2019 – Interpretation of Internal Erosion Susceptibility in a New Zealand Canal Embankment

K.A. Crawford-Flett, J.J.Eldridge, E.T. Bowman, C. Gordon

This paper provides an interpretation of factors governing the manifestation of internal erosion in a New Zealand canal that was constructed during the 1970s. Liner and subgrade soils were sampled during de- watering of Tekapo Canal in 2013, following the surveillance of erosion events over the preceding decades. This paper focuses on the interpretation of erosion susceptibility of liner and subgrade soil gradations sampled at four locations. Of the four locations, Sites 2, 3, and 4 were associated with internal erosion defects. A single location (Site 1) was selected to provide benchmark “intact” (un-eroded) samples.
Interpretation of susceptibility of the widely-graded soils to internal erosion mechanisms was achieved through the application of established empirical techniques for internal stability, filter compatibility, and segregation. Analysis of gradations, which are believed representative of some – but likely not all – canal soils, showed that Sites associated with erosion defects had liner-subgrade interfaces that permitted “some erosion” (NE < D15F < EE), while the Site showing no sign of erosion possessed an interface that met modern filter retention criteria for No Erosion. Based on gradation analysis, internal instability is considered a possibility for subgrade materials in particular. It is possible that subgrade materials that fail No Erosion criteria for liner retention may not represent as-built material and may instead have lost finer fractions in situ due to seepage-induced instability, leaving a coarser-than-placed and filter-incompatible subgrade. This case study demonstrates the use of gradation-based empirical methods as initial screening tools to assess the susceptibility of soils to internal instability, filter compatibility, and segregation. The relationship between the internal stability of a filter and the filter’s particle retention performance (compatibility) is emphasised. As well as gradation susceptibility, the assessment of other factors such as segregation and hydraulic loads must be considered in order to better-understand susceptibility to erosion mechanisms.

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