KWRRI Research Reports


A saturated-unsaturated groundwater flow and elastoplastic stress-strain finite element model was developed for simulating the mechanical behavior of rill and gully sized channel banks. The model coupled the two-dimensional saturated-unsaturated groundwater flow equation with a plane strain formulation of the virtual work equation. The constitutive relationship used the modified Cam clay yield function. The model included the effects of seepage force and variation in soil cohesive strength due to changes in water content and void ratio. A staggered solution procedure was used in which the groundwater equation was solved first to determine seepage force and soil cohesive force, and then the stress-strain equation was solved. Upon reaching the failure point, the elastoplastic constitutive relationship was replaced with a weak elastic relationship.

The model was verified by comparing predictions with (1) one-dimensional analytic solutions for unsaturated flow, saturated flow, and elastic strain; (2) other numerical solutions using the modified Cam clay yield function; (3) triaxial tests; and (4) laboratory experiments. The laboratory experiments employed a specially designed cyclic soil compactor and plexiglass flume to form and compact channel banks. The channel banks were subjected to a rising and falling hydrograph.

Model simulation included groundwater movement into the channel bank, strain in the x-direction, and the location of finite elements which reached ultimate strength. Failure surfaces were delineated by zones of high x-strain in conjunction with finite elements which reached ultimate strength. The model provided good insight into the failure mechanism for popout failure and a reasonable prediction of plane failure.

Publication Date


Report Number


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

The work upon which this report is based was supported in part by funds provided by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Research Triangle, North Carolina.