The science of soil-water physics and contaminant transport in porous media began a little more than a century ago. The first equation to quantify the flow of water is attributed to Darcy. The next major development for unsaturated media was made by Buckingham in 1907. Buckingham quantified the energy state of soil water based on the thermodynamic potential energy. Buckingham then introduced the concept of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity, a function of water content. The water flux as the product of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and the total potential gradient has become the accepted Buckingham-Darcy law. Two decades later, Richards applied the continuity equation to Buckingham's equation and obtained a general partial differential equation describing water flow in unsaturated soils. For combined water and solute transport, it had been recognized since the latter half of the 19th century that salts and water do not move uniformly. It wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that scientists began to understand the complex processes of diffusion, dispersion, and convection and to develop mathematical formulations for solute transport. Knowledge on water flow and solute transport processes has expanded greatly since the early part of the 20th century to the present.

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