Authors: Price, J
Show More
Download Paper

Citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Groundwater interaction is recognised as one of the key variables influencing slope design and management and is particularly significant in weaker rock masses. Understanding groundwater and pore pressure behaviour in rock masses is generally based on accepted theory related to flow through porous granular media. The presence of discontinuous geological structures within rock masses distorts the accepted hydraulic behaviour and the profile and aperture variability presents the designer with a complex challenge. The paper adopts a geotechnical perspective and provides a review of our understanding of the interaction of groundwater with rock masses, including the accepted mechanics of water flow through granular and fractured media. The discussion considers how this behaviour can be expected to be locally modified and what implications this may have for slope stability. The discussion references observations as well as laboratory testing and physical measurements with consideration of the role of tortuous laminar flow and capillarity.


Price, J 2016, 'Implications of groundwater behaviour on the geomechanics of rock slope stability', in PM Dight (ed.), Proceedings of the First Asia Pacific Slope Stability in Mining Conference, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 25-48.

Barton, N & Bandis, S 1980, ‘Some effects of scale on the shear strength of rock joints’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, vol. 17, pp. 69–73.
Barton, N & Choubey, V 1977, ‘The shear strength of rock joints in theory and practice’, Rock Mechanics, vol. 10, pp. 1–54.
Barton, N, Bandis, S & Bakhtar, K 1985, ‘Strength deformation and conductivity coupling of rock joints’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, vol. 22, no. 3 pp. 121–140.
Beale, G, Price, M & Waterhouse, J 2014, Framework: assessing water in slope stability, in G Beale & J Read, Guidelines for Evaluating Water in Pit Slope Stability, CRC Press, Balkema, EH Leiden.
Brace, WF 1980, ‘Permeability of crystalline and argillaceous rocks’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, vol. 17, pp. 241–251.
Brady, B & Brown, ET 1994, Rock Mechanics for Underground Mining, 2nd edn, Chapman-Hall, London, p. 571.
Brown, SR 1987, ‘Fluid flow through rock joints: the effect of surface roughness’, Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 92, no. B2, pp. 1337–1347.
Carlsson, A, Gustafson, G, Lindblom, U & Olsson, T 1990, ‘Scale effects in the determination of hydraulic properties of rock masses’, in A Pinto da Cunha (ed.), Scale effects in rock masses, Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 103–117.
Chen, DW, Zimmerman, RW & Cook, NGW 1989, ‘The effect of contact area on the permeability of fractures’, in A Wahab Khair (ed.), Rock mechanics as a guide for efficient utilisation of natural resources, Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 81–88.
Cook, AM, Myer, LR, Cook, NGW & Doyle, FM 1990, ‘The effect of tortuosity on flow through a natural fracture. Rock Mechanics Contributions and Challenges’, in Proceedings of the 31st US Symposium on Rock Mechanics, Balkema, pp. 371–378.
Dershowitz, WS & Herda, HH 1992, ‘Interpretation of Fracture Spacing and Intensity’, in Proceedings of the 33rd US Symposium on Rock Mechanics, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Di Biagio, E 1973, Leakage of gas from underground storage facilities in rock, NGI report no. 97, pp. 15–30.
Elsworth, D & Doe, TW 1986, ‘Application of non-linear flow laws in determining rock fissure geometry from single borehole pumping tests’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, vol. 23, pp. 245–54.
Fredlund, DG & Rahardjo, H 1993, Soil Mechanics for Unsaturated Soils, John Wiley & Sons Inc, New York, p. 517.
Gale, J 1990, ‘Hydraulic behaviour of rock joints’, in N Barton & O Stephansson (eds), Rock Joints, Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 351–373.
Hakami, E & Barton, N 1990, ‘Aperture measurements and flow experiments using transport replicas’, in N Barton & O Stephansson (eds), Rock Joints, Balkema, Rotterdam, pp. 383–390.
Hoek, E & Bray, JW 1981, Rock Slope Engineering Revised 3rd Edition, IMM London, p. 358.
Indraratna, B, Price, J & Gale, W 2002b, ‘Fourier Description of Fracture Roughness’, in NARMS-TAC 2002, Mining & Tunnelling Innovation & Opportunity, University of Toronto, Toronto, pp. 35–44.
Indraratna, B, Rambanda, P & Singh, RN 1994, ‘Numerical analysis of water inflows to underground excavations - current status and future trends’, in 5th International Mine Water Congress, Nottingham, pp. 339–354.
Indraratna, B, Ranjith, PG & Gale, W 1999a, ‘Single phase water flow through rock fractures’, Geotechnical and Geological Engineering, vol. 17, pp. 211–240.
Indraratna, B, Ranjith, PG & Gale, W 1999b, ‘Deformation and permeability characteristics with interconnected fractures’, in 9th ISRM International Congress of Rock Mechanics, Paris, pp. 755–760.
Isherwood, D 1979, Geoscience Data Base Handbook for Modelling Nuclear Waste Repository, vol. 1 NUREG/CR-0912, UCRL-52719.
ISRM (International Society for Rock Mechanics) 1978, ‘Suggested Methods for the Quantitative Description of Discontinuities in Rock Masses’, in ET Brown (ed.), Part 1, Site Characterisation, Rock Characterisation Testing and Monitoring: ISRM Suggested Methods, Pergamon Press, Oxford.
Iwai, K 1976, ‘Fundamental studies of fluid flow through a single fracture’, PhD thesis, University of Berkeley.
Lee, CH & Farmer, I 1993, Fluid Flow in Discontinuous Rocks, Chapman Hall, p. 169.
Lomize, GM 1951, ‘Water flow through jointed rock’, Gosenergoizdat, Moscow. [In Russian]
Long, JCS 1996, ‘Rock Fractures and Fluid Flow: Contemporary understanding and applications’, National Research Council Committee on Fracture Characterisation and Fluid Flow, National Academic Press, Washington, pp. 550.
Louis, C 1968, ‘Etudes des écoulements d’eau dans les roches fissures et des leurs influences sure la stabilité des massifs rocheux’, Bulletin De la Direction des Etud Et Rech. EDF, sér. A, 3, T2-F.
Louis, C 1969, ‘A study of groundwater flow in jointed rock and its influence on the stability of rock masses’, Rock Mechanics Research Report No. 10, Imperial College, London.
Louis, C & Maini, YN 1970, ‘Determination of in situ hydraulic parameters in jointed rock’, in Proceedings of the 2nd Congress ISRM, pp. 1–32.
McMahon, BK 1985, ‘Some practical considerations for the estimation of shear strength of joints and other discontinuities’, in O Stephansson (ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Fundamentals of Rock Joints, Centek, Luleå, pp. 475–485.
Makurat, A, Barton, N, Rad, NS & Bandis, S 1990, ‘Joint conductivity variation due to normal and shear deformation’, in N Barton & O Stephansson (eds), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Rock Joints, Rotterdam, Balkema, pp. 535–540.
Neuzil, CE 2003, ‘Hydromechanical Coupling in Geologic Processes’, Hydrogeology Journal, vol. 11, pp. 41–83.
Neuzil, CE & Tracy, JV 1981, ‘Flow through fractures’, Water Resources Research, vol. 17, pp. 191–199.
Nichol, MJ & Glass, RJ 1994, ‘Wetting phase permeability in a partially saturated horizontal fracture’, in Proceedings of the 5th Annual International High Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference, American Nuclear Society, pp. 2007–2019.
Patton, FD 1966, ‘Multiple modes of shear failure in rock’, in Proceedings of the 1st Congress of the International Society of Rock Mechanics, Lisbon, vol. 1, pp. 509–513.
Palmström, A 2001, ‘Measurement and Characterization of Rock Mass Jointing’, in VM Sharma & KR Saxena (eds), In-Situ characterization of rocks, Balkema Publishers, Oslo, pp. 49–97.
Price, JR 2005, ‘Coupled analysis of two-phase flow in rough rock fractures’, PhD thesis, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Wollongong.
Priest, SD 1993, Discontinuity Analysis for Rock Engineering, Chapman Hall, London, p. 473.
Priest, SD & Hudson, JA 1981, ‘Estimation of discontinuity spacing and trace length using scanline surveys’, International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences and Geomechanics Abstracts, vol. 18, pp. 183–197.
Pruess, K & Tsang, YW 1990, ‘On two-phase relative permeability and capillary pressure of rough walled rock fractures’, Water Resources Research, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 1915–1926.
Rocscience 2002, SLIDE© Version 5.0 Users Manual, Rocscience Inc., Toronto.
Rutqvist, J & Stephansson, O 2003, ‘The Role of Hydromechanical Coupling in Fractured Rock Engineering’, Hydrogeology Journal, vol. 11, pp. 7–40.
Stacey, P & Read, J (eds) 2009, Guidelines for Open Pit Slope Design, CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
Sullivan, TD 1993, ‘Understanding Pit Slope Movements’, in T Szwedzicki (ed.), Geotechnical Instrumentation and Monitoring in Open Pit and Underground Mining, Balkema, Rotterdam.
Sullivan, TD 2007, ‘Hydromechanical Coupling and Pit Slope Movements’, in Y Potvin (ed.), Proceedings of the 2007 International Symposium on Rock Slope Stability in Open Pit Mining and Civil Engineering, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3–44.
Terzaghi, K 1923, ‘Die Berechnung der Durchlässigkeitziffer des Tones aus dem Verlauf der hydrodynamischen Spannungserscheinungen’, Akad. Wissensch. Wien Sitzungsber. Mathnaturwissensch Klasse IIa, vol. 142 (3/4), pp. 125–138.
Tsang, YW 1984, ‘The effect of tortuosity on fluid flow through a single fracture’, Water Resources Research, vol. 20, pp. 1209–1215.
Wang, HF 2000, Theory of Linear Poroelasticity, Princeton University Press, p. 287.
WASY 2009, FEFLOW® Finite Element Subsurface Flow and Transport Simulation System - Users Manual, WASY GmbH, Berlin.
Witherspoon, PA, Wang, JSY, Iwai, K & Gale, J 1980, ‘Validity of cubic law for fluid flow in a deformable rock fracture’, Water Resources Research, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 1016–1024.
Ziegler, TW 1976, Determination of Rock Mass Permeability: Final Report, Technical Report S-76-2, US Army Corps Engineers, Waterway Experiment Station, Vicksburg.
Zimmerman, RW & Bodvarsson, GS 1996, ‘Hydraulic conductivity of rock fractures’, Transport in Porous Media, vol. 23, pp 1–30.

© Copyright 2017, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries to or error reports to