Feasibility of grain-size analysis methods for determination of vertical hydraulic conductivity of streambeds

Jinxi Song, Xunhong Chen, Cheng Cheng, Deming Wang, Susan Lackey, Zongxue Xu

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68 Scopus citations


Accurate estimation of streambed vertical hydraulic conductivity (Kv) is of great importance in the analysis of water quantity exchange and solute transfer between a stream and its sediments. The paper analyzed the inaccuracy of hydraulic conductivity values of sediments derived from grain-size distribution (Kg), which were determined from eight empirical grain-size methods to represent streambed Kv. In this study, the values of Kv for a streambed were derived using falling-head standpipe permeameter tests conducted at eight study sites in the Elkhorn River, Nebraska, and the tested streambed columns were then collected for grain-size analysis by sieving. These empirical methods were used to calculate the Kg values of the streambed from grain-size distribution data of sediments. Unlike many other studies, this study verifies Kg from grain-size distribution with Kv from permeameter tests on the basis of the same samples of streambed sediments. The Kg values derived from the eight empirical methods were larger than the Kv from permeameter tests; there are five methods that give Kg values of about 3-6 times larger than these Kv. The Kg values from the Kozeny formula followed by the Hazen formula give the largest overestimation error if they are used to represent the Kv of the streambed. The USBR and Shepherd formulas generated Kg values close to Kv, but these Kg values are still larger in general than the Kv values. Moreover, the new values of coefficient C for the empirical formulas were revised so that they can be used to calculate the approximate Kv of a streambed. Among the eight methods, the ratios of the original C values to the average new C range from 1.3 to 5.9. It can be hypothesized that smaller C values must be used in the estimation of Kv for general soil samples if these empirical formulas are used to calculate Kv.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-437
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2009


  • Grain-size analysis
  • In situ permeameter test
  • Streambed
  • The Elkhorn River
  • Vertical hydraulic conductivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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