Bio-based barriers for seepage and internal erosion control

Project ID: 1833
Principal Investigator: Angel Gutierrez
Research Topic: Improving Geotechnical Infrastructure Reliability
Funded Fiscal Years: 2018
Keywords: None

Research Question

What is the potential for bio-based barriers for seepage reduction and erosion control in water-retaining structures? What is the best treatment strategy?

Need and Benefit

Seepage and internal soil erosion affect the operation and stability of water-retaining structures leading to significant maintenance costs and potentially reduced service use of vital structures. There are several potential methods that exist to reduce seepage and the risk of internal soil erosion, such as the installation of sheet piles or geotextiles, increasing dam thickness or by injecting cement-based or chemical grouts. However, these methods can be costly and sometimes impractical, or may not always be applicable when space is limited. In addition, migration of erosion channels in earth-filled structures is a highly dynamic process that makes it difficult to determine the location(s) and extent of these channels, thereby limiting the effectiveness of traditional techniques to mitigate seepage and internal soil erosion. The facilitated or directed formation of natural internal soil crusts forming impermeable or cemented barriers may offer cost-effective and sustainable solution to address the problem of seepage and internal soil erosion. Natural internal soil crusts are formed as a result of soil biochemical processes which can form hardpans of iron oxide, calcium carbonate or precipitates of aluminum as naturally found in various soil horizons. Therefore the benefits to Reclamation and the public are lower maintenance costs for water-retaining structures, more environmentally friendly solutions than currently used methods and possibly reduce the probability of failure of water-retaining structures thus keeping the general public safe. Reclamation would continue to use current methods that are not optimal for remediation of seepage and internal erosion. This means that high maintenance costs and probability of failure due to seepage will remain at current levels or begin to increase as seepage and internal erosion worsens.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Bio-Barriers for Seepage and Internal Erosion Control (final, PDF, 885KB)
By Angel Gutierrez, Rusty Williams, and John Fleming
Report completed on March 31, 2019

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20