Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Morris, CE & Stormont, JC, Parametric study of unsaturated drainage layers in a capillary barrier, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 1999, 125(12), 1057-1065. Copyright American Society of Civil Engineers. Original journal available here.


Unsaturated drainage layers (UDLs) have been demonstrated to greatly increase the lateral diversion capacity of capillary barriers. The inclusion of a UDL allows native soils suitable for vegetation growth to be used as the finer soil as lateral drainage properties of the layer no longer need to be considered. A comprehensive numerical study was conducted to investigate the influence of the interface slope and the UDL material on the system’s ability to laterally divert downward moving moisture. A capillary barrier system with and without a UDL was simulated for 10 years using daily varying climatic data for three locations in the United States. Three different sands were simulated as the UDL and were modeled at slopes of 5, 10, and 20%. The numerical results confirm that the inclusion of an unsaturated drainage layer at the fine/coarse interface of a capillary barrier can provide significant improvements in the performance of the cover system by laterally draining water. This improvement in performance may allow the system to be successfully implemented in climates wetter than previously were thought suitable. The diversion length (the distance water is diverted laterally with no downward flow through the fine/coarse interface) of a capillary barrier with a UDL was found to be proportional to the slope of the fine/coarse interface. In addition, a relationship between lateral diversion lengths in a capillary barrier and the UDL material was developed and found to be dependent on the unsaturated flow characteristics of the UDL. These relationships allow the performance of a variety capillary barrier UDL designs to be calculated knowing the behavior of one system for a given location.

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