Streambank erosion and instability induced by groundwater seepage

Taber L. Midgley, Garey A. Fox, Glenn V. Wilson, Derek M. Heeren, Andrew Simon, Eddy J. Langendoen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Excessive sediment is one of the most common surface water pollutants. It diminishes water quality and destroys aquatic habitat. Streambank erosion is known to be a major source of sediment in streams and rivers, contributing as much as 80% of the total sediment load in some watersheds. Little work has been done to study the effects of seepage on streambank erosion and failure. Prior research, primarily in the laboratory under well-defined and controlled conditions, has examined seepage as a mechanism for bank erosion, but more needs to be done to validate conclusions derived from the laboratory with field data. This project studied a streambank on Dry Creek (a tributary to Little Topashaw Creek) located in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The bank was previously observed to produce seepage even during dry summer months. This creek is a deeply incised stream in the Yalobusha Watershed with near 90 degree banks. The creek flows through alluvial plains under cultivation and surrounded by forested areas. Excess sediment has been identified as the main water quality issue in the watershed with gullies and banks being the main sources. Watershed geology is characterized by silt loam and clay loam with a more conductive loamy sand between the loam and an underlying cohesive layer. The site was initially instrumented with a network of tensiometers and observation wells. Groundwater conditions and bank erosion were monitored for several weeks, followed by an induced seepage experiment. A trench installed 2.8 m from the edge of the bank and approximately 2 m below ground surface was used to provide a constant head for groundwater flow in the near-bank area. The bank face was outfitted with a seepage collection device that measured seepage flow rate and sediment transport. Groundwater conditions were again monitored by the tensiometer and observation well network. Experiments consisted of a trench injection at a constant head and observations of flow rates, erosion rates, soil-water pressures, and water table elevations. Flow rates varied from 0.004 L/min to 1.16 L/min at different locations on the bank. It was observed that the seeps experienced 'self-healing' erosion in which upper layer cohesive soil failures blocked further particle mobilization. One experiment simulated fluvial erosion removing the failed material, thereby, resulting in combined erosion rates of over 6000 g/min. Seepage erosion could be a dominate mechanism of streambank failure where the self-healing process is not occurring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAmerican Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2011, ASABE 2011
PublisherAmerican Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781618391568
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventAmerican Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2011 - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Aug 7 2011Aug 10 2011

Publication series

NameAmerican Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2011, ASABE 2011


ConferenceAmerican Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Annual International Meeting 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLouisville, KY


  • Bank erosion
  • Sapping
  • Seepage erosion
  • Streambank stability
  • Subsurface flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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