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Course: Science 146

Title: Soil Retention

Aim: To verify that different soils retain water at variated amounts
Variables: Manipulated – Soil and Water content
Responding – The volume of water dripped out after performing the experiment.
Controlled – Containers of the same size, height and weight. Also, water of same volume.

Materials/Apparatus: Pencil, Pen, Markers, Plastic bottle funnel, Water, Soil, Meter ruler, cotton

Diagram showing the apparatus used:

 Materials were collected: Four types of Soil – Sand, Silt, Gravel and Clay.
Four (4) containers (plastic bottles)
 The four containers were trimmed and made into funnels using the mouth of the bottle.
 The funnels were plugged with cotton wool at the bottom
 These funnels were then filled with 2/3 soil, respectfully
 Then the funnels were put in the mouth of the already made cylinders.
 50ml of water was then poured into the soil and allowed to drain. After water content stopped dripping,
the volume of that dripped water was measured and noted.
 The volume of water retained was then calculated.
Composition of water retention through soils.
Volume of Water presented after passing through soil contents.

Total Amount of Soil added Initial amount of water Final amount of water Volume of Water that
to the container: that the containers presented at the bottom was retained in the
received. of the container. different types of soil
 Sand Soil – 2/3  50ml  45ml  5ml

 Silt Soil – 2/3  50ml  33ml  17ml

 Clay Soil – 2/3  50ml  9ml  41ml

 Gravel Soil – 2/3  50ml  38ml  12ml

Calculation: the initial amount of water presented – the final amount of water = the volume of water retained in
the different soils.

After putting soil in water content:

After adding the 2/3 soils to the individual containers, 50ml water was also incorporated to facilitate retention.
After allowing a wait time, the following were noted as the observation on the soil water retention of the four
(4) soil:
 Sand Soil – after allowing a genuine wait time to allow total drainage, it was observed that 98% of the
50ml water content drained onto the cylinder. The sand molecule also became compressed since a
medium (water) passed through its large air spacing.
 Silt Soil – after allowing a genuine wait time to allow total drainage, it was observed that 75% of the
50ml water content drained onto the cylinder with the remaining being blocked by the soil particles. The
silt molecule also became compressed but only to a moderate quantity, since a medium (water) passed
through its moderate air spacing.
 Gravel – after allowing a genuine wait time to allow total drainage, it was observed that similar to silt
and sand, majority of the water drained to the bottom of the cylinder. Approximately 76% of the 50ml
water content drained onto the cylinder. The gravel soil was made up for mostly sand particles, thus it
behaved similarly since gravel also contained pebbles. The sand particles presented in the gravels also
became compressed since the medium (water) passed through the large air space.
 Clay Soil – subsequently, as compared to the other type of soil, clay allowed total retention of water
content from passing through its compressed particles. About 1-2% of water content was drained onto
the cylinder. The remaining was blocked by the tightly compressed air spaces and particles.

Source of Error:
 Inconsistency in gathering the appropriate types of soil.
 The differentiated placement of the cotton wool, thus hindering optimal results: Universal result.
 Parallax error from taking accurate reading (for initial and post water levels)

The ability for a soil to retain water is partly determined by the size of the soil's particles. The smaller a soil's
particles are, the greater the soil's surface area is, and so the more water the soil retains.

 Clay soil has small, fine particles, which is why it retains the most amount of water. Clay particles are so
tiny and have many small pore spaces that make water move slower (the highest water holding
capacity). A clay soil is tight, with small air spaces that hold moisture longer resulting in poor drainage.

 Sandy soils have good drainage but low water and nutrient holding capacities. Soil texture and water
holding capacity affect plant growth. Sand, with its larger particles and low nutritional content, retains
the least amount of water, although it is easily replenished with water. Water flows through the large
pore spaces quickly. Soils with a high percentage of sand are generally well drained.

 Silt and Gravel both retains a moderate amount of water and have the high water holding capacity. The
reason for silt and Gravel retaining only moderate amounts of water is due to the fact that they have
small particles but subsequently moderate pore spaces. This enables water to become permeable in their
present, highlight the result. The pore spaces of both enables water to move easily between them and
when put to drained, a moderate amount of water drained to the bottom of the cylinder.