Erosion Control Performance Testing

Erosion Control Performance Testing

Chris Thornton, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, with a wave simulator at the Engineering Research Center, July 20, 2011

For over 50 years, CSU has been a leader in the erosion control industry. Our professional staff has over 100 years combined experience in erosion control research including performance testing of vegetated and unvegetated erosion control products under channalized, overtopping, and pipe outlet conditions. CSU partners with a multitude of agencies and private companies to facilitate applied erosion control technology. 


  • Indoor and outdoor facilities allow for year-round testing
  • Slopes ranging from 0 to 50%
  • Flow rates as high as 200 cfs
  • 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space allows for year-round vegetation growth
  • Vegetation can be grown in trays with accompanying product and then installed in our flumes for testing

Common Overtopping Studies

  • Embankment Erosion Protection
    • Articulated Concrete Blocks (ACBs)
    • Synthetic Groundcover
    • Vegetative Systems
    • Pour-in-Place Systems
    • Riprap and Culvert Protection
    • Rolled Erosion Control Products (RECPs)
  • Spillway Examination
  • Performance under hydraulic jump conditions
  • Dam foundation erosion
  • Energy dissipation techniques

Common Erosion Control Studies

  •  Unvegetated erosion control products
  • Vegetated erosion control products
  • Overtopping conditions
  • Pipe outlet scour 
  • Local scour phenomena

Previous Erosion Control Performance Tests

The projects below are a small sample of the many types of overtopping performance tests undertaken at the laboratory. 

Rock Gabion Mattresses

Several configurations of rock gabion mattresses were tested to evaluate performance under a variety of flow conditions. Performance was evaluated on the condition of rock gabions post-test, as well as the condition of the underlying soil according to ASTM-D6460 standards. 

Rolled Erosion Control Product (RECP)

Various RECP products have been tested to determine marketable shear stress and velocity specifications in accordance with ASTM D-6460. We have recently worked with several companies to evaluate alternative installation techniques to increase performance. 

Articulated Concrete Blocks

Articulated Concrete Blocks (ACBs) have been one of Dr. Thornton’s focuses for nearly the past 25 years. CSU’s steep overtopping facility is perfectly suited to test and develop a wide range of ACB systems under a wide range of hydraulic applications. 

Wave Overtopping of Levees

In coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers to investigate levee overtopping and failure after hurricane Katrina, vegetation was grown in CSU’s greenhouse facility in large testing trays. The vegetation was then tested to simulate overtopping waves similar to those in a large hurricane. Performance was based on the ability of the vegetation to withstand erosion and ultimately failure of the levee. Check out the News and Media page to learn more about this project.