Over the last century, human activities have been focused on increasing development and productivity at the expense of the environment, which has increased soil erosion and sediment generation to alarming levels. Many of the current soil management methodologies depend on sediment capture in silt fences, check dams and sedimentation pools. The downside of these structures is then the inevitable requirement of continuous and consistent maintenance which is coupled with the lack of treating the problem from the actual source. There is need for solutions that keep soil intact and cohesively in place to reduce the chances of dislodgement and sediment generation as a result of change in weather events amongst many other causes. The balance between durability owing to intactness of the underlying layers and vegetative growth should be key to technologies implemented for erosion and sediment control with the expected outcome in the long term very much earth stewardship and cost saving driven which is at the pinnacle of our discussion in this article. We intend to describe how erosion and sediment are generated, followed by listing some of the challenges associated with erosion and sediment generation. We will then look at technologies which have been effective in erosion and sediment control. 

A natural process speeded up!

Pile of Construction Material with Erosion Control

The geological timeline has shaped the present landscape of our world with erosion and sedimentation playing a critical role in that process. By definition erosion and sedimentation broadly refer to the movement of solid particles known as sediment through natural processes such as erosion, transportation and sedimentation. The impacts of erosion and sedimentation are closely related to human activities as well, for instance the erodibility of soil is enhanced by farming through plowing and tillage as the vegetative cover is mostly destroyed through cutting and burning to make way for farming activities. As result of the bare exposure of the land, harmful sediment can be produced, and productivity of fertile soil can be compromised as well. Engineering activities such as road and highway construction can generate surmountable amount of erosible materials owing to loss of protective vegetative cover which exposes steep cut and fill slopes to scour problems coupled with serious sedimentation, that is bound to occur downstream. Economic related explorations like mining activities can introduce large volumes of sediment directly into natural streams with mine dumps and spoil banks actively eroding over time on exposure to natural rainfall after mining operations have stopped. The impacts of erosion in infrastructure can be understood through the example of Queensland in Australia. Research states that almost 45% of all soil in Queensland is sodic which means on wetting the clay swells and the particles disperse which results in a weakened aggregate in the soil and eventual collapse and reduction in soil porosity. The detrimental effects to this become limited water and air movement which causes structural issues. Sodic soils are much more susceptible to most forms of soil erosions which affects roads. Mining and exploration happen at the expense of natural drainage as disturbed soil can create sources of erosion and silting to water bodies which makes erosion control critical to making sure exploration is done without the comprise of the environment. 

Engineering a solution

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

The implementation of bioengineering or eco-engineering as form of erosion and sediment control must evaluate a couple of factors which are mainly related to potential dangers, size, cost and gain of the project at hand. The responsibility of the engineer is to create a workflow of steps which complement the erosion and sediment control plan intended to be used for the erosion and sediment control. Firstly, evaluation of the site is key which entails consideration of short-term risk to human safety and possibility of recurring hazards such as storms. If the risk to human safety and infrastructure is high as a result of a recurring hazard the use of engineering methods should have protection against immediate potential dangers as top priority for erosion and sediment control. On the other hand, if risk is low the next thing to consider is whether the site needs to be restored or protected on a small or large scale. In that case, it is important to determine the cost over long-term and these costs could be related to construction, planting, management and put in place a plan to assess again. The dilemma is then the choice between bioengineering techniques vs eco-engineering techniques. 

Soil or Geobinders

Soil erosion and sediment control and protection of exposed land against wind and water require solutions that extensively consider mitigating erosion at the source. Polymer technology for applications in erosion control offers speedy, rigorously tested and proven results offering benefits of non-toxicity, environmentally friendly solutions for multiple environments. The ability of the sprayed polymer to penetrate the top layer of the soil enables a durable layer to be formed which binds the underlying materials whilst promoting seed and vegetative growth in the long term. Time savings are struck when polymer technology is applied for erosion control without the hustles of installation or additional product treatments. As a client, savings justify choice of erosion control product and the benefits of using polymer technology hence in the long term the benefit of water savings is also achieved while offering long-term protection with limited maintenance requirements coupled with reduction in leaching of fertilizers and pesticides to rain and runoff. The crusting behavior of the polymer technology performs as a sacrificial layer to the soil hence less soil crusting allows for germination rates of crust sensitive vegetation to be greatly improved. 

Stop erosion – don’t just catch sediment

Erosion and sediment are generated through human activities and natural phenomena. The challenges associated with erosion and sediment include loss of vegetative cover, reduction in productivity of land, environmental degradation, filling up of water bodies with sediment which affects water quality these amongst many other challenges. Global Road Technology offers liquid polymer solutions for erosion and sediment control. GRT Nature Plus is key for revegetation needs and also as a nutritive source of phosphorus and nitrogen for germination and strike rate. GRT Enviro-Binder penetrates and binds with soil forming an interconnected 3D network structure with loose granular surface particles. Post its drying it creates a durable waterproof layer that binds the surface and prevents erosion. Similarly, although from a different chemical basis, GRT: Soil-Loc provides the ability to penetrate and form a top layer of interconnected polymeric and soil particles, provide a tough, erosion resistant crust. The environmentally friendly nature of these 3 technologies allows for their application in the most sensitive and diverse range of environments. Global Road Technology offers engineered solutions that are applicable across diverse soil management situations no matter the site complexity. 

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  • Julien, P.Y. 2010. Erosion and Sedimentation. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 
  • Norris, J.E., Stokes, A., Mickovski, S.B., Cammeraat, E., van Beek, R., Nicoll, B.C., and Achim, A. 2008. Slope Stability and Erosion Control: Ecotechnological Solutions. Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 
  • Pitt, R., Clark, S.E., and Lake, D. 2007. Construction Site Erosion Control and Sediment Controls: Planning, Design and Performance.