The expectation behind seismoelectric field measurements is to achieve a combination of the sensitivity of electrical properties to water content and permeability and the high spatial resolution of seismic surveys. A better understanding of the physical processes and a reliable quantification of the conversion between seismic energy and electric energy are necessary, and need to take into account the effect of water content, especially for shallow subsurface investigations. We performed a field survey to quantify the seismoelectric signals as the water content changed. We measured seismoelectric signals induced by seismic wave propagation, by repeating the observations on the same two profiles during several months. The electrical resistivity was monitored to take into account the water content variations.
We show that the horizontal component of the seismoelectric field, normalized with respect to the horizontal component of the seismic acceleration is inversely proportional to the electrical resistivity ρ0.42 ± 0.25. Assuming that the observed resistivity changes depend only on the water content, this result implies that the electrokinetic coefficient should increase with increasing water saturation. Taking into account the water saturation and combining our results with the Archie law for the resistivity in non-saturated conditions, the normalized seismoelectric field is a power-law of the effective saturation with the exponent (0.42 ± 0.25)n where n is Archie’s saturation exponent.