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The University of Southampton

Research project: Landfill hydraulics

Currently Active: 

Fundamental research on the hydrogeology of waste using bespoke testing equipment


Landfill hydraulics are fundamental to the design and operation of landfills as the flow of leachate through landfills affects leachate management systems and has a major influence on landfill processes, including settlement, gas generation and contaminant removal.

early fundamental work from PCC
K vs depth

Our research extends back to the early 1990s where our large scale waste testing facility at Pitsea was used to characterise the depth (in the landfill) dependent nature of many hydrogeological properties of waste. This includes permeability (hydraulic conductvity) and porosity.



Subsequent research has demonstrated the large impact that landfill gas generation can have on hydraulic properties.  Gas can cause increases in leachate level (through displacement) and potentially reduces permeability by two order of magnitude. 

The novel installation of three 250 m long horizontal leachate wells at a landfill demonstrated the interaction and strongly dependent nature of leachate and gas flows. The use of time lapse surface resistivity was used to track dewatering around one of the wells, and interpretation of the results led to important conclusions about the benefits and limitations of resistivity surveys not previously appreciated within the landfilling scientific community.

Tracer test
Dispersion testing

More recently hydraulic testing has concentrated on developing an understanding of contaminant transport properties of waste, which includes research into dispersion and the use of tracer tests to characterise how contaminants may be flushed from the waste in the long term.

Related research groups

Infrastructure Group
Waste Management
The Pitsea Compression Cell
Pitsea compression cell
installed with directional drilling techniques
Horizontal leachate well

Key Publications


Book Chapter

  • Beaven, R. P., Powrie, W., & Zardava, K. (2011). Hydraulic properties of MSW. In D. Zekkos (Ed.), Geotechnical characterization, Field Measurements and Laboratory Testing of Municipal Solid Waste (pp. 1-43). (ASCE Geotechnical Special Publication; No. 209). American Society of Civil Engineers.


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