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Geotextile Filter Design Guide 2000



Conceptually, designing a geotextile filter is no different to designing a graded granular filter. A

geotextile has voids (pores) and particles (filaments and fibres). The geometric relationship
between filaments and pores is however more complex than between particles and voids.
Successful geotextile filter design can nevertheless be achieved by following four principles:

 If the larger pores in geotextile filter are smaller than the larger soil particles, the soil will
not pass through.

 If the smaller pores in a geotextile filter are large enough for the smaller soil particles to
pass through, the geotextile will not "clog" or "blind".

 If there are a large number of pores in a geotextile filter adequate flow will be
maintained, even when some pores become blocked.

 If a geotextile is conformable and has adequate strength it will survive installation.

These simple concepts and analogies with granular filter design are used to establish design
criteria for geotextile filters.

As with granular filter design, a number of geotextile filter criteria have been proposed. There is
general agreement that retention and permeability criteria should be considered but for a more
complete design it is necessary to consider additional factors. The criteria that should be
considered for the design and selection of geotextile filters can be summarised as:

 a retention criterion to ensure the geotextile openings are small enough to prevent
excessive migration of soil particles ("piping"),

 a permeability criterion to ensure the geotextile is permeable enough to allow liquid to

pass through relatively unhindered,

 an anti-clogging criterion to ensure the geotextile is porous enough so when soil

particles become entrapped in or on the geotextile its permeability will not be adversely

 a survivability criterion to ensure the geotextile survives installation and

 a durability criterion to ensure the geotextile is durable enough to withstand the effects
of chemicals, UV light and abrasive conditions for the life of the project.

The selection and performance of a geotextile filter is influenced by the type and method of
application, ground water conditions and insitu soil properties (Figure 2). To design a geotextile
filter into a specific application the parameters of influence must be defined.

Figure 2: Parameters Influencing the Selection of Geotextiles in Filtration Applications

(see diagrams)

In order to quantify the geotextile filter requirements a simple seven step methodology, based on
research and experience, is proposed (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Geotextile Filter Design Methodology (After Luettich 1993)

(see diagram)

Step 1: Determine Soil Retention Requirements

Step 2: Determine Permeability Requirements

Step 3: Determine Anti-clogging Requirements

Step 4: Determine Durability Requirements

Step 5: Determine Survivability Requirements

Step 6: Performance Testing for Critical Applications

Step 7: Specify Geotextile Filter

3.1 Soil Retention Requirements

To determine the soil retention requirements, for mechanical filter stability of geotextiles, a full
grading and hydrometer analysis as well as the plasticity index (PI) of the soil to be filtered are
required. The retention requirements are expressed in terms of the Apparent Opening Size (AOS)
of the geotextile, which will prevent piping, under the conditions considered. The AOS or O95 of
a geotextile indicates the approximate size of the largest particle which will pass through the
geotextile. Flow conditions affect the way in which soil particles interact with one another and
with the filter. As a result retention requirements are determined for unidirectional flow
conditions and multidirectional flow conditions. The retention requirements for unidirectional
flow conditions are based on a geotextile AOS value determined by wet sieving (O95w) while the
retention requirements for multidirectional flow conditions are based on a geotextile AOS value
determined by hydrodynamic sieving (O95 H). In addition soils can be divided into three zones on
the basis of their particle size distribution (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Soil Zones for Determination of Geotextile Filter Requirements

3.1.1 Zone 1 Soils

These soils consist of more than 85% clay and silt (particles smaller than 0,075mm) and often
have sufficient cohesion (PI>15 or % clay / % silt >0,5) and low permeability, which allows for a more
open filter dimensioning. If the soil is non-dispersive and cohesion is preserved under long-term
operational conditions, the hydraulic efficiency of the filter is less important. The possibility of
concentrated fissure flow must however be considered.

The retention requirements for mechanical filter stability of geotextiles used with Zone 1 soils

i. Unidirectional Flow Conditions

 non-dispersive soils - 150 µm < O95w <300µm

 dispersive soils / fissure flow - place 100mm-150mm of sand, compatible with the
geotextile, between it and the soil.

ii. Multidirectional Flow Conditions

O95H < d90

 non-dispersive soils - O95H < 10*d50
O95H > 80µm

(dx = particle size of which x% are smaller)

 dispersive soils / fissure flow - place 100mm-150mm of sand, compatible with the
geotextile, between it and the soil.

3.1.2 Zone 2 Soils

Zone 2 soils consist of coarse silts and fine sands (d85 >0,075mm and d50 <0,6mm). With regard
to geotextiles, many Zone 2 soils are considered to be problem soils. They exhibit an increased
tendency for the movement of fine soil particles (scouring, erosion and silting up). The retention
requirements for the mechanical filter stability of geotextiles used with Zone 2 soils are:

i. Unidirectional Flow Conditions

 100µm < O95w > 250µm

ii. Multidirectional Flow Conditions

 O95w < d50

3.1.3 Zone 3 Soils

These granular soils (d85 > 2,0mm) can often be drained without additional filter layers but the
d85 of the soil, to be filtered, must be larger than the openings in any drainage pipe used. In
addition the extent to which fine particles may wash out should be considered. This should not be
allowed to occur to such and extent that the soil structure is destroyed. To ensure that a high
mechanical and hydraulic filter efficiency is maintained a geotextile filter should be used which
meets the retention requirements of Zone 2 soils.

The soil retention requirements of geotextile filters are summarised in Figure 5.

3.1.4 Factor of Safety

It is imperative that the retention criteria are followed WITHOUT applying a safety factor. A
geotextile with openings too big will result in excessive piping of soil particles through the filter.
Conversely a geotextile with openings too small will result in a build-up of fine particles which
may impede flow through the filter. In critical applications, to further minimise the risk of piping,
performance testing should be conducted to evaluate the behaviour of potential geotextile filters
with a given soil. (Section 3.6).

Figure 5: Geotextile Filter Retention Requirements

(see diagram)

3.2 Permeability Requirements

The permeability of a well designed geotextile filter in severe soil and hydraulic conditions can
reduce by an order of magnitude over its life. The principle of all permeability criteria is that as
long as the permeability of the geotextile (kg) is greater than the permeability of the soil (ks) the
flow of water will not be impeded at the soil / geotextile interface. Although dependant on soil
conditions and hydraulic gradient, the minimum allowable kg is determined by applying a factor
of safety of ten to ks:

 kg > 10* ks

ks is determined by laboratory / field measurement or estimated using Figure 6.

Figure 6: Typical Soil Permeabilities Based on the d15 of the Soil

In critical applications, to further minimise the risk of the geotextile filter not being sufficiently
permeable, performance testing should be conducted. (Section 3.6)

3.3 Anti-Clogging Requirements

The success of properly designed granular filters can be attributed to their inherent porosities
which are in the region of 25% to 30%. It is therefore logical that a geotextile filter with plenty
of openings (pores) is preferable to one with few openings. Hence the permeability of a highly
porous geotextile is not significantly impaired if some pores are blocked by soil particles.

To reduce the risk of clogging the following criteria should be met:

 For nonwoven geotextiles use the geotextile with the largest porosity (n) available, but
not less than 60%,

 For woven geotextiles use the geotextile with the largest percentage open area (POA)
available, but not less than 5%.

In critical applications performance testing should be conducted (Section 3.6).

The potential for chemical and or biological clogging of filters should be considered. This is of
particular importance in applications such as landfill drainage systems where there are high
levels of microorganisms or chemical constituents in the water. The effects of biological and
chemical clogging have not, to date, been quantified with respect to filter criteria. Laboratory
performance testing can however address these matters and test methods have and are being

3.4 Durability Requirements

If the application requires the geotextile filter to be exposed to sunlight for an extended period
added resistance to ultraviolet degradation is necessary.
All polymers are affected by ultraviolet light, some more so than others. Polypropylene, in
particular, if untreated is very sensitive in this regard. In general exposure to sunlight should be
avoided or at least minimised. If suitable information is unavailable, test method ASTM D4355-
84 can be used to establish the UV stability of geotextiles. Alternatively an assessment can be
made by simply exposing the geotextile to direct sunlight over a period of time.

Where the geotextile will be exposed to chemicals for extended periods, such as in waste
containment, the stability of the geotextile with the chemicals concerned should be evaluated. If
suitable data is unavailable, test method ASTM D5322-92 can be used to assess the chemical
stability of geotextiles.

In applications involving flexible revetments or stone armour (rip-rap), exposed to severe

dynamic flow conditions, abrasion of the geotextile could be a concern. If the material used in
the protective layer is undersized it may move repeatedly, causing abrasion of the geotexile.
Protective layers must be correctly designed so material of the correct size is used which will
resist significant movement, thus reducing abrasion of the geotextile. If suitable information is
unavailable, test method ASTM D4886-88 can be used to assess the abrasion resistance of

3.5 Survivability Requirements

Geotextile filters will not perform properly if damaged during installation. Site conditions and
construction procedures affect geotextile survivability in the following areas:

 trench construction / surface preparation - the trench depth and expected condition of the
trench walls or prepared surface (smooth or rocky) and

 compaction of the drainage stone and / or the backfill material.

A geotextile with good conformability is less susceptible to puncture and damage during
installation and can be placed in intimate contact with the soil. If there is a void behind the
geotextile, excessive fine soil particles will be able to accumulate next to the filter, thus impeding
the flow of ground water.
The most common method of ensuring a geotextile filter will survive the construction process is
to specify minimum index strength properties corresponding to the severity of the installation.
Minimum index strength properties for different geotextiles (I to VII) are listed in Table 1 and an
indication of what installation conditions geotextiles with these minimum strength properties can
survive is given in Table 2. This is adapted from the Tast Force 25 (FHWA, 1990) survivability
specification and is based on the properties of geotextiles known to have performed

Table 1: Construction Survivability Strength Requirements

Geotextile Grade
Property Units Method

N 175 225 275 325 425 525 725 D4533-
CBR kN 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 6.0
Dart Test mm 32 28 24 20 16 14 10
Tensile SABS
kN / m 7 9 11 13 19 25 40
Strength 0221-88

Table 2: Installation Conditions Relating to Grade of Geotextile

Grade of Geotextile
Installation Condition
Trench <2.0m deep with smooth sides and rounded drainage stone
with moderate compaction
Trench <2.0m deep with rough sides or sharp drainage stone with
moderate compaction
Trench <2.0m deep with rough sides and sharp drainage stone with
high compaction
Trench <2.0m deep with smooth sides and rounded drainage stone
with moderate compaction
Trench <2.0m deep with rough sides or sharp drainage stone with
high compaction
Erosion protection with stone hand picked directly onto geotextile
Erosion protection with rock<100kg placed on geotextile protected Y
by 150-300mm sand or "zero drop height"
Erosion protection with rock>100kg placed on geotextile protected
by 150-300mm sand or "zero drop height"
Severe installation and loading conditions, e.g. under railtrack

3.6 Performance Testing for Critical Applications

A critical application can be defined as where failure of the geotextile filter is unacceptable based

 Human Safety: potential loss of life.

 Structural Performance: possibility and extent of consequential damage to the


 Resultant Costs: repair or reconstruction of the structure.

If an application is considered to be critical, or when warranted, a desktop analysis should be

supplemented by laboratory and / or field testing.

Performance testing provides data relating to the behaviour of a candidate geotextile filter
subjected to boundary, flow and soil conditions closely simulating those anticipated on site.
Filtration performance tests for unidirectional flow conditions include:

3.6.1 Long Term Gradient Ratio (LTGR) Test

In the LTGR test water flows downwards through a vertical column of soil above a candidate
geotextile, in a permeameter fitted with stand-pipes spaced at 50mm intervals. The bottom two
stand-pipes are 25mm above and below the geotextile (Figure 7.) The change in flow rate
through the system as well as the stand-pipe readings are monitored over time. The test is
stopped once the flow rate and the stand-pipe measurements stabilise. The permeability of the
soil / geotextile interface can be calculated according to Darcy's equation using the head loss
measured between stand-pipes. If the permeability of the soil / geotextile can be considered to
have failed.
Figure 7: Long Term Gradient Ratio Permeameter

3.6.2 Interface Flow Capacity (IFC) Test

In the IFC test the soil sample is divided into a coarse and a fine fraction. After the flow through
the uncontaminated geotextile is determined, portions of the fine soil fraction are introduced to
the flow tube and the IFC is recorded for each increment. The same procedure is carried out for
the coarse fraction. The results are then plotted as IFC versus mass of soil added, for both the
fine and coarse fractions. If the reduction in IFC of the fine fraction is greater than the reduction
in IFC of the coarse fraction then the fine fraction is being retained at the soil / geotextile
interface zone. This indicates a risk of excessive clogging. The mass of soil retained is obtained
by weighing the geotextile specimen before and after testing, which gives an indication of the
risk of piping.

3.6.3 Biological Clogging Test

A designated liquid flows downwards through a vertical column in which a candidate geotextile
is positioned, with or without soil above it. The flow rate is measured over time in order to
evaluate the degree of biological and / or chemical clogging. Back flushing can be introduced
with or biocides or chemicals and the results assessed accordingly.

Additional information on performance testing can be obtained from Geosynthetic Testing


3.7 Specify Geotextile Filter

There is an ongoing debate regarding the advantages and disadvantages of woven and nonwoven
geotextiles. The design requirements must be considered in order to assess what geotextile is best
for a specific situation. In general, as long as the geotextile meets the filter criteria, whether it is
nonwoven or a woven, it should perform adequately as a filter.
The retention behaviour of a geotextile filter is dependent on the size of the geotextile pore
openings but is influenced by the thickness of the filter. Conceptually, a given soil is less likely
to be retained by a thin geotextile than by a thick geotextile with the same distribution of pore
size openings. Due to their structure and thickness nonwoven geotextiles are generally better
suited to applications requiring more stringent retention performance.

Based on the application requirements, insitu soil properties and the site conditions, the required
properties of the geotextile filter are obtained from Step 1 to Step 5. In critical applications the
suitability of geotextiles should be confirmed by performance testing (Step 6).

 Step 1 - range of or maximum allowable O95w or O95H

 Step 2 - minimum allowable permeability (kg).

 Step 3 - minimum allowable porosity (n) or percentage open area (POA).

 Step 4 - minimum allowable strength requirements (survivability).

 Step 5 - guidance to help ensure the geotextile will be sufficiently durable.

 Step 6 - confirmation of the suitability of candidate geotextiles.

The required geotextile property values obtained from the desk top analysis are inserted in the
specification sheet (Table 3). If performance testing is carried out, the property values of the
most suitable, cost effective geotextile are inserted.

Table 3: Geotextile Filter Specification

Property Value(1) Units Test Method(2)

O95W µm Franzius Institute

Pore Size
O95H µm NFG 38.C17

Permeability m/s SABS 0221-88

Percentage Open Area 5 %
Porosity-Nonwovens 60 % Calculation

Trapezoidal Tear N ASTM D4533-85

CBR Puncture kN SABS 0221-88

Dart Test mm CPA 1991

Tensile Strength kN / m SABS 0221-88

UV Light Stability (150 hours) 80% strength retained ASTM 4355-84

1. Minimum average values (in the weaker principle direction) are specified except for the pore size where the
maximum or a range of AOS is specified and the Dart Test where the maximum diameter of the dart hole is

2. Acceptance of geotextiles shall be based on the test methods specified.