AbstractA soil water unit weight of 9.8  kN/m3 has been universally considered to quantify soil volumetric phase properties such as void ratio and degree of saturation, but has been found to greatly vary depending on soil type and the volume scale with which it is defined. Recent experimental and theoretical evidence has indicated that the unit weight of soil water can be significantly greater than 9.8  kN/m3 for clayey soils when gravimetric water content is less than 30%. A soil water unit weight as high as 18.8  kN/m3 is evident for some expansive soils at low water content. The significance of abnormally high water unit weight in quantifying soil phase volumes, saturation, and void ratio was experimentally assessed for various clayey soils and theoretically interpreted as a function of water content and soil type. For clayey soils with low liquid limit, average soil water unit weight can be as high as 12.5  kN/m3 for gravimetric water content less than 10%. This leads to an overestimation of liquid-phase saturation and void ratio by as much as 8% if a soil water unit weight of 9.8  kN/m3 is used. For clayey soil with a high liquid limit, the average soil water unit weight can be as high as 18.8  kN/m3 for water content less than 18%, leading to overestimation of liquid-phase saturation by as much as 36% and void ratio by as much as 20% if 9.8  kN/m3 is used. Charts were developed to estimate average soil water unit weight as a function of soil specific surface area and water content, and as a function of liquid limit and water content. The commonly used value of 9.8  kN/m3 for water unit weight can lead to significant errors in estimating phase volumes, void ratio, and saturation for clayey soils.

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