K in an Urban World: New Contexts for Hydraulic Conductivity

W. D. Shuster, Laura Schifman, Christa Kelleher, Heather E. Golden, Aditi S. Bhaskar, Anthony J. Parolari, Ryan D. Stewart, Dustin L. Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Hydraulic conductivity (K) is a key hydrologic parameter widely recognized to be difficult to estimate and constrain, with little consistent assessment in disturbed, urbanized soils. To estimate K, it is either measured, or simulated by pedotransfer functions, which relate K to easily measured soil properties. We measured K in urbanized soils by double-ring infiltrometer (Kdring), near-saturated tension infiltrometry (Kminidisk), and constant head borehole permeametry (Kborehole), along with other soil properties across the major soil orders in 12 United States cities. We compared measured K with that predicted from the pedotransfer function, ROSETTA. We found that regardless of soil texture, Kdring was consistently larger than Kminidisk; with the latter having slightly less sample variance. Kborehole was dependent upon specific subsurface conditions, and contrary to common expectations, did not always decrease with depth. Based on either soil textural class, or percent textural separates (sand, silt clay), ROSETTA did not accurately predict measured K for surface nor subsurface soils. We go on to discuss how K varies in urban landscapes, the role of measurement methods and artifacts in the perception of this metric, and implications for hydrologic modeling. Overall, we aim to inspire consistency and coherence when addressing K-related challenges in sustainable urban water management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-504
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • hydraulic conductivity
  • hydrologic modeling
  • infiltration
  • urban hydrology
  • urban soils

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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