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Coefficients for Quantifying Subsurface Drainage Rates

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 33(6): 793-799. (doi: 10.13031/aea.12302) @2017
Authors:   R. Wayne Skaggs
Keywords:   Drainage, Drainage intensity, Drainage coefficient, Drainage nomenclature, Kirkham Coefficient.

Abstract. It is proposed that technical papers on drainage research studies and engineered design projects should report standard coefficients or parameters that characterize the hydraulics of the system. The following coefficients define key subsurface drainage rates that can be used to quantify and compare the hydraulics of drainage systems across sites, soils and geographic locations. (1) The steady subsurface drainage rate (cm/d) corresponding to a saturated profile with a ponded surface. This subsurface drainage rate defines the length of time that water remains ponded on the soil surface following large rainfall events. It is proposed that this rate be called the Kirkham Coefficient (KC) in honor of Professor Don Kirkham who derived analytical solutions for saturated drained profiles for most soil and boundary conditions of interest. (2) Drainage intensity (DI), which represents the drainage rate (cm/d) when the water table midway between parallel drains is coincident with the surface. The DI can be estimated by the Hooghoudt equation and is dependent on the effective saturated hydraulic conductivity of the profile, drain depth, spacing, and depth of the soil profile or restrictive layer. (3) The drainage coefficient (DC), which quantifies the hydraulic capacity of the system. This value is the rate (cm/d) that the outlet works can remove water from the site. It is dependent on the size, slope, and hydraulic roughness of the laterals, submains, mains, and, in cases where pumped outlets are used, the pumping capacity. Routine inclusion of these three coefficients in the documentation of research and design projects would facilitate comparison of results from different soils and drainage systems, and generally, the meta-analysis of data pertaining to drainage studies.

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