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The Problem of Scour

Soil erosion is a very important topic, where the geotechnical engineer can and will play an increasingly important role. There are 600,000 bridges in the USA, 500,000 of which are over rivers. Over 20,000 of these 500,000 bridges have been declared scour critical (calculated scour depth is deeper than the foundation depth under the design flood) by the Federal Highway Administration. 1000 bridges have collapsed between 1961 and 1991 with associated deaths in the USA and scour was responsible for 60% of those failures. The USA yearly budget for flood repair on the federal highway system was over 50$M per year in 1995. This is a problem in nearly all countries with Japan (railroads), New Zealand (highways), UK (railroads), and the USA (highways), among the those with the most problems. At the same time, solutions to the problem of scour have been lacking proper consideration for the soil component. This greatly limits their applicability. There is a growing movement towards involving the geotechnical engineer in scour studies and the GI Committee on Geotechnics of Soil Erosion aims to guide that effort and help in achieving quality and uniform results nationwide.

Our country faces many problems related to soil erosion. They are political, economic and engineering related. We can help in the engineering arena by:

  • Promoting the sharing of knowledge on engineering research and practice among the erosion-advanced organizations (academia, government, private firms) and with others interested in the topic (regional workshops, short courses, web pages).
  • Increasing the exchange of national and international research progress (conferences).
  • Improving and/or developing global guidelines (reports, web based documents).


Mission of the Committee

 The topics covered by this committee shall be the geotechnical engineering aspects of the erosion of soils including the following examples:

  • Erosion at bridges and dams (scour),
  • Meander migration and other riverbed evolutions
  • Erosion at inlets including tidal problems
  • Piping of dams
  • Erosion of tailing dams
  • Slope Erosion
  • Erosion near platforms and pipelines
  • Beach, sea cliff, lake bluff, river bank erosion
  • Erosion of highways and other embankments
  • Sediment loads in water

 For each topic, there are three aspects

  • prediction
  • prevention
  • monitoring

 On the fundamental side, each one of the topics above has three components

  • water
  • soil
  • geometry


Please send your questions, comments or request for additional information to:

Prof. Jean-Louis Briaud
Department of Civil Engineering
Texas A&M University
3136 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3136

Telephone: (979) 845-4414