Abstract

As a first step toward describing water flow processes in bedrock, we determined the hydraulic properties of three trimmed samples of weathered granitic bedrock (referred to as Samples A, B, and C, in order of size) in the laboratory. Silicone rubber was used to fill the space between each sample and the surrounding cylinder wall, ensuring accurate measurement of hydraulic properties of the samples. All samples showed similar saturated hydraulic conductivity values of 1 × 10−4 cm s−1, with the saturated water flow in all samples obeying Darcy's Law. Unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and water retention functions of Sample A were determined by means of a multistep outflow experiment. Parameters in both functions were optimized by comparing observed and computed cumulative outflow rates. The resulting computed cumulative outflow rates using the optimized parameters showed a good match to the observed cumulative outflow data. Moreover, the derived water retention function agreed closely with the function measured by the pressure plate method. We conclude that the methods proposed in this study are effective for determining the hydraulic properties of weathered bedrock. The bedrock water retention curve exhibited small changes in volumetric water content throughout the measurement range where the pressure head, ψ, was greater than −200 cm. The bedrock hydraulic conductivity function showed a small decrease in hydraulic conductivity in the very wet range of ψ greater than −30 cm, and then declined gradually with decreasing ψ.

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