy is dissipated in
overcoming the soil
resistance and hence
is the head loss.

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water

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Some Notes
At any point within the flow regime:
Pressure head = pore water pressure/w
Elevation head = height above the selected datum

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Some Notes
Hydraulic gradient (i) between A and B is
the total head loss per unit length.

TH A TH B
i
l AB

water

## 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=ki

Permeability
or hydraulic conductivity
unit of velocity (cm/s) (ft/S)

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crest
free board

filter

riprap
CORE

SHELL

SHELL

blanket

cutoff

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FOUNDATION

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106
clays

103
silts

Fines

100
sands

gravels

Coarse

D10)

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1.

2.

3.

4.

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## Streamlines and Equipotential lines

are .
Streamlines are parallel to no flow
boundaries.
Grids are curvilinear squares, where
diagonals cross at right angles.
Each stream tube carries the same
flow.
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## Flow Net in Isotropic Soil

Portion of a flow net is shown below

Stre
am t
ube

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from Darcys Law.

## Flow Net solution is equivalent to

solving the governing equations of flow
for a uniform isotropic aquifer with welldefined boundary conditions.

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## Flow through a channel between

equipotential lines
1 and 2 per
unit width is:
q = K( d m x 1)( h 1 / dl )
n

h1
dm

h2

dl

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## Flow through equipotential lines 2 and 3

is:
q = K( d m x 1)( h 2 / dl )
The flow net has square grids, so the
head drop is the same in each potential
drop:
h 1 = h 2
If there are n d such drops, then:
h = ( H/ n )
where H is the total head loss
between the first and last equipotential
lines.
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## Flow Net in Isotropic Soil

Substitution yields:
q = K( d m x dl )( H/n )

## This equation is for one flow channel. If

there are m such channels in the net,
then total flow per unit width is:
q = ( m / n ) K( d m /dl ) H

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## Since the flow net is drawn with

squares, then d m dl , and:
q = ( m / n ) KH

where:

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## q = rate of flow or seepage per unit width

m = number of flow channels
n = number of equipotential drops
h = total head loss in flow system
K = hydraulic conductivity

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Drawing Method:
1. Draw to a convenient scale the cross
sections of the structure, water
elevations, and aquifer profiles.
2. Establish boundary conditions and draw
one or two flow lines
and
equipotential lines
near the
boundaries.

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Method:
3. Sketch intermediate flow lines and
equipotential lines by smooth curves
adhering to right-angle intersections and
square grids. Where flow direction is a
straight line, flow lines are an equal distance
apart and parallel.
4. Continue sketching until a problem
develops. Each problem will indicate
changes to be made in the entire net.
Successive trials will result in a reasonably
consistent flow net.
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Method:
5.

## In most cases, 5 to 10 flow lines are

usually sufficient. Depending on the
number of flow lines selected, the
number of equipotential lines will
automatically be fixed by geometry
and grid layout.

## 6. Equivalent to solving the governing

equations of GW flow in 2-dimensions.
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## Seepage Under Dams

Flow nets for
seepage through
earthen dams
Seepage under
concrete dams
Uses boundary
conditions (L & R)
Requires
curvilinear square
grids for solution
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## Two Layer Flow System with

Sand Below

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Ku / K l = 1 / 50

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## Two Layer Flow System with

Tight Silt Below

Flow nets for seepage from one side of a channel through two
different anisotropic two-layer systems. (a)
K u / K l = 1/50 . (b)
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K u / K l = 50 . Source: Todd & Bear, 1961.

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## Effects of Boundary Condition

on Shape of Flow Nets

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Radial Flow:

## Contour map of the piezometric surface near Savannah,

Georgia, 1957, showing closed contours resulting from
SIVAheavy local groundwater pumping (after USGS

Water-

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Streamlines
are at right
angles to
equipotential
lines

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## A dam is constructed on a permeable

stratum underlain by an impermeable
rock. A row of sheet pile is installed at
the upstream face. If the permeable soil
has a hydraulic conductivity of 150
ft/day, determine the rate of flow or
seepage under the dam.

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Posit ion:

A B C D

G H

Dist ance
f rom
f ront t oe
( f t)

22

3 7 .5

50

6 2 .5

75

86

94

100

1 6 .5

1. 2

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m=5

n = 17

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## Solve for the flow per unit width:

q = ( m /n ) K h
= (5/17)(150)(35)
= 1544 ft 3 /day per ft

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## There is an earthen dam 13 meters

across and 7.5 meters high.The
Impounded water is 6.2 meters deep,
while the tailwater is 2.2 meters deep.
The dam is 72 meters long. If the
-4
hydraulic conductivity is 6.1 x 10
centimeter per second, what is the
seepage through the dam if n = 21
K = 6.1 x 10 -4 cm/sec
= 0.527 m/day

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## From the flow net, the total head loss,

H, is
6.2 -2.2 = 4.0 meters.
There are 6 flow channels (
m ) and 21
head drops along each flow path (
n ):
Q = ( KmH / n ) x dam length
= (0.527 m/day x 6 x 4m / 21) x (dam
length)
= 0.60 m 3 /day per m of dam

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## = 43.4 m 3 /day for the entire 72-meter

length of the dam
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http://homepage.eircom.net/~jmcgeever/Soil%20Mechanics/Soil%20Permeability%20-%20Flow%20Nets.htm

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## Stresses due to Flow

Static Situation (No flow)

hw

At X,

z
X
soil

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v = whw +
satz
u = w (hw + z)
'
'
v = z
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## Stresses due to Flow

Downward Flow
At X,

v = whw +
satz as for static case
u = w hw + w(L-hL)
(z/L)
= w hw + w(z-iz)
= w (hw+z) - wiz

flow

hL

u = w hw

hw

z
X
soil

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u = w (hw+Lh )

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## Stresses due to Flow

Upward Flow
flow

At X,

v = whw +
satz as for static case
u = w hw + w(L+hL)
(z/L)
= w hw + w(z+iz)
= w (hw+z) + wiz

hL

u = w
hw

hw

z
X
soil

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u = w
(hw+L+hL)38

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'
wz i
w

flow

hL
hw

## Critical hydraulic gradient (ic)

L
If i > ic, the effective stresses is negative.

z
X
soil

## i.e., no inter-granular contact & thus failure.

- Quick condition
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Seepage Terminology

## Stream line is simply the path of a water molecule.

From upstream to downstream, total head steadily decreases
along the stream line.
hL
datum
TH = hL

concrete dam

TH = 0

soil

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impervious strata

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Seepage Terminology

## Equipotential line is simply a contour of constant

total head.

hL
datum
TH = hL

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concrete dam

TH=0.8
hL
impervious strata

TH = 0

soil
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Flownet

## A network of selected stream lines and equipotential

lines.

concrete dam

curvilinear
square
90

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impervious strata

soil
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## Quantity of Seepage (Q)

Q khL

Nf
Nd

# of flow channels
.per unit length normal to the plane
# of equipotential drops

## head loss from upstream to

downstream

h
concrete
dam

impervious strata

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Heads at a Point X

## Total head = hL - # of drops from upstream x h

Elevation head = -z
Pressure head = Total head Elevation head

hL

Nd
h

TH = hL

concrete
dam

L datum
TH = 0

z
X

h
impervious strata

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## At the downstream, near the dam,

the exit hydraulic gradient

iexit

h
Ldatum

concrete
dam

## h = total head drop

soil

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impervious strata

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## If iexit exceeds the critical hydraulic gradient (ic), firstly

the soil grains at exit get washed away.
This phenomenon progresses towards the upstream, forming a
free passage of water (pipe).

h
Ldatum

concrete
dam

## no soil; all water

soil

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impervious strata

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## Piping is a very serious problem. It leads to downstream

flooding which can result in loss of lives.
Therefore, provide adequate safety factor against piping.

Fpiping
concrete
dam

ic
iexit

typically 5-6

soil

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impervious strata

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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

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## 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

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Filter Materials:
granular soils

geotextiless

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## Granular Filter Design

Two major criteria:
(a)

granular filter

Retention Criteria
- to prevent washing out of fines

## Filter grains must not be too coarse

(b)

Permeability Criteria
- to facilitate drainage and thus avoid
build-up of pore pressures

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## Granular Filter Design

Retention criteria:

Permeability criteria:

D85, soil

D15, soil

## D15, filter < 20 D15,

soil
D50, filter < 25 D50,
soil

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## Drainage Provisions in Retaining Walls

weep hole

geosynthetics
granular soil

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drain pipe

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del operator

i
j
k
x
y
z

w w
w

w i
j
k
x
y
z

v1
v2
v3
v

x
y
z

Gradient:

Divergence:

Laplacian:

Diffusion Equation:

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2
2
2

f
2
f

2
2
x
y
z2

h
Ss K 2h
t

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del operator

i
j
k
x
y
z

w w
w

w i
j
k
x
y
z

v1
v2
v3
v

x
y
z

Gradient:

Divergence:

Laplacian:

Diffusion Equation:

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2
2
2

f
2
f

2
2
x
y
z2

h
Ss K 2h
t

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Diffusion Equation

Cartesian Coordinates

h
Ss K 2h
t
2h + 2h + 2h = S s h
K t
x2 y2 z2

Cylindrical Coordinates

Cylindrical Coordinates,
Radial Symmetry h/= 0

Cylindrical Coordinates,
Purely Radial Flow
h/= 0 h/z = 0
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1 rh + 1 2 h + 2h = S s h
r r r r2 2 z2
K t

2h

Kr

Kr

+ r
r
2

2h + 1
r2 r

h
r

h
r

+ Kz h2 = Ss h
z
t

Ss h
= K
r t

S h
T t

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## Flow beneath Dam

Vertical x-section

## Flow toward Pumping Well,

next to river = line source
= constant head boundary

Plan view

River Channel

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