Natural drainage class refers to the frequency and duration of wet periods under conditions similar to those under which the soil developed. Alteration of the water regime by man, either through drainage or irrigation, is not a consideration unless the alterations have significantly changed the morphology of the soil. The classes follow:
Excessively drained. Water is removed very rapidly. The occurrence of internal free water commonly is very rare or very deep. The soils are commonly coarse-textured and have very high hydraulic conductivity or are very shallow.
Somewhat excessively drained. Water is removed from the soil rapidly. Internal free water occurrence commonly is very rare or very deep. The soils are commonly coarse-textured and have high saturated hydraulic conductivity or are very shallow.
Well drained. Water is removed from the soil readily but not rapidly. Internal free water occurrence commonly is deep or very deep; annual duration is not specified. Water is available to plants throughout most of the growing season in humid regions. Wetness does not inhibit growth of roots for significant periods during most growing seasons. The soils are mainly free of the deep to redoximorphic features that are related to wetness.
Moderately well drained. Water is removed from the soil somewhat slowly during some periods of the year. Internal free water occurrence commonly is moderately deep and transitory through permanent. The soils are wet for only a short time within the rooting depth during the growing season, but long enough that most mesophytic crops are affected. They commonly have a moderately low or lower saturated hydraulic conductivity in a layer within the upper 1 m, periodically receive high rainfall, or both.
Somewhat pooly drained. Water is removed slowly so that the soil is wet at a shallow depth for significant periods during the growing season. The occurrence of internal free water commonly is shallow to moderately deep and transitory to permanent. Wetness markedly restricts the growth of mesophytic crops, unless artificial drainage is provided. The soils commonly have one or more of the following characteristics: low or very low saturated hydraulic conductivity, a high water table, additional water from seepage, or nearly continuous rainfall.
Poorly drained. Water is removed so slowly that the soil is wet at shallow depths periodically during the growing season or remains wet for long periods. The occurrence of internal free water is shallow or very shallow and common or persistent. Free water is commonly at or near the surface long enough during the growing season so that most mesophytic crops cannot be grown, unless the soil is artificially drained. The soil, however, is not continuously wet directly below plow-depth. Free water at shallow depth is usually present. This water table is commonly the result of low or very low saturated hydraulic conductivity of nearly continuous rainfall, or of a combination of these.
Very poorly drained. Water is removed from the soil so slowly that free water remains at or very near the ground surface during much of the growing season. The occurrence of internal free water is very shallow and persistent or permanent. Unless the soil is artificially drained, most mesophytic crops cannot be grown. The soils are commonly level or depressed and frequently ponded. If rainfall is high or nearly continuous, slope gradients may be greater.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National soil survey handbook, title 430-VI. Available online. Accessed 9/17/2012.