Quantification of the influence of preferential flow on slope stability using a numerical modelling approach
- 1Water Resources Section, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, P.O. Box 5048, 2600 GA Delft, the Netherlands
- 2Dipartimento di Ingegneria Civile Design Edilizia e Ambiente, Seconda università di Napoli, via Roma 29, 81031 Aversa (CE), Italy
Abstract. The effect of preferential flow on the stability of landslides is studied through numerical simulation of two types of rainfall events on a hypothetical hillslope. A model is developed that consists of two parts. The first part is a model for combined saturated/unsaturated subsurface flow and is used to compute the spatial and temporal water pressure response to rainfall. Preferential flow is simulated with a dual-permeability continuum model consisting of a matrix domain coupled to a preferential flow domain. The second part is a soil mechanics model and is used to compute the spatial and temporal distribution of the local factor of safety based on the water pressure distribution computed with the subsurface flow model. Two types of rainfall events were considered: long-duration, low-intensity rainfall, and short-duration, high-intensity rainfall. The effect of preferential flow on slope stability is assessed through comparison of the failure area when subsurface flow is simulated with the dual-permeability model as compared to a single-permeability model (no preferential flow). For the low-intensity rainfall case, preferential flow has a positive effect on drainage of the hillslope resulting in a smaller failure area. For the high-intensity rainfall case, preferential flow has a negative effect on the slope stability as the majority of rainfall infiltrates into the preferential flow domain when rainfall intensity exceeds the infiltration capacity of the matrix domain, resulting in larger water pressure and a larger failure area.