Abstract

Numerous models are in widespread use for the estimation of soil water retention from more easily measured textural data. Improved models are needed for better prediction and wider applicability. We developed a basic framework from which new and existing models can be derived to facilitate improvements. Starting from the assumption that every particle has a characteristic dimension R associated uniquely with a matric pressure ψ and that the form of the ψ–R relation is the defining characteristic of each model, this framework leads to particular models by specification of geometric relationships between pores and particles. Typical assumptions are that particles are spheres, pores are cylinders with volume equal to the associated particle volume times the void ratio, and that the capillary inverse proportionality between radius and matric pressure is valid. Examples include fixed-pore-shape and fixed-pore-length models. We also developed alternative versions of the model of Arya and Paris that eliminate its interval-size dependence and other problems. The alternative models are calculable by direct application of algebraic formulas rather than manipulation of data tables and intermediate results, and they easily combine with other models (e.g., incorporating structural effects) that are formulated on a continuous basis. Additionally, we developed a family of models based on the same pore geometry as the widely used unsaturated hydraulic conductivity model of Mualem. Predictions of measurements for different suitable media show that some of the models provide consistently good results and can be chosen based on ease of calculations and other factors.

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