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Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

The geological problems of the large dams constructed

on the Euphrates River ( Turkey)
Aziz Ertunc
ukurova University, Department of Geological Engineering, Adana, Turkey

In order to use the energy and irrigation potential of the Euphrates River, a series of dams have been designed
(upstream to downstream); Keban, Karakaya, Karababa (Ataturk), Birecik and Karkamis. The first three of these
dams have been completed; construction on the Birecik and Karkamis dams is underway. The initial plans involved
a 60 m high Golkoy dam, downstream of the Karakaya dam, with the Ataturk dam 60 m lower than it is currently.
In the belief that the cost of irrigation by the Ataturk dams water would be high, the increase of the height of
Ataturk dam was preferred to the construction of the Golkoy dam. The Keban dams basement is formed by karstic
rock, named Keban marble. From the author and his colleagues studies, it has been shown that water would leak
from the left side of Keban dam reservoir, forming a spring in the Keban Creek. In order to prevent this water
leakage, an intensive grouting programme was applied. In spite of this, when the reservoir was filled, 2630 m3/s of
water leaked from the Keban Creek. A more recent study on the volume of leakage showed it to be reduced to
78 m3/s, with this amount remaining constant. The Karakaya dam is constructed on metamorphic rocks thus only
allowing minimal water leakage. However, on the downstream side of the right slope, the TilloBegoSenketo
landslides have been an important risk to the dam. If such landslides cause an artifical lake by blocking the Euphrates
River, the Karakaya hydroelectric power station could be flooded. Limestone forms the foundations for the Ataturk
dam. On and around the damsite, there is epithermal water (2426C ) below the aquifer, deeper than 300 m, with
the level of the grouting curtain down to 180200 m. The grouting curtain would not be able to prevent the leakage
because the level of karstification extends below the grouting curtain. In February 1993, the total volume of leaking
water from the damsite and its vicinity reached 10 m3/s when the reservoir level was 517 m. When the reservoir is full
(542 m), the volume of leaking water is expected to increase. Under the clay core of the dam, extending from the
surface to 3040 m depth, high grouting pressure could not be applied, so water leaked at this part of the grouting
curtain and thus the amount of leaked water could not be measured. 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Dam; Landslide; Grouting; Watertightness; Karstification

1. Introduction
The Euphrates River is the most important river
in south-eastern Turkey; it is formed from the
Karasu and Murat tributary rivers. This river,
which is 2800 km in length, crosses East Anatolia,
enters Syria and then crosses Iraq to join the

Tigris, where it flows into the Persian Gulf. Its

regulated average discharge in Keban is 650 m3/s
and in Karkamis (Syria boundary) it is 963 m3/s.
In order to exploit the energy and irrigational
potential of the Euphrates River, a series of dams
have been designed (upstream to downstream) at
Keban, Karakaya, Karababa (Ataturk), Birecik

0013-7952/99/$ see front matter 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

and Karkamis. The first three of these dams have

been completed, with construction on the Birecik
and Karkamis dams underway. The initial plans
had a 60 m high Golkoy dam, downstream of the
Karakaya dam, with the Ataturk dam 60 m lower
than it is currently. In the belief that the pumping
expense of irrigation by the Ataturk dams water,
the increase in the height of Ataturk dam was
preferred to the construction of the Golkoy dam
(Figs. 1 and 2).
1.1. General characteristics of the Keban dam
Dam volume
Crest elevation
Crest length

15 585 000 m3
848 m
1097 m

Height from foundation

Height from river bed
Maximum water surface
Normal water surface
Reservoir volume at normal
surface elevation
Reservoir area at normal
surface elevation
Number of units
Unit capacity
Installed capacity
Annual energy generation

207 m
163 m
846.67 m
845 m
30 600 km3
675 km2
(157.50+175) MW
1330 MW
6000 GWh

1.2. General characteristics of Karakaya dam


Fig. 1. Positions of dams on the Euphrates River.

concrete gravity
and arch

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Dam volume
Crest elevation
Crest length
Height from foundation
Height from river bed
Maximum water surface
Minimum water surface
Number of units
Installed capacity
Annual energy generation

2 000 000 m3
698 m
462 m
173 m
156 m
693 m

672 MW
2500 GWh

1.5. General characteristics of Karkamis dam

1800 MW
7500 GWh

Dam volume
Crest elevation
Crest length
Height from foundation
Height from river bed
Maximum water surface
Reservoir volume at normal water
surface elevation
Reservoir area at normal water
surface elevation
Number of units
Installed capacity
Annual energy generation

and energy
84.5106 m3
549 m
1914 m
176 m
169 m
542 m
48.5 km3
817 km2
2400 MW
8900 GWh

1.4. General characteristics of Birecik dam

Height from the
Height from the
river bed
Crest elevation
Crest length
Reservoir area
Reservoir volume
Normal reservoir

963 m3/s
10 million m3
1.5 million m3

670 m

1.3. General characteristics of Ataturk dam:


Mean annual flow

Total volume of fill
Total volume of
Number of units
Installed capacity
Annual energy


concrete gravity+clay
cored sandgravel fill
62.5 m
49.5 m
389.5 m
2510 m
56 km2
1.2 km3
385 m

Height from foundation
Height from river bed
Dam volume
Crest length
Normal reservoir elevation
Reservoir area
Reservoir volume
Number of units
Installed capacity
Annual energy generation

clay cored
sandgravel fill
29 m
21.20 m
2.1 hm3
1647 m
340 m
28.4 km2
156.9 hm3
189 MW
652.5 GWh

2. Keban dam
The Keban dam was the first of the large dams
to be built on the Euphrates River ( Fig. 3). The
purpose of the dam is for hydroelectric power.
The right side of the dam is rockfill, with the left
side being concrete gravity.
2.1. Geology
The Nimri formation forms the oldest unit of
the Paleozoic metamorphic basement in the study
area (Fig. 4). This formation, with limestone generally dominant, consists of medium to thick
bedded limestone and dolomite (grey, black and
beige in colour, massive and hard in texture),
alternating with yellow, beige, brown, green and
red schist. As a result of the lateral and vertical
facies changes, it is generally observed that the
limestone, and in places the schist, is dominant.
On the Nimri formation, there is Keban marble.
The Keban marble is white, pinkish, light and


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Fig. 2. Euphrates River projects.

dark grey coloured, hard and competent, with

bedding generally unnoticeable. It is laminated,
fissured and faulted at various places with closely
spaced jointing. The 200500 m thick Keban
marble has been subject to intensive karstification,
forming many cavities. A basal conglomerate lies

transgressively over the Keban marble. This conglomerate is composed of dark grey to black
recrystallized limestone and marble with a few
quartz and quartzite fragments within the matrix
that consists of calcschist and micaceous schist.
The conglomerate is very hard, competent and

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182


Fig. 3. Keban dam, view from right side to left side.

medium to thick-bedded, with a thickness variation

between 10150 m. The upper schist, named the
Delimehmet formation, covers the irregular paleotopography of the Keban marble. It consists of
chlorite-bearing micaceous schists. Marble lenses
are seen in the lower levels and are intercalated
with conglomerate. The thickness of the formation
is estimated to be over 1500 m.
In the study area, a flysh named the Sagdiclar
formation produces an outcrop above the reservoir
level (elevation 845 m); therefore, it only has stratigraphical importance. The flysh consists of an
alternation of red limestone containing radiolaria,
green sandstone of magmatic origin, conglomerate,
beige limestone and mudstone. The thickness is
estimated to be 100 m around the village of
Sagdiclar dating to the CampanianMaastrichtian.
The Kuscu conglomerate, dating to the
PaleoceneEocene, covers a large area above the
reservoir level. The conglomerate is limy, cemented
and contains blackgrey, white limestone, yellowish schist and magmatic gravels. Its maximum
thickness is estimated to be 300 m.
The Seko formation forms the cover over the

older units in the south above the reservoir level

in the study area. It consists of an alternation of
sandstone, marl, conglomerate and dominant limestone. The limestone is beige coloured, thin
medium bedded, hard, closely jointed and contains
abundant Nummulite fossils. The sandstone is red,
light brownbeige coloured, thin to medium
bedded, is limy cemented and richly fossiliferous.
The marl is grey coloured, thin bedded and incompetent, causing vast landslides. The conglomerate
contains black limestone, white marble and beige
coloured schist elements of gravelboulder sizes
and is limy cemented. Their total thickness may
change from several metres up to 200 m. The age
of this formation is EoceneOligocene. Magmatic
rocks cover large areas in the east of the study
area and in the vicinity of Keban town. They
consist of rock such as syenite, diorite, diabase,
basalt and spilite. In the vicinity of the dam axis,
major faults have developed at the contact between
competent marble and the upper schist, and within
the marble mass. The fractures in the marble
follow partly the drainage pattern ( Ertunc and
Hadimli, 1971).


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Fig. 4. Possible leakage courses from left reservoir rim of Keban dam.

2.2. Engineering geology

The problems that arose from the construction
of Keban dam were investigated in the literature
and helped in the understanding of the importance
of engineering geology in Turkey. The dams basement is karstic rock, named Keban marble. It is
jointed, fissured, faulted and has many cavities
that can be seen from the surface. The data
obtained by borings and tunnel investigations were
insufficient. On boring at the site of the power
station, a large cave was seen, as demonstrated on
the borehole log. However, in spite of this, the
power station was located there. During the basement excavations, the cave was observed and
caused the power station to be relocated downstream. When a cavity was discovered on the
basement of the concrete gravity, it was turned by
90 and then making it parallel to the dam to
avoid the cavity, and the concrete gravity was
shifted downstream ( Fig. 3). During the basement

excavations, large caves were exposed and later

filled with concrete; inaccessible caves were filled
with intensive grouting.
During the dams construction, a 1:25 000 scale
geological map was made of the area bounded by
the Murat branch of the Euphrates River in the
north, by the Geyiktasi Hill location (25 km downstream from the dam site) in the south, by the
marble mass covering a large area in the east, and
by the Euphrates River in the west ( Fig. 4). This
geological study was carried out by the author and
his colleagues. As a result of this study, the possibility of the water leakage from the left side of the
reservoir was envisaged. The Keban marble which
outcrops like a lens along the reservoir extends
from the left bank to Keban Creek, Pamuk Creek
and Zeryan Creek in the south. The reservoirs
maximum elevation is 845 m. The marble outcrop
of Keban Creek is 750 m; at Pamuk Creek it is
800 m and it descends to 770 m at Zeryan Creek.
In the boreholes of the Keban marble, the water

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

level was found to be lower than the Euphrates

River and Keban Creek. During fieldwork, a lot
of cavities on the surface were found. After this
study, it was seen that if a grouting curtain from
the left bank to the east, reaching the schist, was
not built, leaking water would spring from Keban
Creek, and some would reach and spring from
Pamuk and Zeryan Creeks ( Ertunc et al., 1972).
In the region of the Keban marble immediately
below the transgressive contact with the upper
schist, karstic cavities were found in roadcuttings
near Keban Creek, on the walls of the deep cut of
the intake approach channel, as well as near the
left gravity wing. The cavities were filled with
thinly bedded sediments, which were diagenetically
petrified and later folded and fissured. In a later
phase, a basic net of deep karstic channels was
developed, generally from the bottom upwards.
This involved the above-mentioned older cavities
having thinly bedded sediments in which new
channels were opened. In this new net of karstic
channels, there are a variety of calcitic and other
deposits, which indicate hydrothermal activity. The
assumed hydrothermal development of the karstic
channels is supported by the fact that travertine
deposits exist on the left bank of the dam site, on
top of the karstic channels. In the Keban marble
region, there are a few dykes of syeniteporphyrite.
The greatest outcrop of such igneous rock is near
Keban town, in which fissured traces of hydrothermal sediments are found, as well as traces of
malachite and azurite. In the boreholes K-5, K-2
and LP-10, deep in the Keban marble, the same
syenite rock was found, and east of the zone of
these holes, a continuous outcrop of igneous rock
is found. These results indicate hydrothermal activity. The net of karstic channels developed by this
hydrothermal activity has smooth walls, and does
not greatly involve the adjacent joints and fissures;
the only exceptions to this are the heavily fractured
fault zones. In the declining phase of the hydrothermal activity, calcite deposits were formed,
which obstructed and closed the channels. In addition, some sedimentary deposits were found interwoven with calcite veins. When water stopped
rising through the net of channels, surface water
temporarily flowed and deposited loose beds of
clay and sand. In this phase, some formation of


calcitic drip stone occurred. The karstic phenomena is very much developed at the damsite.
Downstream of the dam, on the left bank of the
Euphrates River, a spring exists. Its capacity was
estimated to be about 0.5 m3/s. In the Keban
marble on the valley abutments, karstification is
very well developed on the main faults. From these
faults, smaller karstic channels branch; these are
developed tectonic joints and fractures. This is
visible, for example, in the Keban marble in
Kameroglu Creek valley. Exploration holes in this
region found (at great depth in the marble near
the Figen fault) karstic channels with sediments
indicating hydrothermal origin (borehole K-3).
This confirms the above-explained pattern of
development of these karstic phenomena. On the
above-mentioned recently exposed surface of the
Keban marble in the Keban Creek, there are only
traces of superficially developed shallow karstic
dissolution (Bozovic et al., 1972).
The grouting had started from a platform constructed on the left bank of the dam ( Fig. 5). The
platforms elevation was about 850 m. Originally,
the grouting depth was planned to be 250 m, but
as the karstification reached deeper on some sides,
grouting was extended to 300350 m depth. This
grouting curtain was connected to the dam site
grouting curtain ( Kosar, 1981).
After the reservoir was filled with water, to a
maximum level of 845 m, shown by point S.H. on
Fig. 5, the leakage water from the sink hole disappeared by making a whirlpool. Below the river
bed (175 m), the Crab Cavity, with a volume of
110 000 m3, was discovered. By following the leaking water, the Petek Cavity with a volume of
600 000 m3 was discovered.
At the same time, at Keban Creek, the leaking
water capacity, increasing with an elevation level
of 750 m as mentioned above, was seen to be
springing with a capacity of 2630 m3/s ( Fig. 4).
The water sprung from the left side of Keban
Creek by making a syphon. The reservoir level
was immediately lowered to the sink hole where
the leakage started, the sink hole was surrounded
by a concrete wall, and Petek Cavity was filled
with rock blocks. Filling was time consuming, but
the water leakage capacity from Keban Creek
decreased to 78 m3/s, remaining constant ( Figs. 6


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Fig. 5. Grouting curtains location map.

Fig. 6. Leaking water from left side of the Keban Creek.

and 7). At Pamuk and Zeryan Creeks, the subsurface water level was raised forming a small
spring. As the average discharge of the Euphrates
River water is 650 m3/s, this 78 m3/s water leakage from the creek is minimal. Even in the seasons
when the capacity is full, some of the water from
the spillway is released. Because of these arising
problems, the Keban dams completion was
delayed and its cost rose. However, an important

part of the electrical energy of Turkey is now

supplied from the Keban dam.

3. Karakaya dam
Karakaya, a concrete gravity and arch dam, is
constructed on the Karakaya metamorphic rocks

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182


Fig. 7. Leaking water at the left side of Keban Creek forming a syphon.

(Fig. 8). The purpose of the dam is for hydroelectric power.

3.1. Geology
The oldest outcrops are made up of various
metamorphic schists of possible Paleozoic age. The
Kocali complex of the Upper JurassicCretaceous
is allochthonous. Over the northern portion of the
study area, the oldest sequence of Cenozoic age is
the Gercus formation (Lower Eocene). It is overlain by the Midyat and Lice formations, with later
thrusting of the Karakaya metamorphic rocks over
the Lice formation.
The Karakaya metamorphic rock associations
display an intricate structural evolution. The
Alpine orogeny caused both systematic and nonsystematic fractures, and these were added to the
multiple small-scale crenulations and folds. The
primary structures are lost by the effects of
repeated later orogenies. Presumably, the repeated
metamorphic episodes are now hard to decipher.
The present outcrops are weathered on flat land,
with the fresh rock characteristics also being
affected by young hydrothermal alteration. At

present, it is hard to decide a type locality and the

progress of metamorphism. The best, and seemingly most complete exposure, lies between
Hindibaba and Karakaya villages. Over the performed structure sections, the thickness should
reach approximately 2000 m. Based upon the mineral composition and the texture of the metamorphic rocks, this sequence can be divided into three
subdivisions, namely: (1) metapelites (metagreywacke, slate, phyllite and intermediate type, schist,
gneiss); (2) metabasites (basic igneous rocks
affected variously by the metamorphism); and (3)
The Kocali complex is exposed along the deeply
incised canyons of the Euphrates River and
beneath the white Midyat limestone and red
Gercus conglomerate. There are several irregular
Kocali complex exposures beneath the Midyat
limestone at Tillo, Bego and Senketo landslides
area. There are many constrasting rock types in
this formation, such as limestone, radiolarian
chert, basic volcanics, serpentine and marble. Their
initial position and relationship are lost forever.
The radiolarian chert is in the majority along the
outcrop between the Hoya and Haburman villages.


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Fig. 8. Karakaya dam, view from downstream.

It displays a few irregular limestone and dolostone

bodies. The thickness amounts to 3500 m and is
overlain by basic volcanics (basalt, agglomerate,
spilite and pillow lava), continuing for approximately 5 km along the banks of the Euphrates.
Gercus formation is shown as a strip, cropping
out from beneath the Midyat formation. It is
mainly red to pink in colour and its thickness
fluctuates between 10 and 50 m. There also exist
sporadic Gercus formation exposures showing up
from beneath the Midyat formation and over the
extended landslide country Tillo, Bego and
Senketo territories. There are fine and coarse lithologic associations along with the Gercus formation,
but evaporites are not frequently encountered. The
overwhelming red to pink colour is due to terrestrial conditions; green, brown, and other hues
are subsidiary. The conglomerates are made up of
highly uneven but rounded clasts of limestone,
serpentinite and radiolarian chert. In the neighbourhood of Bego village and along Merg Creek,
a few gypsum lenses are shown. The detritals are
well consolidated and are prone to mass movement
over the slopes. An impure calcite is the most
common cement. The Gercus formation overlies

unconformably the Kocali complex and is conformably overlain by Midyat formation which is
a vertical, gradational transition.
The Midyat formation outcrops 2 km downstream of the Karakaya dam site, extending in the
direction of Gercus county along the Euphrates
River. It is prominent to the east of Hoya and
Bagvenk villages, and also at Ayi and Kimil mountains. At the last locality, the Midyat formation is
affected by huge sliding. The Midyat formation
here is subdivided into three members (bottom to
top): a Hoya limestone and dolostone member; a
Mirgan cherty limestone member; and a C
limestone member. The Hoya member is 155 m
thick, the Mirgan member is 220 m thick, and the
ungus member is 150 m thick. The Hoya limestone and dolostone member is conspicuous in the
field by its brown weathered topographic surfaces.
The limestone and the dolostone are interfingering.
The former is yellowish, mediumthick bedded,
very hard, recrystallized, and superficially affected
by dissolution. The latter is greybrown and mottled, thick bedded, very hard and less affected by
superficial dissolution. The Mirgan cherty limestone member is the middle section of the Midyat

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

formation. The limestone is light to dark coloured,

evenly and persistingly thin to thick bedded and
contains whitish-brownish chert nodules parallel
to the bedding. Being softer, it yields into extended
furrows. Superficially, it is affected by dissoluton.
The C
ungus limestone member is a yellowlight
greyishblack colour, medium to thick bedded,
hard, criss-crossed by white calcite veins, partially
recrystallized and fossiliferous.
The Lice formation outcrops 500 m downstream
of the Karakaya damsite and extends in an east
west direction. The maximum thickness may
exceed 1000 m. This formation is made up of marl,
claystone, sandstone and limestone. Marl is the
most abundant member of the lithologic association; thus, the others appear as sparse interbeds in
the sequence. All these lithologies are light coloured or, less frequently, yellowbrown and green
in colour and are thin to medium thick bedded;
this is a molasse facies. The Lice formation unconformably overlies the Midyat formation and it is
tectonically overlain by overthrusted Karakaya
3.2. Engineering geology
The Karakaya concrete gravity and arch dam is
constructed on Karakaya metamorphic rocks;
there is no problem with water leakage. Some of
the small landslide effects are unimportant (e.g.
Haskento landslides). In addition, there has not
been any significant problems with the dam site,
but on the downstream side of the right slope, the
TilloBegoSenketo landslides have been an
important risk for the dam. If this landslides cause
an artificial lake by blocking up the Euphrates
River, the Karakaya hydroelectric centre would
be flooded ( Fig. 9) ( Erguvanli and Kumbasar,
Extended and harmful down-slope sliding on a
large scale is restricted to the outcrop expanse of
Midyat formation. Large rock falls are uninterrupted between Korudag and Hindibaba Creeks
and these are triggered by a moving joint set
running N30W and 90. The large Midyat limestone blocks are detached from the Ayi and Kimil
mountains and reach Senketo, Bego, Tillo,
Merickeni, Savi and Tangol. This landslide, with


an area of 45 km2, is the largest in Turkey. There

exist rock falls, flag slides, rotational blocks and
sink-lake glide mass. Solifluction is observable at
Bego village. The Midyat limestone blocks, of
various sizes, glide over the wet surfaces of the
underlying Gercus and Kocali wettable lithologies.
Excepting the small-scale slide contact of Midyat
with Gercus, the main body of either Gercus or
Kocali is not affected by gliding. Should a natural
dam occur by gliding, the various installations of
the Karakaya dam would be flooded.
All the landslides within the study area are
caused by the movement of joints and hence are
related to the rock type, the position of the slope,
the influence of weathering, seismicity and the
headward erosional carving of the Euphrates and
its tributaries. These would reach a greater extent
upon a continuous wetting by leakage of the basal
plane and undermining of the slope. The attitude
of the Midyat limestone cropping at Ayi and Kimil
mountains, striking NE535 and dipping to NW,
eases the downdip directed sliding. The joint sets
N60E and 90 affecting the Midyat limestone, plus
the others which are not obvious because of PostMiocene mass movements, are also responsible
for sliding.
The Gercus formation is made up of conglomerates with clasts of white limestone, green serpentinite and red radiolarian chert. Gypsum lenses are
subsidiary, such as those present to the south of
Bego and at Merg Creek. The sulphate increases
in volume upon hydration, causing upheavals
which would start secondary movements of the
overlying Midyat limestone. The meteoric water
seeping along the joint planes and reaching the
surface separating the underlying soft and illconsolidated Gercus detritals ease the movement
of the formerly detached limestone blocks.
The underlying lithologies of the Kocali complex, which are exposed at Ayi and Kimil mountains, exhibit an old topographic surface dipping
to the north and toward the Euphrates River. The
glidings over the milder dipping stretches are subsidiary in comparison with those of the steeper
slope sectors. The degree of observable mass movement is higher during the wetter years. The rain
and melted snow water seeping through the contact
of Midyat limestone with Gercus at Ayi and Kimil


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Fig. 9. TilloBegoSenketo landslides, view from left side to right side (south).

mountains hasten the pace of gliding. The glide

detritals reaching the Euphrates are carried down
river by powerful currents, but this leaves open
spaces which are hastily filled with downward
moving slope waste.
The landslide area has been geologically and
geophysically surveyed, including mapping to a
scale of 1:25 000 and 1:5000. Thus, a three-step
slide strip is differentiated. The lower 8 km long
and 11.5 km wide strip extends EW between the
Tangol, Savi, Merickeni, Bego and the Murho
depression, exposing a limit to the north with the
Hirso Brook and the Euphrates River. The slides
between Savi, Merickeni and Bego Mill are
directed to Hirso Brook. The Midyat limestone at
Bego Mill, Acilar Spring and Ziyaret Hill are in a
continuous glide movement towards the
Euphrates. This mass is calculated to possess a
volume of 40106 m3. The surveying was carried
out by drilling and obtaining undisturbed samples.
The previously glided colossal block at Ziyaret
Hill seems to maintain its stable position. There
exists an extended open fissure running from the
Ziyaret Hill to the Murho depression and this is

prone to further detrimental progress. Eventually,

the materials at Sersenden and Cindo Hills and
the Murho depression would reach Euphrates. At
the SK-1 borehole, which is situated near the
Murho depression, a 113 m thick section of glide
materials was sampled. SK-2 failed to reach the
Gercus and the Kocali formations at 250 m due
to a squeezing of the drill system. At this locality,
their expected depth was between 250 and 270 m.
According to both geological and geophysical computations, the volume of the slided mass would
amount to 191106 m3.
The second step lies to the north of a line
connecting a point at about 1.5 km to the south
of Tillo to Ziyaret Hill. It is 78 km long and
1.52 km wide. To the south of that boundary lie
detrital materials of large volume between the
south of Eyni plateau and the Tillo village. The
detached blocks to the south and south east of the
Geyveni hamlet reached the Dolak depression.
There exists an upheaved stretch of land extending
from the east of Dolak depression to the heel of
the landslide. The Dolak depression lodges a landslide lake; this second step would have moved after

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

the first. The lateral compression of the sliding

masses would ease the gliding of the first step.
The third step is 7 km long and 1.52 km large.
It lies to the south of the second step and is limited
by the Eyni plateau, Ziyaret Hill and the Ayi and
Kimil mountains. The detached masses of the
Kimil mountains are prominent in the scenery.
The glide masses of the third step butts against
the second step and these would have moved after
the sliding of the first step.
Eighteen numbered concrete poles were sunk at
the critical points of the Tillo, Bego and Senketo
landslide areas and these were geodetically surveyed during their motion. Movements to the NW
are quicker in the vicinity of Bego; those at the
Senketo territory are comparatively much slower
and also diversely directed. The values of the latter
stay within the limits of measurement errors.
The Rock Mechanics Laboratory at Istanbul
Technical University submitted the following
values for the samples from Gercus and Midyat
formations: Gercus rock samples: C=26 kg/cm2,
w=48; Midyat rock samples: C=75 kg/cm2, w=
53. These values are high as the samples were
taken from dry and sound rocks. Hence, they
would not be suitable for the stability
A core sample from the Gercus formation at a
113.50118.00 m interval of the SK-1 well, tested
at the above-mentioned laboratory, yielded the
following: W =19% and W=32%. The kneaded
but not consolidated sample yielded the following
values: qu=0.456 kg/cm2 and W=25%. A
kneaded and consolidated sample under 1 kg/cm2
load emplaced within the Casagrande box by
sudden cuts provided a value of Z$Cu=
0.380 kg/cm2.
Samples were kneaded with water and subjected
to the minimum number of laboratory tests. More
realistic values would be secured with tests over
the undisturbed core samples, especially if preserved with their original moisture content. As
springs exist issuing from the contact of Midyat
with Gercus, this boundary plane would always
be in a saturated state. Hence C and w values have
to be less than the given results of the laboratory


4. Ataturk dam
The Ataturk rock fill dam is constructed on
dolomitic limestone, bituminous limestone and
plaquette limestone dating to the Upper
Cretaceous (Fig. 10) ( Erguvanli, 1963; Erguvanli,
1966). The first investigations of the Ataturk dam
site were started in the 1960s. On different damsites, borings and tunnel investigations and then
grouting tests were made. Finally, the current dam
axis was chosen, although it was larger and the
dam volume greater than the initial plans because
this axis was the most effective in reducing water
The oldest rocks on the damsite are dolomitic
limestone. Above the dolomitic limestone, there
are bituminous and cherty lensing limestone.
Above this, there are plaquette limestone and
marls. Karababa Anticline is on the dam site and
has an axis direction of NWSE. On the SE limb
of the anticline, downstream, there are Bozova
and C
eviktepe faults which are parallel to each
other. The faults net slip is about 400600 m. The
lowering SE block on Bozova fault caused dolomitic and plaquette limestone to exist next to the
marl. Secondary joints formed parallel and upright
to this system.
The dolomitic limestone on damsite is karstic
and pervious. Cherty and plaquette limestone are
also karstic, but the argillaceous levels of limestone
are impervious as is the marl above. Karstification
is manifest and dense on dolomitic limestone,
along bedding and joint systems. On plaquette
limestone, important karstifications have been
developed along faults. Secondary karstifications
have also developed along bedding planes and
joints. On and around the dam site, there is
epithermal water below the aquifer, which has a
temperature reaching up to 2426C; the above
aquifer has a temperature of 1519C on both
sides of the valley. Before the construction of the
dam, on the left side there was a small spring. On
the right side of the dam, downstream there was
a spring with an undetermined capacity because
of its disapperance into alluvium. Initially, it was
thought that there would be no problem with the
dam site. However, even with a diversion tunnel
opening, a 11.2 m3/s capacity spring was seen.


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

Fig. 10. Ataturk dam, view from downstream.

Its temperature was 2426C. In 1986, during the

opening of grouting galleries, new springs were
seen. While the level of the reservoir increased,
springs started to appear from the toe of the dam
(Fig. 11). On 1 November 1989, when the reservoir
level was at 427 m, the springs capacity was
0.06 m3/s. On 25 February 1990, when the reservoir
level reached 439 m, the capacity was 0.9 m3/s. In
February 1991, the reservoir level was 460 m and
the capacity of the spring reached 1 m3/s. (see
Table 1)
Originally, because of the chemical characteristics and the temperature of the water, it was
thought that the water was not from the reservoir.
With the increase of the reservoir level, it was seen
that this initial conclusion was wrong. On the dam
site, in tunnels, on the spillway, and on the toe of
the dam, water leakage started gradually increasing. On the right side of the valley, about 2 km
downstream of the dam, the first small spring
appeared and with its capacity increasing gradually
as the reservoir filled. In order to decrease the
pressure of the leaked water, drainage tunnels were
built downstream of the dam. In February 1993,
the total leaking water from the dam reached

10 m3/s when the reservoir level was 517 m. When

the maximum reservoir level is reached, the leaked
water volume is expected to increase ( Ertunc and
aynak, 1993).
The most important thing which had not been
considered initially was that the epithermal springs
were at depths greater than 300 m, below the level
of grouting curtain, i.e. 180200 m. Thus, the
grouting curtain would not be able to prevent the
leakage because the level of karstification was
below that of the grouting curtain. As the reservoir
level increases, the springs capacities increase and
the investigation boreholes pressures rise. On 24
May 1990, fluorescein was injected into the PH-8
borehole and rhodomine B into the PH-12 borehole. Samples were taken from the downstream
springs and boreholes and were analysed. As a
result of this, it was found that the velocity of the
ground water of dolomitic limestone was more
than in the plaquette limestone. The ground water
flowed under the grouting curtain, which was
impossible to prevent as the grouting curtain could
not reach an impervious rock. Although grouting
had been completed on the R4 tunnel, fluorescein
passed through this curtain, indicating that the

A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182


Fig. 11. Ataturk dam, springs started to form the toe of the dam.

Table 1
Some piezometric measuremetns of the downstream boreholes









PH-9 (right side)

PH-12 (right side)
PH-14 ( left side)
PH-27 ( left side)
PH-33 ( left side)
Reservoir level (m)










447. 02

grouting was not totally successful. Under the clay

core of the dam, extending 3040 m below the
surface, high grouting pressure could not be
applied. Thus, the water leaked through this part
of the grouting curtain with the amount of this
leakage being immeasurable.

5. Conclusions
When the Keban reservoir was filled,
2630 m3/s of water leaked from the Keban Creek

because of the karstification. The volume of water

leakage was reduced to 78 m3/s as a result of a
new investigation and this amount remained constant. On the downstream side of the right slope
of Karakaya dam, the TilloBegoSenketo landslides have been an important risk to the dam. If
these landslides cause an artificial lake by blocking
up the Euphrates River, the Karakaya power
station could be flooded. The total volume of
leaked water from the Ataturk damsite and its
vicinity reached at least 10 m3/s when the
reservoir level was 517 m. When the reservoir is


A. Ertunc / Engineering Geology 51 (1999) 167182

full (542 m) the volume of leaked water is expected

to increase.

Bozovic, A. et al., 1972. Report of Left Reservoir Rim Leakage
Problems at the Keban Dam Site. EIE Publication no. 72-35,
Ankara, Turkey.
Erguvanli, K., 1963. Geological Investigations of the Halfeti
Dams Reservoir on the Euphrates River (in Turkish).
Special Report of the EIE, Istanbul, Turkey.
Erguvanli, K., 1966. The Damsite Possibilities between Halfeti
and Findikli on the Euphrates River and Geological Properties of their Reservoirs (in Turkish). Special Report of the
EIE, Istanbul, Turkey.

Erguvanli, K., Kumbasar, V., 1967. The Geological and Soil

Mechanical Studies of the Landslides at the Vicinity of the
Karakaya Damsite on the Euphrates River (in Turkish).
Special Report of the EIE, Istanbul, Turkey.
Ertunc, A., Hadimli, L., 1971. The Geological Investigation of
the Left Reservoir Rim of Keban Dam between Murat River
and Keban Creek. EIE Report (in Turkish), Ankara, Turkey.
Ertunc, A. et al., 1972. Keban Project Investigation of Possible
Leakage Courses from Left Reservoir Rim. EIE Report,
Ankara, Turkey.
Ertunc, A., C
aynak, S., 1993. Hydrogeological investigation of
the Ataturk dam. International Symposium of Exploitation
of Mineral Resource Deposits and Underground Construction in Complicated Hydrogeological Conditions, Belgorod, USSR.
Kosar, E., 1981. Final Report of Grouting Curtain of Left
Reservoir Rim at the Keban Dam Site. EIE Publication no.
81-37, Ankara, Turkey.