In the field of hydrogeology, storage properties are physical properties that characterize the capacity of an aquifer to release groundwater. These properties are storativity (S), specific storage (Ss) and specific yield (Sy).
They are often determined using some combination of field tests (e.g., aquifer tests) and laboratory tests on aquifer material samples. Recently, these properties have been also determined using remote sensing data derived from Interferometric synthetic-aperture radar.
Storativity or the storage coefficient is the volume of water released from storage per unit decline in hydraulic head in the aquifer, per unit area of the aquifer. Storativity is a dimensionless quantity, and is always greater than 0.
For a confined aquifer or aquitard, storativity is the vertically integrated specific storage value. Specific storage is the volume of water released from one unit volume of the aquifer under one unit decline in head. This is related to both the compressibility of the aquifer and the compressiility of the water itself. Assuming the aquifer or aquitard is homogeneous:
For an unconfined aquifer, storativity is approximately equal to the specific yield () since the release from specific storage () is typically orders of magnitude less ().
The specific storage is the amount of water that a portion of an aquifer releases from storage, per unit mass or volume of aquifer, per unit change in hydraulic head, while remaining fully saturated.
Mass specific storage is the mass of water that an aquifer releases from storage, per mass of aquifer, per unit decline in hydraulic head:
Volumetric specific storage (or volume specific storage) is the volume of water that an aquifer releases from storage, per volume of aquifer, per unit decline in hydraulic head (Freeze and Cherry, 1979):
In hydrogeology, volumetric specific storage is much more commonly encountered than mass specific storage. Consequently, the term specific storage generally refers to volumetric specific storage.
In terms of measurable physical properties, specific storage can be expressed as
The compressibility terms relate a given change in stress to a change in volume (a strain). These two terms can be defined as:
These equations relate a change in total or water volume ( or ) per change in applied stress (effective stress — or pore pressure — ) per unit volume. The compressibilities (and therefore also Ss) can be estimated from laboratory consolidation tests (in an apparatus called a consolidometer), using the consolidation theory of soil mechanics (developed by Karl Terzaghi).
|Material||Specific Yield (%)|
|Sandy clay (mud)||3||7||12|
|Till, predominantly silt||6|
|Till, predominantly sand||16|
|Till, predominantly gravel||16|
Specific yield, also known as the drainable porosity, is a ratio, less than or equal to the effective porosity, indicating the volumetric fraction of the bulk aquifer volume that a given aquifer will yield when all the water is allowed to drain out of it under the forces of gravity:
It is primarily used for unconfined aquifers, since the elastic storage component, , is relatively small and usually has an insignificant contribution. Specific yield can be close to effective porosity, but there are several subtle things which make this value more complicated than it seems. Some water always remains in the formation, even after drainage; it clings to the grains of sand and clay in the formation. Also, the value of specific yield may not be fully realized for a very long time, due to complications caused by unsaturated flow. Problems related to unsaturated flow are simulated using the numerical solution of Richards Equation, which requires estimation of the specific yield, or the numerical solution of the Soil Moisture Velocity Equation, which does not require estimation of the specific yield.