This paper describes a stochastic analysis of steady state flow in a bounded, partially saturated heterogeneous porous medium subject to distributed infiltration. The presence of boundary conditions leads to non-uniformity in the mean unsaturated flow, which in turn causes non-stationarity in the statistics of velocity fields. Motivated by this, our aim is to investigate the impact of boundary conditions on the behavior of field-scale unsaturated flow. Within the framework of spectral theory based on Fourier-Stieltjes representations for the perturbed quantities, the general expressions for the pressure head variance, variance of log unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and variance of the specific discharge are presented in the wave number domain. Closed-form expressions are developed for the simplified case of statistical isotropy of the log hydraulic conductivity field with a constant soil pore-size distribution parameter. These expressions allow us to investigate the impact of the boundary conditions, namely the vertical infiltration from the soil surface and a prescribed pressure head at a certain depth below the soil surface. It is found that the boundary conditions are critical in predicting uncertainty in bounded unsaturated flow. Our analytical expression for the pressure head variance in a one-dimensional, heterogeneous flow domain, developed using a nonstationary spectral representation approach [Li S-G, McLaughlin D. A nonstationary spectral method for solving stochastic groundwater problems: unconditional analysis. Water Resour Res 1991;27(7):1589-605; Li S-G, McLaughlin D. Using the nonstationary spectral method to analyze flow through heterogeneous trending media. Water Resour Res 1995; 31(3):541-51], is precisely equivalent to the published result of Lu et al. [Lu Z, Zhang D. Analytical solutions to steady state unsaturated flow in layered, randomly heterogeneous soils via Kirchhoff transformation. Adv Water Resour 2004;27:775-84].
- Bounded unsaturated flow
- Heterogeneous media
- Spectral perturbation approach
- Stochastic analysis