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Last edited 29 Mar 2019
Dredging is the process of excavating and removing sediments and debris from below water level, typically from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbours, and so on. Dredging is generally necessary because of sedimentation which is the process in which sand and silt washes downstream and accumulates over time in channels and harbours.
Dredging may be carried out for a number of reasons:
- To increase the depth of the bed to allow boats and ships to pass through.
- To obtain aggregates for manufacturing concrete.
- To obtain other materials for use in civil engineering projects.
- To excavate trenches for laying pipelines, cables, and so on.
- To increase channel capacity, thereby helping with flood prevention.
- To prevent the spread of contaminated sediments to other areas of the water body.
- For land reclamation. This is the process of forming areas of land by depositing dredged materials and building them up. One of the most famous projects of this kind was the construction of the Kansai International Airport in Japan, which involved the building of an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay.
 Considerations and planning
Before commencing dredging, it is important that site investigations and hydrological surveys are undertaken to assess the likely consequences of removing the material. Likely material movements and the seabed characteristics can be analysed from these surveys.
Some of the main factors which are considered during the planning stages include:
- Site location.
- Depth required.
- Type of material to be dredged.
- Where the dredged material will be deposited.
- If hard rock is likely to be dredged, underwater explosives may need to be used to break them up before being removed by bucket or grab.
The plant used for dredging can be broadly categorised as either suction or digging dredgers.
 Suction dredgers
These are the most commonly used types of dredger. Variations include:
 Trailer suction hopper dredger
This is a self-propelled hull capable of loading its own hold using a centrifugal pump which drags along the bed. It is typically used for dredging sand, silt and some clays. Winches or cranes are used to raise and lower the suction pipes, which have a maximum dredging depth of around 35 m. Hydraulically-operated doors in the hopper’s bottom discharge the material.
 Cutter suction dredger
This is moored using anchor legs and combines suction with a powerful cutting action. It uses a revolving cutting head and is capable of breaking up and removing firmer materials, such as hard clay and soft rock. The material is sucked up a pipe and discharged into barges for disposal. They can be used at maximum depths of around 40 m, and have the advantage of being able to produce a fairly uniform and level bed.
 Digging dredgers
 Bucket chain dredger
 Bucket dredger
This is also known as a backhoe dredger as it follows the same principles as the land-based backhoe excavator. The advantage of this type of plant is that it can be used to dredge a wide range of materials, including obstacles such as boulders.
This is also modelled on the land-based dragline, and is limited to shallow inland waterways. A bucket is lowered onto the material to be excavated and dragged along its surface by a dragline. Dredged material it typically deposited on the banks of the waterway.
 Floating grab dredger
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Amphibious excavators.
- Civil engineer.
- Coastal defences.
- Dam construction.
- Difference between cofferdams and caissons.
- Excavating plant.
- Land reclamation.
- Reservoir construction.
- River engineering.
- Sewer construction.
- Trenching equipment.
- Underwater foundations.
- Water engineering.
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