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Darcy's Law is a generalized relationship for flow in porous media. It shows the volumetric flow rate is a function of the flow area, elevation, fluid pressure and a proportionality constant. It may be stated in several different forms depending on the flow conditions. Since its discovery, it has been found valid for any Newtonian fluid. Likewise, while it was established under saturated flow conditions, it may be adjusted to account for unsaturated and multiphase flow. The following outlines its common forms and assumes water is the working fluid unless otherwise stated.
Simple Discrete Form
A one-dimensional flow column is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Simple column.
For a finite 1-D flow, it may be stated as
Q = volumetric flow rate (m3/s or ft3/s),
A = flow area perpendicular to L (m2 or ft2),
K = hydraulic conductivity (m/s or ft/s),
l = flow path length (m or ft),
h = hydraulic head (m or ft), and
D = denotes the change in h over the path L.
The hydraulic head at a specific point, h is the sum of the pressure head and the elevation, or
p = water pressure (N/m2, lb/ft2),
r = water density (kg/m3),
g = water specific weight (lb/ft3),
g = acceleration of gravity (m/s2 or ft/s2), and
z = elevation (m or ft).
Equation [2a] is the normal SI form of the equation, while [2b] is the usual form used with English units. The hydraulic head is the height that water would rise in a peizometer. Thus, Dh is simply the difference in height of water in peizometers placed at the inlet and the outlet (Dh = hin-hout). Substituting [2a] into  yields,
Equation  is approximately the form Darcy used to analyze his experimental data. Note that the flow is not a function of the absolute pressure or the elevation. It is only a function of the change in hydraulic head.
A more general form of the equation results when the limit of Dh with respect to the flow direction l, as the flow path L goes to zero. Applying that step to equations  and  yields,
The minus signs on the right hand terms reflects that the hydraulic head always decreases in the direction of flow.
The Darcy flux is defined as,
where q = Darcy flux (m/s or ft/s).
The Darcy flux is the volumetric flow per unit area. Substitution of equation  into  yields,
While the Darcy flux has the units of velocity, it is not the velocity of the water in the pores. The solid matrix takes up some of the flow area. The average pore water velocity is termed the seepage velocity, v, and is given by
where f is the porosity of the porous media. The maximum pore velocity is a function of the pore geometry and cannot be easily predicted except for simple shaped. In circular tubes the maximum velocity is twice v.
Darcy's Law is not a function of the flow direction in a homogeneous material. However, the gradient of h is calculated along the flow path, l, and the flow area, A is measured normal to l. Therefore, the geometry of flow must be accounted for if the flow is measured relative to a different direction. Figure 2 shows the simple column tilted up.
Figure 2. Flow at an angle to the horizontal.
Assuming a 2-D space,
a = angle to horizontal, and
x = horizontal distance (m or ft).
Substitution of equation  and  into  produces a relation relative to the x direction.
If the area of flow is measured normal to the x axis, Ax will be larger than the area normal to l. The two areas are related by,
Substitution of equation  into  produces
By similar methods the flow may be expressed relative to the vertical direction by substitution of equation  into 
where Az is the area of flow normal to the vertical axis.
In horizontal flow, a = 0 and equation  reduces to
In vertical flow up, sin(a) = 1 and equation  reduces to
Unit Gradient Flow
In vertical downward flow, if dp/dz = 0, equation  reduces to the unit gradient form.
In saturated groundwater analysis with nearly horizontal flow, it is common practice to combine the hydraulic conductivity and the thickness of the aquifer, b into a single variable,
where T = transmissivity (m2/s, ft2/s).
When the fluid is other than water at standard conditions, the conductivity is replaced by the permeability of the media. The two properties are related by,
k = permeability, (m2 or ft2),
m = fluid absolute viscosity, (N s/m2 or lb s/ft2) and
n = fluid kinematic viscosity, (m2/s or ft2/s).
Ideally, the permeability of a porous media is the same to different fluids. Thus, you may predict the flow of one fluid, from the measurement of a second with equation . However in practice, the solid matrix may swell or sink with different fluids and produce different values of k. Substitution of equation  into  yields,
Likewise, substitution into equation  produces,