The permeability, of a porous material to water is a function of the geometry of the boundary between the solid component and the pore space. Expressions of the Kozeny type purporting to represent this function are based upon the particle size or specific surface of the solids, and whilst, for engineering practice, they have given satisfaction for saturated sands, they may fail badly in other cases. By developing a Kozeny type of expression for the particular structure of a bundle of capillary tubes of assorted radii, we demonstrate the cause of the failure. Such failure may be avoided by relating permeability to pore-size distribution, which is the factor of prime concern and which may be measured directly by even simpler means than are used to determine particle-size distribution. The pore-size distribution is arrived at by an interpretation of the moisture characteristic of the material, i.e. of the curve of moisture content plotted against pressure deficiency. A simple statistical theory, based upon the calculation of the probability of occurrence of sequences of pairs of pores of all the possible sizes, and of the contribution to the permeability made by each such pair, leads to an expression of the permeability as the sum of a series of terms. By stopping the summation at a selected upper limit of pore size one may calculate the permeability at any chosen moisture content and plot it as a function of that content. An example is presented, using a coarse graded sand specified by its moisture characteristic. To check these calculations, experimental determinations of the permeabilities of unsaturated materials are presented, using two different grades of sand and a sample of slate dust, the results being compared with computed values. The agreement seems good, and is certainly better than that provided by the Kozeny formula as developed, with difficulty, for the purpose. The limitations and possible improvements of our concept are very briefly discussed, and finally it is shown how a combined use of the moisture characteristic and the permeability (which is itself derivable from the moisture characteristic) leads to an expression for the coefficient of diffusion of water in the material as a function of moisture content. From this it should be possible, in principle, to calculate in suitable cases the course of water movement down a gradient of moisture content. Such a calculation awaits a satisfactory solution of the problem of non-linear diffusion.