A mathematical model for the soil-water characteristic curve is proposed in the light of bounding surface plasticity. The main drying and wetting curves are taken as the asymptotes of the scanning curves, and only one additional parameter is introduced to simulate such scanning curves. To pave to the way for the application of the proposed model, the governing equation of unsaturated seepage problems and the finite element formulations are derived. A FEM program incorporating the SWCC model is then developed and used to study the hydraulic behaviour of an earth dam undergoes a repeated change of reservoir level. Numerical results confirm the possibility and necessity of using such a hysteresis model in unsaturated seepage problems.