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What is the mechanism of scouring at obstructions (e.g. bridge piers) in rivers?

When the water flow in river is deflected by obstructions like bridge piers, scouring would occur arising from the formation of vortexes. The mechanism of formation of vortices is as follows: the flow hits the bridge piers and tends to move downwards. When the flow reaches the seabed, it would move in a direction opposite to its original flow direction before hitting the bridge piers.

Hence, this movement of flow before the bridge piers results in the formation of a vortex. Owing to the formation of this vertical vortex, seabed material is continuously removed so that holes are formed at the seabed and this result in local scour at bridge piers. As the shape of vortices looks like horseshoes, it is sometimes called “horseshoe vortex”.


This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.

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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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