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Comparison of conductivity averaging methods for one-dimensional unsaturated flow in layered soils

Szymkiewicz, A., Helmig, R.
Advances in water resources 2011 v.34 no.8 pp. 1012-1025
equations, hydraulic conductivity, layered soils, transient flow, unsaturated flow, water resources
One of the important factors influencing the accuracy of the numerical solution of 1D unsaturated flow equation (Richards’ equation) is the averaging method applied to compute hydraulic conductivity between two adjacent nodes of the computational grid. A number of averaging schemes have been proposed in the literature for homogeneous soil, including arithmetic, geometric, upstream and integrated means, as well as more sophisticated approaches, based on the local solution of steady state flow between the neighboring nodes (Darcian means). Another group of methods have been developed for the case when a material interface is present between the nodes. They range from simple arithmetic averaging to more complex schemes using the pressure- and flux-continuity conditions at the interface. In this paper we compare several averaging schemes for a number of steady and unsteady flow problems in layered soils. The first group of methods is applied in the framework of the vertex-centered approach to spatial discretization, where the nodes are placed at the material interfaces, while the second group is used with the cell-centered approach, where the material interfaces are located between computational nodes. The resulting numerical schemes are evaluated in terms of accuracy and computational time. It is shown that the averaging schemes based on Darcian mean principle [19] used in the framework of either vertex-centered or cell-centered approach compare favorably to other methods for a range of test cases.