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Laboratory soil piping and internal erosion experiments: evaluation of a soil piping model for low-compacted soils

Garey A. Fox, Rachel G. Felice, Taber L. Midgley, Glenn V. Wilson, Abdul-Sahib T. Al-Madhhachi
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 2013 v.39 no.9 pp. 1137-1145
clay loam soils, erodibility, landforms, mechanistic models, riparian areas, sandy loam soils, sediments, soil erosion, soil erosion models, streams, water content
Mechanistic models have been proposed for soil piping and internal erosion on well-compacted levees and dams, but limited research has evaluated these models in less compacted (more erodible) soils typical of hillslopes and streambanks. This study utilized a soil box (50cm long, 50 cm wide and 20 cm tall) to conduct constant-head, soil pipe and internal erosion experiments for two soils (clay loam from Dry Creek and sandy loam from Cow Creek streambanks) packed at uniform bulk densities. Initial gravimetric moisture contents prior to packing were 10, 12 and 14% for Dry Creek soil and 8, 12, and 14% for Cow Creek soil. A 1-cm diameter rod was placed horizontally along the length of the soil bed during packing and carefully removed after packing to create a continuous soil pipe. A constant head was maintained at the inflow end. Flow rates and sediment concentrations were measured from the pipe outlet. Replicate submerged jet erosion tests (JETs) were conducted to derive erodibility parameters for repacked samples at the same moisture contents. Flow rates from the box experiments were used to calibrate the mechanistic model. The influence of the initial moisture content was apparent, with some pipes (8% moisture content) expanding so fast that limited data was collected. The mechanistic model was able to estimate equivalent flow rates to those observed in the experiments, but had difficulty matching observed sediment concentrations when the pipes rapidly expanded. The JETs predicted similar erodibility coefficients compared to the mechanistic model for the more erodible cases but not for the less erodible cases (14% moisture content). Improved models are needed that better define the changing soil pipe cross-section during supply- and transport-limited internal erosion, especially for piping through lower compacted (more erodible) soils as opposed to more well-compacted soils resulting from constructing levees and dams.