One of the most important uses for geotextiles is as a filter in drainage and erosion control applications. Drainage examples include trench and French drains, interceptor drains, blanket drains, pavement edge drains, and structural drains, to name just a few. Permanent erosion control applications include coastal and lakeshore revetments, stream and canal banks, cut and fill slope protection, and scour protection. In all these applications, geotextiles are used to replace graded granular filters used in conjunction with the drainage aggregate, perforated pipe, rip rap, and so on.
When properly designed, geotextiles can provide comparable performance at less cost, provide consistent filtration characteristics, and they are easier and therefore cheaper to install. Although erosion control technically does not improve the soil, prevention of both external and internal erosion in residual and structured soils is an important design consideration. Geotextiles can also be used to temporarily control and minimize erosion or transport of sediment from unprotected construction sites.
In some cases, geotextiles provide temporary protection after seeding and mulching but before vegetative ground cover can be established. Geotextiles may also be used as armor materials in diversion ditches and at the ends of culverts to prevent erosion. Probably the most common application is for silt fences, which are a substitute for hay bales or brush piles, to remove suspended particles from sediment-laden runoff water.