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What is the difference between levees and dykes in terms of river embankment and also which type of materials are generally used in making river embankment ?

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Generally, the terms are used somewhat interchangeably. However, a levee can be formed along a river or ephemeral channel due to natural causes. Mainly: flooding of the river/channel and subsequent deposition of suspended material on its banks. In case of a river: as this occurs on the sides of the river where the flowing water has the least energy, it mainly carries fine material such as fine sand, silt and clay. A dyke, on the other hand is often man made and can consist of numerous materials. In the Netherlands for instance, it is often made of various components of sand, clay and peat.

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As the description in the image is dutch, the yellow parts are sandy materials, the brown/reddish are clayey materials and the orange/pink materials are peaty or clayey. You will often find peaty and clayey material on the outer parts of a dyke. These materials conduct less water than sand and serve as a first protective layer. In the Netherlands, the core is often made of sand, as the stability and geotechnical behaviour of sands are less influenced by water than those of clay. Clays shrink and swell as a result of water content, in extensive drought this may cause clays to crack and dykes to be damaged. Additionally, sands are more easily drained than clays, as a result of their bigger pores.
Sources: Deltares

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  • $\begingroup$ And if there is wave action or current as a river , the surface will be covered with rip-rap, concrete shapes or broken pieces. $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Oct 5 '18 at 20:50

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