The Scourge of Scour

by Juan A. Murrillo, Vice Pres.; Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., 201 E. Kennedy Blvd., First Southern Plaza, Suite 1739, Tampa, FL 33602,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1987, Vol. 57, Issue 7, Pg. 66-69

Document Type: Feature article


Among 86 bridge failures from 1961 to 1976, more were caused by scour than by earthquakes, wind, structural problems, corrosion and accidents combined. Scour is the erosion of a stream bed caused by running water. General scour is the systematic degradation across an entire stream bed. Local scour is the development of holes and ruts around piers and abutments. Scour can be dealt with by spanning the river, or by protecting the piers and abutments from general and local scour. Bridge inspection and construction can prevent many of these problems, and create the documentation necessary for future maintenance.

Subject Headings: Scour | River and stream beds | Infrastructure construction | Bridge failures | Piers | Bridge abutments | Bridge management | Failure analysis

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