Watertight enclosure from which water is pumped to expose the bed of a body of water in order to permit the construction of a pier or other hydraulic work. Cofferdams are made by driving metal sheetpiling (a series of thin, interlocking panels) into the bed to form a watertight fence. Roman engineers used cofferdams to found the piers of their arch bridges and aqueducts. See also caisson.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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