WDA Consultants Inc.

Fundamentals 1: Hydraulic forces in permeable media

K.U. Weyer Ph.D., P.Geol., P.HG.
WDA Consultants Inc., 4827 Vienna Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

1978 Copyright K.U.Weyer


In groundwater flow a multitude of flow equations exists, all claiming to be a valid expression of DARCY's law. In one way of another, all of them use gradients as forces that cause flow. Thus, it appears there is a variety of different force fields available.

During the 60s and 70s, however, new scientific and practical develpments (J. TOTH, 1962, 1963; A.R. FREEZE and P.A. WITHERSPOON, 1966, 1967, 1968; P. MEYBOOM, 1967; I.C. BROWN, 1967; K.U. WEYER, 1972) have shown, that only one of the many so-called DARCY equations describes the physics of groundwater flow and the mechanical force fields involved satisfactorily, namely HUBBERT's force- potential theory (M.K. HUBBERT, 1940, 1957).

HUBBERT'S forces, however, cannot be tied dimensionally and physically into some of the engineering concepts used in connection with force fields. One of those concepts is the effective and neutral stress concept of K. TERZAGHI (1925, 1948) that attempts to couple forces within fluids with those in solids. Because of this discrepancy and because the physical and practical meaningfulness of HUBBERT's concept is proven, the question arises whether there exists for certain problems as, for example, in geodynamics, the need to adapt the force system theory in solids to HUBBERT's force potential theory and whether a different coupling mechanism should be developed. This proposal should not be seen as disputing the proven usefulness of the application of the principles of continuum mechanics within engineering sciences.

The physical background to these questions will be discussed briefly as far as space limitations allow. To clarify the difference in approach, it will be shown that, under certain hydrodynamic conditions of downward flow, the principle of ARCHIMEDES (buoyancy) can be shown as non-existent. This is of considerable consequence to practical problems of engineering science and to several theories in geodynamics, as for example, those dealing with orogenesis, plate tectonics, subsidence, uplift and isostasy.

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