Coupled transient saturated–unsaturated seepage and limit equilibrium analysis for slopes: influence of rapid water level changes

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


This study investigates the influence of the water level fluctuation on the stability of soil slopes using coupled seepage and slope stability analysis. A simulation framework was proposed and implemented seamlessly using Python code to seek insights into three factors that have not been thoroughly studied for this issue: soil unit weight variation in the unsaturated zone, unsaturated shear strength models, and velocity of water drawdown. For this purpose, the seepage analysis was carried out by discretizing a numerical seepage analysis model using a finite element analysis platform, FEniCS. The output of the seepage analysis, i.e., pore water pressure distribution, was used as input for the slope stability analysis. Limit equilibrium methods including the Bishop Simplified method and the Ordinary Method of Slices were modified to take into consideration the unsaturated shear strength, unit weight variation in the unsaturated zone, and hydrostatic pressure changes in response to the water level fluctuation of a reservoir. Both seepage and slope analysis modules were validated against commercial programs. Analysis results obtained with the validated framework clearly revealed the distinct influences of the three factors in representative silty and sandy slopes.

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Acta Geotechnica