River protection with Maccaferri solutions

Gerardo Fracassi

Coatings, retaining walls, longitudinal dikes and spikes are just some of the solutions for stabilization, regularization, protection against erosion and flood control in watercourses. River protection with Maccaferri solutions explains the characteristics of these works, the problems that can be solved with them and how to size them.


The work approaches from the fluvial morphology and the types of intervention in a watercourse to Bioengineering and methods for sizing. It presents suggestions for structural projects in gabions and brings several real cases in which it explains in detail the problems found and the solutions applied, with step-by-step illustrations. A valuable reference for professionals involved in works of protection and stabilization of banks, river layout control and protection against flooding.

Original title
Proteção de rios com soluções Maccaferri
Year of publication

About the authors

Gerardo Fracassi

Gerardo Fracassi holds a degree in Hydraulic Civil Engineering from University of Genova (Italy) and holds a specialization in Environmental Engineering from University of Campinas (Unicamp). He has presented papers at congresses in Europe and Latin America and was the author and co-author of several technical manuals on Hydraulic Engineering, an area in which he has extensive experience through Maccaferri, where he has been working since 1979 and currently holds the position of Development Manager of New Solutions for Latin America.

History of gabions

Significant first fluvial works


River morphology

Classification of watercourses


Degrees of freedom


Solid transport

Required data for the project of river works


Interventions in a watercourse

Types and purposes of possible solutions

Types of solution


Usual solutions and their applications

Types of solution



Spike characteristics

Sizing of spikes

Spikes in gabions

Permeable spikes built with logs, meshes and steel cables



Bioengineering benefits for the project

Project considerations


Revegetation operations

Protection of the banks by means of Environmental Engineering techniques

Bank consolidation structures

Green infrastructure



Behavior of Reno® mattresses

Environmental performance of Reno gabions and mattresses


Methods of calculation

Sizing of coatings

Sizing of the coating in relation to the movement of the waves

Sizing of the spikes’ cross section

Suggestions for designing some types of gabion structure

Section and relation height/base

Stability against tipping and anti-slip, pressure at base and pressure at different levels


Use of geotextile



Buttresses and locking boxes

Placing in water

Adaptation of box gabions and Reno mattresses to the structure section

Types of stone to fill gabions



Historical cases

Los Antiguos River (Argentina)

Jolencia River (Bolivia)

Santa Cruz (Bolivia)

Pauto River (Colombia)

Naranjal River (Ecuador)

Lempa River (El Salvador)

Little Wekiva River (Seminole, Florida, USA)

Cañete River (Peru)

Haina River (Dominican Republic)

Blanco River (Dominican Republic)

Inkongweni River (South Africa)

Azul River (Chubut, Argentina)

Pescado River (Salta, Argentina)

Chimoré River (Cochabamba, Bolivia)

Bermejo River (Tarija, Bolivia)

Lempa River (Usulután, El Salvador)

Paz River (Ahuachapán, El Salvador)

Challuayacu  River (San Martín, Peru)

Huallabamba River (San Martín, Peru)

Huallaga River (San Martín, Peru)

Huallaga River (Picota, San Martín, Peru)


List of symbols

Bibliographical references


As a child, I used to spend part of my summer vacation in the mountains. What I liked most was not so much the magnificent view of the mountains, but the arroyos that came down from them bubbling and the noise they produced. The same effect caused the smaller streams, the small channels a few inches deep that the farmers dug to irrigate their fields. I used to spend hours following the water path, jumping from stone to stone in the stream bed, following its tortuosity, observing the larger stones that had been carried in the spring during the thawing, and which showed the strength of the water, and wondered how the water that carries huge stones could carry the tiny grains of sand, from the small beaches, sometimes found on the banks. Nothing was more amusing than creating little obstacles and diverging the stream to where I wanted it or stagnating it; controlling such a force gave me a sense of power and, at the same time, of peace.
This interest led me, years later, to studies in Hydraulic Engineering, and fate led me to work in a company that allowed me to continue to “play with water” in open channels, which makes it possible to look, touch, lay hands on it, unlike pipeline hydraulics, which never interest me because the water was confined, hidden and distant.
It was not only what I studied in college and my work that allowed me to understand how to work in and with the rivers, but the experiences of dozens of engineers that I have known throughout Latin America. Since my first trip to Central America in the late 70s, I have been able to confront my theories with their experiences. One of the first questions I was asked was about the spikes and precisely when they should be inclined upstream or downstream. My answer was based on common sense, but it coincided with their field experience, which gave me more self-confidence and taught me to question myself, question my knowledge, and compare my convictions based on my studies with observations from my own practice and others. Some of the valuable information I have collected over the years are part of this handbook and I regret how having written them all down, because I must have forgotten many of them.
I would therefore like to thank all the engineers who helped me to increase my experience, which was very useful in the decisions I had to make later and prevented many mistakes over the years.
Likewise, I would like to thank the collaboration of engineer Javier Herrera Hernandez, from Maccaferri of Argentina, and engineer José Roberto Costa from Maccaferri of Brazil, who helped me collect the information I used to write this text and in its revision.
The purpose of this publication is to disseminate the most common applications in the sector of stabilization, regularization, protection against erosion and flood control in natural watercourses and how to scale them.
For these purposes, continuous structures such as plumbing walls, longitudinal dikes and margins linings are generally used, but discontinuous structures such as spikes, sills and transverse dikes may also be used.
This book is dedicated to the works understood as direct protection of the erodible banks whose purpose is the protection and stabilization of the banks, the control of the route of river and the protection against floods.
Coatings, retaining walls, longitudinal dikes and spikes are generally used, whose use differs. The coatings, in order to exert their protective function, are placed directly on the edges, suitably profiled, as long as they are geotechnically stable. The containment walls fulfill the same protection function and, if the banks are geotechnically unstable, add up to the containment function. The longitudinal dikes create a new margin separated from the existing one, narrowing the bed. And, finally, the spikes protect or restore the eroded edges and eventually centralize the stream, causing the deepening of the central part of the watercourse.