Determination of the saturated film conductivity to improve the EMFX model in describing the soil hydraulic properties over the entire moisture range

Yunquan Wang, Jinzhu Ma, Huade Guan, Gaofeng Zhu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Difficulty in measuring hydraulic conductivity, particularly under dry conditions, calls for methods of predicting the conductivity from easily obtained soil properties. As a complement to the recently published EMFX model, a method based on two specific suction conditions is proposed to estimate saturated film conductivity from the soil water retention curve. This method reduces one fitting parameter in the previous EMFX model, making it possible to predict the hydraulic conductivity from the soil water retention curve over the complete moisture range. Model performance is evaluated with published data of soils in a broad texture range from sand to clay. The testing results indicate that 1) the modified EMFX model (namely the EMFX-K model), incorporating both capillary and adsorption forces, provides good agreement with the conductivity data over the entire moisture range; 2) a value of 0.5 for the tortuosity factor in the EMFX-K model as that in the Mualem's model gives comparable estimation of the relative conductivity associated with the capillary force; and 3) a value of −1.0 × 10−20 J for the Hamaker constant, rather than the commonly used value of −6.0 × 10−20 J, appears to be more appropriate to represent solely the effect of the van der Waals forces and to predict the film conductivity. In comparison with the commonly used van Genuchten-Mualem model, the EMFX-K model significantly improves the prediction of hydraulic conductivity under dry conditions. The sensitivity analysis result suggests that the uncertainty in the film thickness estimation is important in explaining the model underestimation of hydraulic conductivity for the soils with fine texture, in addition to the uncertainties from the measurements and the model structure. High quality data that cover the complete moisture range for a variety of soil textures are required to further test the method.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-49
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Film flow
    • Hydraulic conductivity
    • Soil water retention curve
    • The EMFX model
    • Unsaturated porous media


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