A new saturated/unsaturated model for stormwater infiltration systems

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Infiltration systems are widely used as an effective urban stormwater control measure. Most design methods and models roughly approximate the complex physical flow processes in these systems using empirical equations and fixed infiltration rates to calculate emptying times from full. Sophisticated variably saturated flow models are available, but rarely applied owing to their complexity. This paper describes the development and testing of an integrated one-dimensional model of flow through the porous storage of a typical infiltration system and surrounding soils. The model accounts for the depth in the storage, surrounding soil moisture conditions and the interaction between the storage and surrounding soil. It is a front-tracking model that innovatively combines a soil-moisture-based solution of Richard's equation for unsaturated flow with piston flow through a saturated zone as well as a reservoir equation for flow through a porous storage. This allows the use of a simple non-iterative numerical solution that can handle ponded infiltration into dry soils. The model is more rigorous than approximate stormwater infiltration system models and could therefore be valuable in everyday practice. A range of test cases commonly used to test soil water flow models for infiltration in unsaturated conditions, drainage from saturation and infiltration under ponded conditions were used to test the model along with an experiment with variable depth in a porous storage over saturated conditions. Results show that the model produces a good fit to the observed data, analytical solutions and Hydrus.

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