Last edited 01 Oct 2020

Culvert definition

A culvert is a closed conduit or tunnel used to convey water from one area to another, normally from one side of a road to the other side.

Typically culverts are box shaped, round or elliptical in cross section. They are often pre-fabricated and can be made from pipes, reinforced concrete or other materials that are embedded within the surrounding landscape to create a bridge-like structure that permits the stable and proper flow of water under an obstacle such as a road, and can help alleviate flooding and reduce erosion.

Culverts can also be used to move rainwater runoff along, under or away from highways.

The difference between a bridge and a culvert is that a bridge is intended to allow passage over an obstacle such as a body of water, whereas a culvert is intended to permit a body of water to pass under an obstacle such as a road. A culvert is provided for the ‘benefit’ of the water, and typically has a base over which the water flows. A bridge is provided for the passage of traffic, and provides a base over which that traffic can pass.

NB A drop inlet culvert is a form of culvert used on sloping ground where the water level has to be lowered to pass under a railway or road.

Culvert, screen and outfall manual, (CIRIA C786) published by CIRIA in 2019, defines a culvert as: 'A covered channel or pipe which prevents the obstruction of a watercourse or drainage path by an artificial construction.' It also gives the following definitions:

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