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74 Soil Hydraulic Properties

Part 6. Soils

  1. Wolfgang Durner1,
  2. Hannes Flühler2

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa077c

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Durner, W. and Flühler, H. 2006. Soil Hydraulic Properties. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 6:74.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Braunschweig Technical University, Institute of Geoecology, Department of Soil Physics, D-38106 Braunschweig, Germany

  2. 2

    Swiss Federal Technical University at Zürich, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Schlieren, Switzerland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


The accurate knowledge of hydraulic properties for unsaturated soils is critical in addressing problems in a variety of disciplines such as hydrology, ecology, environmental sciences, soil science, and agriculture. The purpose of this paper is to review the characterization of unsaturated soil hydraulic properties for their applicability in models simulating unsaturated water transport. In a theoretical section, we present the fundamentals for the definitions of the hydraulic properties in the framework of the continuum theory as well as provide the common parameterizations of the hydraulic functions. The characterization and parameterization of hysteresis and the phenomenon of dynamic effects in hydraulic properties are addressed in subsequent sections. Finally we discuss issues related to the handling of spatial and temporal variability, including geostatistical characterization, upscaling, and scale dependency of effective properties. The review closes with a summary on limits and opportunities for modeling water transport with Richards' equation.


  • soil hydrology;
  • unsaturated zone;
  • vadose zone;
  • hydraulic properties;
  • hydraulic functions;
  • hydraulic conductivity;
  • retention characteristic;
  • unimodal;
  • bimodal;
  • parametric models;
  • hysteresis;
  • dynamic effects;
  • spatial variability;
  • effective properties;
  • upscaling