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Better Understanding of Hydrology is a Step Toward Safer Bridges

Posted: Apr 10, 2023

Researchers at Colorado State University are learning more about the complex hydrology that contributes to stream flows in order to develop recommendations for building bridges that can better withstand the effects of erosion. The most common cause of bridge failure in the United States is the erosion of streambed material from around bridge substructure elements (scour). In some cases, estimated stream flows at bridges are obtained from a unit hydrograph theory, which assumes a linear relationship between excess rainfall in a watershed and the resulting streamflow. However, the linearity assumption is increasingly recognized by hydrologists as invalid and can result in underestimation of peak flows. This project is a step toward developing guidelines for using a nonlinear unit hydrograph framework that recently became available in widely used hydrology modeling software.

Jeffrey D. Niemann, Ph.D.
Colorado State University

Evaluating Nonlinear Methods to Generate Flood Hydrographs for Bridge Scour Applications

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050