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Presented by:
Yusep Muslih Purwana
Lab. Mekanika Tanah FT UNS
Jl Ir Sutami 36 a Surakarta

The value of soil suction is

strongly affected by its
moisture content. The
variation of moisture
content versus suction in
particular soil is presented
graphically by a curve,
namely Soil-Water

Definition of SWCC
SWCC is a curve representing the
relation between suction and
moisture content.
SWCC quantify the capacity of soil to
hold water with particular degree of

Some other terms used for Suctionwater content relationship

Soil-water characteristic curve, SWCC

Soil-water content relationship
Moisture retention curve
Soil moisture retention curve
Water retention curve

In Civil engineering, the SWCC is commonly accepted rather
than retention. The term characteristic is related to
behavior, whereas the term retention is more closely related
to retaining water for agricultural purpose.

Typical SWCC (Drying)

SWCC consists of 3 zone;
boundary effect, transition,
and residual.
At maximum water content,
suction is near zero
At minimum water content,
suction is very high
At boundary effect zone, all
pores are occupied by water
(saturated condition)
surface tension is not
developed yet.

Typical SWCC (Cont.)

When higher suction is
applied, pore water is
expelled from the largest
pores first and pores started
to be occupied by air.
Suction required for
removing water from
largest pore is known as
bubbling pressure (ua ub)b
or air entry value b
The area between zero
suction and AEV is
boundary effect zone.

Typical SWCC (Cont.)

Beyond HAV, the increase of
suction causes rapid loss of water
content until residual water
Suction corresponding to residual
water content is refer to as
residual suction r, at which
desaturation ends.
Starting from r, water begins to
be held by adsorption force.
At residual zone the curve forms
asymptotic line at low degree of
At residual zone, water still exists
but need considerable suction to
expel even small amount of water.

Some important things about SWCC

No single or unique SWCC for particular soil
Variables affect the shape of SWCC: grain
size distribution, initial water content, stress
history, natural or remolded, temperature.
SWCC also exhibits hysteresis phenomenon
(drying and wetting SWCC is different)
The term moisture content can be:
gravimetric (w), volumetric , or degree of
saturation (S)

Typical shape of SWCC from

different soils

Effect of stress state on


Hysteresis on SWCC

General procedure for SWCC

1. Sample saturation, determine w 0, e0, Gs, W0
2. Apply certain value of suction (u a ub)1,
maintain until equilibrium. Determine W 1, e1,
w1 and S1
3. Apply higher value of suction (u a ub)2 until
equilibrium. Determine W2, e2, w2 and S2
4. Repeat step 3 for higher suction until low
water content attained wn
5. Plot all suction values versus water content
w0 until wn

Laboratory apparatus for

Pressure plate
Filter paper
Testing procedure for those apparatus
is presented in another chapter.

Mathematical Model of SWCC

Unsaturated soil testing is time consuming and costly. To
overcome this situation, researches have been
conducted to utilize SWCC fro predicting soil property
Some mathematical models have been proposed to
relate SWCC and other soil parameters.
Models mostly use saturated water content, high air
entry and residual suction as base parameters
Common models: Gardner (1958), Brooks and Corey
(1964), Farel and Larson (1972), van Genuchten (1980),
William (1983), McKee and Bumb (1984), Fredlund and
Xing (1994). The last one is the most commonly used in
Geotechnical Engineering.

Mathematical Models of
According to Leong and Rahardjo
(1997), the SWCC equation can be
derived from generic form:
Where an and bn are constants, is
normalised water content;

s r

Brooke and Corey model

for b
for b

r s r

Van Genuchten model


Where a, b, c are constant

Fredlund and Xing model


Where a, n, m are constants determined by non

linear regression procedure. a is corresponding to
(but generally higher than) AEV, n is relating to
slope at inflection point, C() is correction factor

Home work

Model the SWCC

using van
Genuchten, Brooke
and Corey, and
Fredlund and Xing.