The disc permeameter has become a popular apparatus for measuring in situ the sorptivity, S, and hydraulic conductivity, K, of the soil at some prescribed potential. A number of different methods have been proposed for calculating S and K using the flow rate, Q(t), from the disc. Measurements of Q(t) on a Kokotau silt loam soil were made using discs with radii of 50 and 102 mm. Measurements were made at potentials of −20, −40, and −100 mm with the 102−mm disc and at potentials of −20 and −40 mm with the 50 mm disc.
S and K were calculated using six different methods. Three of the methods use Wooding's equation of flow from a disc:
where Q∞ is the steady-state flow rate; r is the radius of the disc source; ΨK = K(Ψ) - K(Ψ) (where Ψo and Ψn are, respectively, the potential of the source and the initial potential of the soil); and λc is the macroscopic capillary length scale. These three methods and a method based on a linear diffusion model gave similar values of S and/or K. The method of Youngs, which uses the early- to medium-time infiltration data to calculate K, gave very low and inconsistent values of K.
Calculations of K were also made from values of S at two different potentials. Here S as So was first calculated by using the early-time values of Q(t1/2). These values of K were similar to those calculated using the methods based on Wooding's equation. This suggests that measuring S at two or more different potentials, using the disc permeameter, would provide a very rapid method for characterizing the hydraulic properties of soils, provided the soil is fine textured and S can be measured either from the early-time behavior or using the method of Warrick.