You are on page 1of 3

A drop structure, also known as a grade control, sill, or weir, is a manmade structure, typically

small and built on minor streams, or as part of a dam's spillway, to pass water to a lower elevation
while controlling the energy and velocity of the water as it passes over. Unlike most dams, drop
structures are usually not built for water impoundment, diversion or raising the water level. Mostly
built on watercourses with steep gradients, they serve other purposes such as water oxygenation
and erosion prevention.


1Typical designs
o 1.1Vertical hard basin
o 1.2Grouted sloping boulder
o 1.3Baffle chute
2Environmental effects
o 2.1Wildlife
o 2.2Erosion control
3See also

Typical designs[edit]
Drop structures can be classified into three different basic types: "vertical hard basin", "grouted
sloping boulder", and "baffle chute". Each type is built depending on water flow, steepness of the
site, and location.[1]

Vertical hard basin[edit]

The spillway of Leasburg Diversion Dam, part of the Rio Grande Project, is an example of a vertical hard basin
drop structure designed to dissipate energy.

The vertical hard basin drop structure, also called a dissipation wall, is the basic type of drop
structure. The vertical hard basin drop consists of a vertical "cutoff wall", usually built of concrete,
that is usually laid perpendicular to the stream flow; and an impact basin, not unlike a stream pool, to
catch the discharged water. The purpose of the vertical hard basin drop is to force the water into
a hydraulic jump (a small standing wave). Though the simplest type of drop structure, it is highest in
maintenance needs and less safe, with most problems related to the impact basin. Sediment is often
deposited in the basin, requiring frequent removal, and erosion downstream of the base of the

Grouted sloping boulder[edit]

This grouted sloping boulder drop on Trabuco Creek in California is almost entirely covered by floodwater.

A grouted sloping boulder drop structure is the most versatile of drop structures. Able to
accommodate both a broad floodplain or a narrow channel, they can also handle many different drop
heights. Heights of these structures usually range from 1 foot (0.30 m) to 10 feet (3.0 m). These
structures are built by creating a slope of riprap, which consists of large boulders or less commonly,
blocks of concrete. These are then cemented together ("grouted") to form the drop structure. Another
less common type of drop structure, the sculpted sloping boulder drop, is derived from this. The
sculpted sloping boulder drop is used to create a more natural appearance to the drop structure.
Both of these structures also tend to suffer from downstream erosion.[1]

Baffle chute[edit]

The canal spillway of Laguna Diversion Dam, shown here, uses a baffle chute drop structure to pass water to a
lower elevation.

The baffle chute drop is built entirely of concrete and is effective with low maintenance needs. They
typically consist of a concrete chute lined with "baffle" teeth to slow velocity of water as it passes
over the structure. Despite these appeals, however, they have very "limited structural and aesthetic
flexibility, which can cause them to be undesirable in most urban settings."[1]

Environmental effects[edit]
Drop structures have been shown to either be beneficial or detrimental to habitat in the stream. They
create complexity of habitat by breaking up a stretch of stream into a series of pools. Surface
turbulence, eddies and bubbles are generated by drop structures that provide hiding and cover for
fish and other aquatic organisms. Water is aerated as it passes over drop structures. Sediment is
collected and sorted in scour pools, which provide energy dissipation.
On the other hand, drop structures may also become barriers to fish. The downstream channel may
erode and slowly and unexpectedly increase the height of the structure, to a point where migratory
fish, such as salmon, cannot pass over the structure. Other causes may be that the plunge pool is
obstructed or the water flow is too shallow. However, many properly functioning drop structures
themselves may impede the upstream and downstream migration of fish.
Unless the structure is designed to maintain them, existing fish spawning pools will be impacted or

Erosion control[edit]
Erosion is usually reduced by drop structures, and natural river channel processes, such as channel
migration, meandering, and creation of stream pools and riffles, are also reduced.[3] Drop structures
can be used for flow control and to stabilize waterways and prevent the formation of gullies. They
also have the potential to operate as inlets and outlets for other conservation structures, such
as culverts.[4]