Open-File Report 2003-295

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Prepared in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration

Trends of Abutment-Scour Prediction Equations Applied to 144 Field Sites in South Carolina

By Stephen T. Benedict, Nikhil Deshpande, Nadim M. Aziz, and Paul A. Conrads


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The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration in which predicted abutment-scour depths computed with selected predictive equations were compared with field measurements of abutment-scour depth made at 144 bridges in South Carolina. The assessment used five equations published in the Fourth Edition of “Evaluating Scour at Bridges,” (Hydraulic Engineering Circular 18), including the original Froehlich, the modified Froehlich, the Sturm, the Maryland, and the HIRE equations. An additional unpublished equation also was assessed. Comparisons between predicted and observed scour depths are intended to illustrate general trends and order-of-magnitude differences for the prediction equations. Field measurements were taken during non-flood conditions when the hydraulic conditions that caused the scour generally are unknown. The predicted scour depths are based on hydraulic conditions associated with the 100-year flow at all sites and the flood of record for 35 sites. Comparisons showed that predicted scour depths frequently overpredict observed scour and at times were excessive. The comparison also showed that underprediction occurred, but with less frequency. The performance of these equations indicates that they are poor predictors of abutment-scour depth in South Carolina, and it is probable that poor performance will occur when the equations are applied in other geographic regions. Extensive data and graphs used to compare predicted and observed scour depths in this study were compiled into spreadsheets and are included in digital format with this report. In addition to the equation-comparison data, Water-Surface Profile Model tube-velocity data, soil-boring data, and selected abutment-scour data are included in digital format with this report. The digital database was developed as a resource for future researchers and is especially valuable for evaluating the reasonableness of future equations that may be developed.

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Posted October 2006

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