Standard Article

75 Determining Soil Hydraulic Properties

Part 6. Soils

  1. Wolfgang Durner,
  2. Kai Lipsius

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa077b

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Durner, W. and Lipsius, K. 2006. Determining Soil Hydraulic Properties. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 6:75.

Author Information

  1. Braunschweig Technical University, Institute of Geoecology, Department of Soil Physics, Braunschweig, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


Hydraulic properties are required for modeling water and solute transport in unsaturated soils. The bottleneck for the successful application of numerical simulation models lays usually in their parameter estimation requirements. Methods to determine hydraulic properties can be classified into indirect and direct approaches. Indirect methods encompass the estimation of hydraulic properties by pedotransfer functions from more easily measured soil properties, and the prediction of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function from the water retention curve (WRC). In direct methods, observations of flow attributes from laboratory or field experiments are evaluated. This article reviews common methods to estimate the hydraulic conductivity function from the water retention characteristic and various direct measurement techniques in the laboratory and the field. We conclude with an outlook on contemporary developments in measurement techniques, stressing the key role of inverse modeling of experiments to derive optimum hydraulic properties and the importance of a future combination of noninvasive measurement techniques with inverse modeling by stochastic data fusion.


  • review;
  • soil hydrology;
  • unsaturated zone;
  • vadose zone;
  • hydraulic properties;
  • measurement;
  • estimation;
  • hydraulic functions;
  • hydraulic conductivity;
  • water retention characteristic;
  • one-step outflow;
  • multistep outflow;
  • evaporation method;
  • parameter estimation;
  • laboratory experiments;
  • inverse modeling