Permeability and Hydraulic Conductivity Lab

Tuesday 1:30pm-2:40pm
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Madeline Schreiber, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ


During the lightning talk of the sharathon, we will (1) describe the materials and materials costs of the permeameter, (2) demonstrate how the permeameter functions, and (3) introduce the lab activity instructors can access and customize for their own courses.
For the duration of the sharathon, we will provide a how-to on making the permeameters, and answer questions from attendees.


The Permeability and Hydraulic Conductivity Lab incorporates both the falling head and constant head methods to determine the coefficient of permeability of various granular materials.

The permeameters and accessories are made with inexpensive off-the-shelf materials for less than $50. Aside from most of the parts being ready for assembly, only a small amount of cutting and screwing is necessary using common hand tools in order to create a basic functioning system. Once the permeameters are produced and tested for leaks, setting up the lab is designed to be quick and easy. For instructors with access to a makerspace, or simply access to a 3D printer, additional hardware can be 3D printed from files located on the VT Geosciences MEDL website (

The development of physical materials used in this lab was made possible through the 4VA Collaborative Endeavors Project: Improving Hands-on Groundwater Hydrology Education at 4-VA Institutions, which was funded by a 4-VA grant (


The Permeability and Hydraulic Conductivity lab activity is used in the laboratory section of the Groundwater Hydrology course, a 4000 level course at Virginia Tech. This activity is used to help students gain understanding about basic concepts of groundwater flow, learn how to collect, process, and interpret data, and learn how to apply research techniques used in the groundwater hydrology industry.

Why It Works

The instructional approach of this activity is centered on a hands-on minds-on model intended to provide students with both a practical and meaningful experience. The permeameters are designed to be simple and straightforward to use. The functionality of the permeameter is based on the permeameters hydrogeologists would use in industry and research, and therefore, could be used for these purposes. This provides students with the opportunity to learn about and apply important hydrology concepts and skills, while at the same time, gaining real-world experience.