Back to monitoring outcomes


  • Soil Health

  • Physical


Soil water infiltration refers to the rate at which water enters the soil surface and moves through soil depth (Allen et al., 2011). Infiltration has a direct relevance to water retention, a key ecosystem service (Griffiths et al., 2016). Infiltration capacity greatly influences the soil’s ability to store and provide water for plants.

High infiltration rates play a crucial role in effective water storage, thereby reducing the risk of water runoff and minimizing the loss of topsoil and nutrients (Cleophas et al., 2022). Infiltration acts as a preventive measure against soil erosion, influences nutrient transport, and enhances the soil’s resilience to extreme weather events, consequently lowering the risk of flooding (Haghnazari et al., 2015).

The rate of infiltration is dynamic and can undergo substantial changes based on soil use, management practices, and over time. Recognizing its sensitivity to various factors, infiltration has been used as an indicator of soil health, especially in assessments evaluating the impacts of changes in land use (Arias et al., 2005; Allen, 2011).

Methodology summary

The drainpipe test is a cheap and simple way to measure the infiltration of water into soil:

  • Drive the pipe halfway into the ground using a hammer, to leave 10 cm standing above the ground.
  • Pour in water (approximately 800 ml) to a depth of 10 cm.
  • Start the stopwatch immediately and measure the time taken for the water to drain into the soil.
  • Repeat at several locations.

For detailed method and a video tutorial please follow this guide from AHDB:

Metric threshold or direction of change

In well-structured soil water moves faster down the soil profile. For soil in good health, the water should drain away within 2 to 5 minutes for light or medium soils. A heavy clay soil with poor structure could take 20 minutes or longer (AHDB, water infiltration test)


  • Agricultural
  • Forest
  • Grassland
  • Peatland
  • Saltmarsh
  • Wetland


  • Community


  • Low


  • Tier 2

Technical expertise

  • Low

Standardised methodology

  • No