DOI: 10.1029/2022wr033531 ISSN:

Characterising the importance of porosity of large woody debris accumulations at single bridge piers on localised scour

D. Panici, P. Kripakaran
  • Water Science and Technology


The accumulation of large woody debris (LWD) at bridge piers is a serious hazard to the structural integrity of bridges across watercourses worldwide. The exacerbated scour that can directly result from LWD accumulations can lead to major structural damage or even catastrophic collapse. Recent research has led to empirical equations to estimate the scour depth for given LWD accumulation size; however these are mostly based on experimental tests with prismatic and impervious solid LWD accumulations, ignoring field observations that have shown that accumulations are neither impervious nor prismatic but are porous with inverted conical shapes. In this study, we therefore investigate the effects of porous LWD accumulations having shapes commonly observed in the field on scour holes. Results reveal that LWD size and shape, and flow characteristics are the primary factors influencing the erosion of sediments at the base of bridge piers. However, the porosity of accumulations is also observed to have a considerable effect on the size and maximum depth of scour holes. In particular, porous LWD reduce the maximum scour depth by up to 50% (and on average in the range of 5‐25%) relative to the respective solid impervious accumulation. The results shown in this study also provide a practical tool for arriving at more realistic and less conservative estimates of scour depths at bridge piers when affected by LWD accumulations.

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