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1.1 Engineering Responsibility
An Engineer's responsibility is to safety. They must act with integrity giving due
consideration to the purpose of the project and the ultimate effects of the project on
fellow human beings.
At the same time the Engineers are responsible to the community for the cost of the
structure. There is always a limit to the finance, so any cut in cost must not sacrifice
The Engineers also carries a legal responsibility, and are responsible at all times for both
what they do and what they say.
Consequences of Failure
Failure happens with fearful rapidity and usually without little warning, with the potential
to cause a national catastrophe.
When the Oros Dam failed in Brazil in March 1960, between 30 and 50 people were lost
and 100 000 people were evacuated, some 730 million cubic metres of water were
released in 34 hours with a peak flow of 9600 cubic metres per second.
Statistics - Classification of Risk according to Gruner

Hydraulic Conditions

30% Type of Structure amd Construction







Table based on International Commission on Large Dams 1965 report.

Number of incidents
Arch Buttress Gravity Earthfill Rockfill Misc Total
























1.2 Planning

1.2.1 Water Resources - National and International

Water is probably Man's most vital commodity; its optimum utilization will be of prime
importance in our expanding civilisation. Planning is therefore essential on a
geographically wide scale and over a long period of time. The greatest obstacle is usually
the unavailability of finance for comprehensive investigations.
It would be desirable from the engineering viewpoint to start development high up in a
river and then progress downstream. This would improve quality and gradually
increasing control of the river would facilitate and lower the cost of the downstream
stages. However there is usually less potential, difficult access and hence construction
costs are higher, and therefore the benefit to cost ratio is generally lower.
For example the Hoover Dam, used to prevent floods, generate electricty and provide
irrigation has two mighty spillways, which due to subsequent development upstream will
probably never be used. Such occurences are unavoidable when only part of a river
system is developed, i.e. when the economy requires the 'best' damsites be exploited first.
On a larger scale the major rivers of the world often form international boundaries or they
rise in one country and flow through several others. International agreements may exist
between countries with regards the usage of the river for example. For the satisfactory
allocation of costs a basic programme for the full development of the river basin must be
evolved and accepted.

1.2.2 Reservoir Utilisation Single Purpose Reservoirs
Mainly for industry, such as mining where the life of the dam depends on the mines
resources, town water supply or for beautification and recreation. Multipurpose Reservoirs

Water supply (requires a high reservoir)

Silt retention
Electricity generation
Recreation and beautification (requires a constant reservoir level)
Flood mitigation (requires a low reservoir)

1.2.3 Life of a dam

Many dams are in existence that are over 1000 years old. Gravity and rockfill dams must
qualify for long structural lives wheras thin arches, multiple arches or buttress dams have
more limited lives, especially if they retain aggresive water.
It is usual to finance the building of a dam on the basis of repayment of its cost over 50 or
60 years. After this the only cost will be maintenance. The life of a dam may be
prejudiced by the amount of silt carried by the river, since the reservoir loses capacity. It
is possible to raise the dam by building up, but at a considerable expense.
Examples of reservoir estimated lives due to siltation; (Snowy Mountains Project)

Estimated years





Tumut Pond




1.2.4 Environmental Implications

1. Land inundation - creation of a reservoir will inundate frequently good land, and
may cause people to be displaced. These factors lead to loss of productivity and
personal hardship.
2. Dislodgment of people.
3. Wildlife - some species being destroyed is almost inevitable.
4. Archaeology - inundation of items of value.
5. Beauty - areas of beauty will be destroyed.
6. Silt - retention of silt from the lower valley which would normally enrich the land.
7. River Regime - a period of dry river bed below the dam will occur.
8. Flood Warnings - alteration of natural flow can be serious to inhabitants and
9. Effects of Storage on Quality of Water
10. Eutrophication
11. Thermal Stratification
12. Fish - Nitrogen Problem
13. Water-bourne diseases
14. Requirement of fish ladders for fish to continue spawning
15. Induced Earthquakes consequent to filling large reservoirs
16. Climatological Change
17. Access roads during construction destroying the natural environment
18. River pollution from
o Waste water from excavations
o Construction and removal of cofferdams
o Wash water from concrete and aggregate plants

Oil leakage and waster disposal

Sewage and stormwater
Hot water effluents
Soil erosion during reservoir cleaning
19. Fire Risks
20. Aesthetic appearance of final dam
21. Air pollution
22. Noise pollution
23. Dust pollution

1.2.5 Multidisciplinary Approach

We have reached an era when the Engineer must cooperate with members of other
disciplines if a project is to be completed for optimum benefits and minimum adverse
An example of the number of disciplines involved, relative to the Auburn Dam project;
Civil Engineering

Sanitary Engineering

Hydraulic Engineering

Structural Engineering

Electrical Engineering

Illumination Engineering

Air Pollution Engineering

Acoustic Engineering



Landscape Planning


Landscape Architecture




Environmental Engineering







Agricultural Economics



Range Management






Systems Programming

Mathematical Programming Construction Methods Analysis Remote Sensor Interpreting

1.3 Appurtenant Features

Coffer Dams - Coffer dams usually are temporary structures built upstream from a dam
to prevent stream flow around the excavation for a dam. In valleys of steep profile
diversion commonly is accomplished by a tunnel or tunnels in the walls of the valley.
Commonly the diversion tunnels are put to further use to control flow from the reservoir
either for drainage of the reservoir or for flow under pressure into a hydroelectric
generating plant. In valleys of low profile diversion is by tunnels, canals, or by conduits
which subsequently are buried by the dam. It is not unusual in embankment dams to
incorporate the coffer dam into the larger embankment structure comprising the designed
Fish ladders - dams constructed
on streams that are the migration
paths for spawning fish commonly
make provisions for movement of
the fish up or in the vicinity of the
downstream face of the dam. The
facility that permits fish migration
is usually called a fish ladder. See
Gates - gates are devices installed
in the tops of spillways to control
the flow of water over the

Figure showing fish ladders.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Hydroelectric power plants - many dams are constructed to generate hydroelectric

power. The powerhouse is located at,or in the vicinity of, the toe of a dam or at some
distance downstream. Flow of water into the powerhouse is controlled by valves
upstream from the dam, within the dam downstream, or in valve vaults excavated in rock
outside of the dam.
Locks - locks are movable dams or portions of dams utilized in navigation along rivers
and canals.
Penstocks - a penstock is a sluice or conduit used for control of water flow, especially
into a hydroelectric power plant.
Spillways - a spillway is designed to contain and control overflow of reservoir water
when the reservoir is full. Spillways are, or should be, designed to accommodate flows
during maximum flood stage so as to prevent damage to the dam and appurtenant
features. Their size and location with respect to the dam is determined by the size and
kind of dam, local topography, geology, and a careful review of the History of stream
flow at the site of the dam.

Overflow of embankment dams outside of a spillway can have especially disastrous

consequences so that safety usually requires a spillway capable of containing at least a
hundred year flood.
Spillways are located within or on the downstream face of a dam, outside of the dam on
one side or the other, or within the reservoir, where water spills into a glory hole and
passes through a shaft and tunnel or tunnels in the abutment of the dam.
Tunnels - tunnels in bedrock outside of dams serve a variety of purposes. Flow through
them is controlled by valves external to the dam or in valve chambers or vaults within the
dam or in bedrock outside of the dam. Tunnels for control of the water level in the
reservoir are commonly called gravity tunnels and serve a principal function of diverting
water to some point downstream from the dam. Tunnels that transmit water under
pressure to elevate the water to a higher level than the intake of the tunnel or to generate
hydroelectric power are called pressure tunnels and usually require considerable
competency in the rock through which they are constructed.
Valves and valve vaults - Valves control the flow of water through tunnels and
penstocks. In many large dams the valve are installed in underground vaults or chambers
to which access is gained downstream from the dam.


2.1 Loading and Factor of Safety - Introduction
A dam is a three dimensional structure and despite assumptions, it is not homogeneous
and its integrity is in the hands of the constructors.
The foundations are neither isotropic or truly elastic.
Concrete and rock are brittle, although elastic theories are applied in stress
The dam and foundation will become saturated with varying effects on the
The dam will be subjected to water load, daily and seasonal temperature cycles.
It will be subjected to random events such as : Floods, Waves, Seiche Effects,
Earthquakes, Ice Formation and other natural phenomena.
The factor of safety must relate to the strength, stability and durability with consideration
to magnitude of economic and personal loss that would result from its failure.
The aim of the Engineer must be to reduce the number of uncertainties, both as regards
loading on the dam and in the means by which the dam and the foundations withstand
such loads. The Engineer must also be satisfied that there is no feasible mechanism that
could result in failure.

2.2 Loading and Factor of Safety - Static Loading

2.2.1 Horizontal Loads

Headwater (H1) - For the basic calculation of stability the level in the reservoir will be
assumed at or above the level required for the passage of the design flood. In many
instances the dam is designed for the highest level of watertightness, e.g. a concrete
Silt (H2) - A changed land usage as a result of a dam may well result in increased erosion,
causing a deposition of silt. Unless very deep deposits of silt are likely it is adequate to
assume a triangular load allotting an appropiate relative density to the fluid. This would
have a maximum value of 1.4.
Reservoir Behaviour (H3) - Wind and other natural causes will induce movement in the
reservoir as waves, reservoir set-up or seiche effect.
Ice Loading (H4) - It is assumed that ice will not form and exert pressure on the dam at
times of maximum flood. The slope of the upstream face of the dam as well as the slope
and roughness of the valley walls will influence the magnitude of ice loading. Even wind
blowing down the reservoir at 50km/hr may increase the ice loading by 4-5 t/m of
exposed face.
Tailwater (H5) - In some cases water is ponded downstream from the dam. Assistance
from this may be assumed but it must not be overlooked that, in the case of an overflow
dam, flood waters passing over the dam might well evacuate such water from the face of
the dam.
Seismic Force (H6) - Force acting on dam in horizontal plane.
Seiche effect (H7) - Is an undulation in the reservoir water due to natural causes,
intermittent wind, variation in atmospheric pressure, earthquake and motion of the Earth.
Usually less than 0.5m, though levels of 2m have been reported in Lake Geneva.
2.2.2 Vertical Loads
Weight of Dam (V1)- The unit weight of material in the dam should be determined as
accurately as possible. An underestimation by 1% will represented a considerable
additional cost on the dam.
Vertical Water Loading (V2) - Imposed on any sloping surface of the dam, usually the
upstream face, but also on the downstream for overflow dams.

Uplift (V3)- Hydrostatic forces acting within a dam and its

foundations including interstitial or pore pressures. Some
Engineers rely on drainage to prevent occurence of uplift,
assuming the drainage will be effective for the entire life on
the dam, therefore some inclusion for uplift must be included
in the design. See diagram for distribution of pressure. [k
values vary between 0.25 to 0.50 depending on conditions.]
Seismic Force (V4) - Force acting on dam in vertical plane.

2.2.3 Other loads on the dam

Water Density - Some rivers carry very heavy silt load in seasons which changes the
density of the reservoir.
Reservoir set-up - The result of continuing wind causing one end of the reservoir to be at
a higher level. Calculations for a large reservoir in which the fetch is 38km would
indicate the following values:
Return Period

Wind Speed


















Thermal Effects - Concrete dams will be subject to loading from temperature variation
within the dam caused by hydration of the cement and due to seasonal variations. Water
as depth doesn't vary, but towards the surface it varies with season. A skew loading is
used to describe solar and air temperature effects.
Construction Loads - Concrete dams of cupola and buttress shape offer good resistance to
water loading when complete but during construction it is necessary to control the rate of
construction and to include reinforcement in overhanging sections.
Direction of Forces - At certain locations it may be appropiate to increase the radius of an
arch dam and accept higher stresses within the dam in order to ensure better angle of
incidence of the resultant thrust with the abutment. The direction of resultant forces is
important for gravity and buttress dams - especially on stratified rock.

Hydrostatic Loading within the Foundation or Abutment - Faults, cracks and joints are
present in most damsites. Forces due to a large dam may cause cracks to appear in the
rock upstream from the dam, this may cause jacking loads that could cause failure. To
avoid this, careful surveys should be made of the orientation and inclination of faults,
joints and cracks.
Tectonic Forces - Besides seismic effects, there may be significant tectonic forces on the
Earth's crust at the site and these may be upset by deep excavation or saturation due to the
filling of the reservoir.

2.3 Loading and Factor of Safety - Dynamic Loading

The Earth's crust is in a state of stress. When the stress is great enough, and the crust is
weak enough, adjustments may occur. These adjustments will release energy in the form
of shock waves, propagated from an epicentre. These waves will vary in wavelength and
frequency. Short-period waves have predominant frequencies within the range of natural
frequencies for dams, they are apt to produce conditions of resonance in the dam.
Engineers are therefore more concerned with the possibility of moderate earthquakes
occurring within 80 to 120 km of the dam than larger earthquakes occurring outside this
For gravity dams a horizontal coefficient is adopted and applied as an additional static
load. For arch dams the dynamic effects receive greater attention with both model tests
and in situ testing by vibrating the dam. For embankment dams additional horizontal
static loads are considered and a dynamic analysis has been developed with close
attention being paid to the characteristics of fill material.
In October 1969 the Committee on Earthquakes of the International Commission on
Large Dams (ICOLD) summarized 1969 practice :



For gravity dams a horizontal coefficient was generally adopted and

applied as an additional static load. Vertical effects were taken into
account in very few circumstances and dynamic analysis was used by very
For arch dams the dynamic effects received greater attention in model tests
and in situ testing by vibration of the dam.
For embankment dams additional horizontal static loads were considered;
dynamic analysis was being developed and closer attention was being
given to the characteristics of fill material.

Zoning - Many countries were adopting the principle of seismic zoning.

Seismic Coefficients - A coefficient of from 0.1 to 0.2 was commonly used.
Seismic Waves - Analyses had been made by applying sinusoidal or modified
earthquake records - but actual earthquake records had only been applied in rare
cases for dynamic analyses.
Properties of Materials - Different mechanical properties of various materials
when subjected to static and dynamic loading.
Loads Considered - For dynamic water pressure the formulae of Westergaard,
Zanger and the USBoR were in use.
Allowable Stresses - In many cases the permissible compressive stress under
dynamic loading was increased by up to 30% above the permissible static stress.
Factors of Safety for arch dams were usually 4, based on compressive stress and
1.2 minimum for fill dams.
Deformations - An embankment dam which employed dynamic analysis was
assumed to suffer 5% axial strain.
Models - These were popular for arch dams and were used for some gravity dams.
There was a tendency to employ model tests for fill dams.
In Situ Tests - Some arch dams were shaken by vibrating machines to study
natural frequeny and modes of vibration.
Seismographs - In a majority of large dams seismographs were used.

2.4 Factor of Safety - Gravity Dams

A gravity dam must be designed to safeguard against overturning and sliding. For the
former it is usual to design the dam so that the resultant of all forces intersects the base
within its middle third. This will provide a factor of safety in excess of 2.
The ratio of the sum of the
horizontal forces to the sum
of the vertical forces is
referred to as the sliding
factor (Fss). This is usually
about 0.75 but must not
exceed 0.90 under extreme
loading. These figures
represent the range of the
coefficient of static friction
normally encountered at the
site of a gravity dam.
At or in the foundations, the
horizontal loading will be
resisted by cohesion and
friction. The ratio of the total resistance by cohesion and friction to the horizontal load is
termed the shear friction factor (Fsf). Most countries accept 4 as a minimum value. In

practice the foundation is usually prepared in steps or is sloped upward in a downstream

direction to provide resistance to failure far in excess of the above figure.
Range of shearing resistance parameters.
Location of plane of shearing/sliding Cohesion (c) Friction tan
mass concrete intact



mass concrete horizontal construction joint



conrete/rock interface



rock mass sound





rock mass inferior

Recommended shear friction factors, Fsf (USBR 1987)

Load Combination
Location of sliding plane Normal Unusual Extreme
dam concrete, base interface




foundation rock




2.5 Factor of Safety - Concrete Arch Dams

The factor of safety for an arch dam is the ratio of the compressive strength of concrete to
the maximum calculated compressive stress in the dam. The compressive strength is
usually referred to as the strength of concrete at the age of 91 days when tested in 150
mm x 300 mm cylinders.
The design criterion adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is for a factor of safety
of 4 based on the strength of concrete at 1 year. Except for extreme loading combinations
the maximum compressive stress is usually limited to 6.9 MPa.

2.6 Factor of Safety - Embankment Dams

The minimum factors of safety for embankment dams would be:
2.6.1 Upstream Slope
Immediately after completion with full construction pore pressure


Following rapid drawndown (slip circles between high and low water levels) 1.2-1.3

2.6.2 Downstream Slope

Earthquake and Reservoir Full


Reservoir full - steady seepage


In an area subject to earthquakes the following factors are indicative of acceptable values:
Seismic coefficient




Seismic coefficient




2.7 Factor of Safety - Abutments and Foundations

The dam foundations and abutments should be thoroughly investigated for any possible
mechanism of failure. This would involve identification of joints, faults and any other
forms of weakness.
A reasonable factor of safety is
- the ratio of shearing resistance to the maximum shearing stress predicted; the lowest
value of the ratio in the foundation being the factor of safety of the foundation.


3.1 Site Investigation Introduction
Most failures are due to lack of appreciation of how the particular damsite would react to
the superposition of the dam and reservoir. It is therefore essential that a detailed site
investigation takes place and the results are appropriately used by Engineers.
In the planning stage possible damsites will have been chosen from contour maps and
aerial photography, selected primarily on topography. A narrow gorge is best, hoping for
minimum quantities in the dam and a valley opening upstream to provide the required
storage. There maybe alternative sites along the length of a river and hence further
investigation has to be done to assertain the best possible position.
See the GeoCAL package for further information on general site investigation. Link to
GeoCAL homepage

3.2 Time and Money for Investigation

The amount of money required to investigate a damsite will depend upon the site and the
type of dam. An experienced department of engineers, hydrologists, geologists and
surveyors may produce sufficient information for an outlay of 2-3% of the dam cost. This
figure could reach 6% in remote locations where basic information is not available.
It is not unusual to spend 3 years on site investigations, this will depend on the location
and size of the dam, but time must not be underestimated. To meet stringent requirements
for environmental studies and public opinion polls could add 2 years to the time and
several percent to the cost.
If, as a result of the site investigation another site is to be chosen, the same time and
money must be spent investigating the new site. Adequate time and money must always
be available to all disciplines to give them the opportunity to investigate and report.

3.3 Site Investigation - Desk Study

Initial desk study can be done by researching from these sources of information 1. Ordnance Survey Maps or equivalent
2. Admiralty Charts
3. Geological Maps and Memoirs
4. Old OS Maps or equivalent
o Past users of site
o Concealed mines and adits

Infilled pits
Original topography and drainage conditions
Changes in stream and river courses
Changes in landslide areas, fence lines, path lines
5. Aerial Photography
o Landsat Images
o Colour and infra red photography
6. Previous Site Investigation Reports
7. Local people and authorities

3.4 Site Investigation - Preliminary Investigation

Aerial Reconnaissance - An initial comissioned flyover is essential, providing the
Engineer with an idea of the topography and enabling him to form an opinion of the
probable hydrological characteristics of catchment.
A Geologist will assist the Engineer in the selection of the damsite, and a construction
Engineer will study the access and possible sources of materials.
Ground Reconnaissance - Features that should be sought during early reconnaissance
include old and potential land slides, geological faults and major joints parallel with the

The joints may be open or infilled with products of decomposition, they present
construction hazards and possible leakage paths around the dam.
Examination along the beds of the river and tributary streams will indicate the
strike and dip of rock formations.
Any springs or underground water should be identified since they provide leakage
paths from the reservoir.
The depth of alluvium or soil should be determined to indicate the excavation
required and the probable quantity of material required for the dam.

At this stage, the preliminary geological data should be assessed and enhanced by
mapping and modelling. This can help to highlight important considerations about which
type of dam may be most appropriate, and any problems which may be encountered,
before extensive drilling or exploratory works are performed. Assessment of preliminary
data will assist in the choice of exploratory methods and in the design of the exploratory
programme as a whole.
Check list for Site Investigation
1. Topography - Flat, gently undulating, rolling, sharp hills, mountains, difference
between highest and lowest areas.
2. Sharp breaks in topography - Ridges, canyons, depressions.
3. Surface soil - Loose, hard, moist or dry, boulders and gravel (scattered or in
zones), topsoil and organic matter.

4. Rock outcrops - Surface, highway and railroad cuts, hillsides, weathered and
5. Drainage pattern - Dendritic, lattice, parallel, water gaps, waterfalls, direction of
primary drainage.
6. Surface water - Stream, seasonal or perennial, fluctuations, floods, lakes, marshes,
disappearing rivers.
7. Ground water - Wells, seeps, springs, artesian wells.
8. Erosion - Severe or moderate, U or V shaped cross section, steep or gently sloping
heads of gullies.
9. Land use - Cultivated or barren, type of crop or vegetation, good or poor quality.
10. Existing structures, recollections of old residents.

3.5 Site Investigation - Geophysical Investigation

Geophysical methods provide an indirect evaluation of certain underground conditions.
Several procedures have been developed, all of which measure some force pattern in the
Refraction Seismic - Click Forward Once
Electrical Resistivity - Click Forward Twice
Advantages of Geophysical Methods - They permit a rapid coverage of large areas at a
relatively low cost which is useful in selecting possible dam sites during reconnaissance
phases. They are also not hampered by boulders or coarse gravel which interfere greatly
with the direct methods such as boring and sampling.
Limitations of Geophysical Methods - There is difficulty in correct interpretation when
the strata are not well defined and horizontal. For this reason it is imperative that all
geophysical work is confirmed by borings and other direct observations.

3.6 Site Investigation - Exploratory Investigation Methods

Purpose - to secure accurate information about the soil and rock stratification, the
composition of the materials and the location of ground water.
3.6.1 Boring and Sampling

Auger Boring - Generally limited to firm soils, above the watertable. Gravel larger
than about a third of the diameter of the hole cannot be drilled but very hard soil
and soft rock can often be penetrated if sufficient power is available.
Test Boring Core Drilling Diamond Drilling Short Drilling or Calyx Drilling -

3.6.2 Programme of Exploration Work for Foundations

Boring layout
Laboratory testing
Correlation of results
3.6.3 Planning and Conducting Borrow Pit Explorations
Field Work
Testing and Correlation

3.7 Site Investigation - Evaluation of Selected Site

At this stage, potential hazards and problems should have been identified. However, it is
still necessary to remain alert for indications of hazardous or problematic features which
were not identified during the earlier stages of the investigation. The main effort is
directed in producing parameters for the final design. This would involve high quality
boring and drilling, with particular attention being paid to sample quality and high core
recovery, careful logging of trenches, shafts and adits, in situ testing such as plate loading
tests and in situ shear tests in adits, trial embankments, grouting trials and so on.
Foundation testing

Undisturbed Sampling
Pit Sampling
Thin-walled Samplers
Foil Samplers
Rotary Samplers
Laboratory Testing
Correlation of Test Results
Field testing

Test Pit
Plate Load Test
Seepage Test
Borrow pit investigations

Laboratory Testing
Test Strip

3.8 Site Investigation - Detailed Investigation

The evaluation of preliminary desk and field work should assess the potential for major
hazards and qualitatively assess the likelihood of encountering any more hazards. This
should allow a ranking of the potential sites in order of their probable suitability.
Following the desk study and preliminary field work, it may be necessary to establish a
pattern and base level of seismicity for later evaluation of induced seismicity. If potential
active faults are identified, seismic arrays should be installed to monitor these. This will
help assess the need for criteria changes should seismic activity occur after the feasibility
stage has been completed and the design is well advanced.
The next stage is to produce a detailed investigation of the chosen site.

3.9 Site Investigation - Monitoring

Monitoring during construction will include the work of an engineering geologist on site,
who will examine all excavations to see whether the expectations of the preceeding
investigations have been realised. The identification of exceptions may then lead to an
early diagnosis and redemption of any problems.
For the post-commissioning stage, monitoring will involve regular reading of installed
instrumentation to check performance against design criteria. This should serve as an
'early warning' system which will initiate a contingency programme, thus minimising the
delays which would result from the development of an adverse situation.


4.1 Geology Introduction

The geological services required for the engineering of a large dam are in the following
The safety of the dam on its foundations;
The watertightness of the reservoir basin;
The availability of natural materials for its construction.
The engineering geologist is a key member of an engineering team, since he will ensure
the feasibility of the project, continuing through the design stage and terminating only
when construction has either proved that geological conditions revealed are in conformity
with the premises adopted in design, or he has made possible proper evaluation of any
conditions not foreseen in the earlier stages.
The safety, viability and cost of a dam are all dependent upon geology. Most rocks have
adequate strength but their weakness is in the orientation and dip of discontinuities
relative to the loading from the dam, as well as the infilling material in, and depth of,
weathering in such discontinuities.
It is necessary to investigate both the regional geology and the specific local geology to
ensure a global picture is developed.

4.2 Geology Terminology

1. Bedding planes - The planes marking the termination of one sedimentary deposit
and the beginning of another; they usually constitute a weakness along which the
rock tends to break.
2. Foliation - In rocks that have been subjected to heat and deforming pressures
during regional metamorphism, some new materials such as muscovite and biotite
mica, talc and chlorite may be formed by recrystallisation. These new minerals
are arranged in parallel layers of flat or elongated crystals - the property of
3. Joints - These are fractures along which no movement has occured. All rocks are
jointed to some extent and weathering occurs in these joints. They offer pathways
for water, any clay infilling offering little resistance to sliding.
4. Faults - These are fractures along which movement has occured. They may range
from rather inconspicious zones hundreds of metres wide and many kilometres
long. The movement may have formed a zone that is so crushed and chemically
altered as to be unable to support any weight. The presence of faults may be
recognised from such physical features as;
o Offset of beds, dykes or veins;
o Slickensides;
o Gouge;
o Brecciation or crushing;

Topographic features like escarpments, linear trenches or sag valleys.

5. Weathering - The following definitions appeared in the Quarterly Journal of
Engineering Geology, UK, 1970.

Fresh Rock

No visible signs of weathering

Slightly Weathered

Penetrative weathering developed in open discontinuity surfaces but

only slight weathering of rock material.


Weathering extends throughout the rock mass, but the rock is not

Highly Weathered

Weathering extends throughout the rock mass, but the rock material is
partly friable.


Rock is wholly decomposed, and in a friable condition but rock texture

and structure are preserved.


A soil material with the original texture, structure and mineralogy of

the rock completely destroyed.

4.3 Classification of rocks


Uniaxial Compressive Strength



Prefailure Deformation



Gross Homogeneity



Failure Characteristics


Weak - less than 35MPa

Strong 35-115MPa
Very Strong - greater than 115MPa


Continuity in Formation

Solid - joint spacing greater than 2m

Blocky - joint spacing 1-2m
Broken - fragmented

4.4 Types of Rock

4.4.1 Granite

Can bear great pressures

Generally watertight

Investigation must be made for

Disintegration due to weathering
China clay
Caution must be taken when large masses of china clay appear, for it is not
feasible to anchor pre-stressed cables in china clay.
Example: The Sarrans dam had a broad foundation of 11,000 sqm of decomposed granite.
To improve the strength, and bearing capacity and to reduce seepage of the foundations
and abutments a grouting programme was undertaken. This involved 691 tonnes of
cement in 81 boreholes which had an aggregate length of 2800 m or 240 kg per m.

4.4.2 Gabbros, Andesites, Dolerite and Basalt

These types of rock cannot be trusted for dams and reservoirs.

Porphyritic rocks need careful grouting.

Example: The Rieutord dam which is on a tributary of the Loire, necessitated a

considerable amount of grouting. Conversely, the Tirso multiple arch dam in Sardinia is
founded on trachytes and volcanic tuffs with little grout.

4.4.3 Amphibolites

Gneiss, mica schists and associated rocks are considered to be satisfactory for
sustaining bearing pressure and for water-tightness. However, gneiss and
particularly mica schist are less favourable due to the mica which may facilitate
Where gneiss and mica schists are associated, a very weak zone of disintegrated
rock may be found at the junction of these two rocks.

Example: the Forks dam, California, founded on gneiss and mica schists, had to be
abandoned in 1929 because of bad foundations which occurred at the junction of these
two rocks which, in themselves, were quite sound.

4.4.4 Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic and intrusive igneous rocks are to an extent unpredictable.

However, many satisfactory dams have been constructed on them particularly in
Scotland (for example Pitlochry, Errochty, Shira), but grouting of the foundations
is generally essential. The usual types of dams constructed are gravity, buttress
and rockfill.

Where the rock is weathered at the surface, an investigation is usually required

since weathered formations may prove exceptionally difficult when the
foundations are dug out.

Example: The Lavaude-Gelade dam in the Central Massif, Creuse, France was founded
on altered granulite. The alteration in the granulite was found to persist to a depth of 20m,
in addition to being broken and fissured. The site required an extensive grouting injection
with cement, clay and bentonite.

4.4.5 Limestone

Limestone dam sites vary widely in their suitability. Thickly bedded horizontally
lying limestones which are relatively free from solution cavities afford excellent
dam sites. On the other hand, thin bedded, highly folded, or cavernous limestones
are likely to present serious foundation or abutment problems involving bearing
capacity and water tightness.
Concrete dams have been constructed on Jurassic limestone at Castillon, where
slips and leakage problems have occurred. These have been surmounted by an
extensive grouting scheme.

4.4.6 Sandstones
Sandstones have a wide range of strength depending largely upon the amount and type of
cement matrix material occupying the voids of the rock. Generally sandstones do not
deteriorate rapidly on exposure to the surface with the exception of shaly sandstone. As a
foundation rock sandstone is not susceptible to plastic deformation, even with poorly
cemented sandstones. However, sandstones are susceptible to erosion due to the scouring
and plucking action from the overflow of dams and so have to be adequately protected by
suitable hydraulic structures.
Sandstones are frequently interbedded with shales. The sandstone-shale contact may
allow seepage of water and may cause potential sliding. Severe uplift pressures may also
develop beneath beds of shale in a dam due to the swelling characteristics of shales.
Many dams in the English Pennines have been constructed on Carboniferous sandstones
interbedded with shales, most of them as earth embankments.
Example : Longdendale, Langsett, Scar House reservoirs and Ladybower reservoir on the
Sabden shales in the Derwent valley.

4.4.7 Clays
Clay formations are often thick and massive and are frequently associated with thin
seams of sandstone or limestone. Earth dams or rockfill dams are usually constructed on

clay foundations because clays lack the load bearing properties necessary to support
concrete dams.
Example : The embankments of the Staines, Chingford, and other reservoirs in the
Thames and Lee valleys may be cited as reservoirs wholly in London Clay ,whilst the
Cheddar reservoir near Bristol lies on Keuper Marl.

4.4.8 Gravel, Sands and Boulder Clays

Gravels, sands and boulder clay of glacial origin are notoriously variable in composition
both laterally and vertically. As a result dam sites in glaciated areas are among the most
difficult to appraise on the basis of surface evidence. Generally, earth dams are
constructed in areas of glacial deposits.
Example : Selset reservoir in the North East of England is founded on Boulder Clay.

4.5 Rock Properties

The following properties must be examined to ensure the dam will be stable and the
reservoir watertight Crushing strength
Shearing strength
Elasticity of rock
Deformability of the rock mass
Tectonic stresses

Laboratory Testing
Field Testing

4.5.1 Crushing Strength

In general the compressive load from a dam on to its foundations will not exceed 10
The strength of a rock will depend upon its

The degree of weathering
Presence of micro-cracks

The strength of a rock mass will depend upon The number of cracks and joints
The nature of their infilling material

Whether there are any rock-to-rock contacts across the joints

Planarity and continuity of seams and foliations

Table - Unconfined compressive strength of rocks

Rock type
Strength (MPa)




















4.5.2 Shearing Strength

The minimum angle of friction for sound rock is 55.
Table - Angle of internal friction of rock

Tangent of Angle of Internal Friction



Schist Biotite




Limestone (med. grained)


Granite (weathered)
The shear strength of a rock mass may be seriously affected by saturation since both the
cohesion and angle of friction will decrease.

4.5.3 Elasticity of Rock

It is not appropriate to classify rocks by elastic constants alone, since many rocks are
nonelastic. Elasticity refers to the property of reversibility of deformation when subjected
to a load. Many fresh, hard rocks are elastic when considered as laboratory specimens.
But on the field scale rocks can be expected to contain fractures, fissures, bedding planes,
contacts, zones of altered rock and clays with plastic properties.

Therefore, most rocks do not exhibit perfect elasticity. The extent of irrecoverability of
strain in response to load cycles may be important for the design and can be determined
by the slope of the load/deformation curve.

Table of Modulus of Elasticity

Rock Type

Modulus of Elasticity

(MPa x 1000)





Limestone (very hard)










Gneiss - fine


Gneiss - coarse


Schist - Micaceous


Schist - Biotite


Schist - Granitic


Schist - Quartz


Granite - very altered

Granite - slightly altered


Granite - good


Quartzite - Micaceous


Quartzite - sound






The large ranges emphasize the need for testing at each site.

Figure - Load/deflection paths for an arch dam

For example, as the reservoir behind the arch dam rises, the rock under the arch responds
along curve 1.
The concave upward curvature of this load/deflection path is typical for fractured rocks
on first loading because the fractures close and stiffen at low loads. When the reservoir is
lowered, the rock unloads along path 2, with a permanent deflection.
The dam will try to follow the loading, but since it is often more elastic than the rock, it
will move away from the rock on unloading. This could open joints in the rock or
concrete or simply lower the compressive stress flowing through the structure. Repeated
cycles of loading and unloading in response to cyclic operation of the reservoir would
produce the series of loops ('hysteresis').
Some sites have been considered unacceptable for concrete dams because of large
hysteresis even though the modulus of elasticity of the rock itself was considered

4.5.4 Deformability
The modulus of elasticity of rock is normally adequate, but due to the existence of joints,
faults amd seams in the rock mass - sometimes open and sometimes filled with products
of decompostion, the modulus of deformation may be inadequate.
The capacity of a rock to strain under applied loads or in response to unloading on
excavation is known as deformability. The strains present in rock concern engineers even
when there is little risk of rock failure, because large rock displacements can raise
stresses within structures.
For example a dam founded on varying rock types of different deformability properties
will develop shear and diagonal tension stresses due to the unequal deflections of the

foundations. The deflections can be handled by structuring the dam correctly, if the rock
properties are known and the variation of properties within the foundations are

4.5.5 Tectonic Stresses

The fact that rock may be in a state of high internal stress is often overlooked. It is
common to assume a vertical stress field due to the weight of overlying rock. The
corresponding horizontal stress will vary with the rock and the rock formation.
Frequently one horizontal principal stress will equal or exceed the vertical stress, the
other being much lower - indicating the existence of large shearing stresses.
Crustal horizontal stress increases with depth. As excavation proceeds and loading on the
strata is reduced, there will be upward changes in level. As a result of the reduction in
vertical restraint the strata can no longer transfer the horizontal forces, but buckle
upwards with horizontal cracking. This deformation reduces the horizontal load on the
layer so that the underlying strata tend to carry the horizontal tectonic stress. As a result
the strata down to considerable depths suffer disturbance to their equilibrium.
If horizontal cracks are caused then erosion can occur and resistance to sliding will be

4.5.6 Laboratory Testing

Compressive strength
Unconfined compression
Triaxial compression
Splitting tension (Brazilian)
Four-point flexure
Ring shear
Shear tests
Direct shear
Triaxial shear

4.5.7 Field Testing

In-situ shear tests
Commonly carried out on 'undisturbed' specimens in the galleries of the dam.
Disturbance of the specimen should be kept to a minimum as the specimen is exposed
from the parent rock. The specimen is then protected and loaded in two directions. It is
important that the axes of the jacks pass through the centre of the zone under test. A

normal load is applied and held until any displacements have stabilised, the tangential
load is then applied in steps and displacements measured. By repeating the test with
different normal loads, values of cohesion and angle of friction can be derived.
Techniques for measurement

Hydraulic Fracturing
Flat Jack Method

4.6 Surface Features of Valleys

The shape of a valley and the rock with which it is formed affect the type of dam and its
Chord-height ratio
Narrow Valleys
Wide Valleys

Flat country plains

Under 3
Above 6 or 7

This section is based upon Walter, R. C. S (1962) Dam


4.6.1 Dams in Gorges - Cupola or Dome

When the crest chord-height ratio is under 3 and the rock is capable of withstanding high
pressures, not being able to fail by shearing, thin arch or thin cupola dams are the most
successful and the most economical.
Soundness of the foundation is of paramount importance for all arch and cupola dams.

4.6.2 Dams in narrow valleys

Narrow valleys have a chord-height ratio of between 3 and 6. Gravity arch dams are
normally constructed in narrow valleys providing that the foundations are suitable.

Example : Piave di Cadore dam (Italy) was constructed as a thick arch dam with a chordheight ratio of 5.5. It's thickness was less than a gravity dam but more than a thin arch
If the narrow valley is filled with permeable and compressible material, for example from
a glacial origin, the dam engineer has two choices:

To increase the depth of excavation to bedrock

If the depth of material is economically unfeasible to remove, then redesigning
the dam to an earthfill or rockfill design may be the only option.

More and more thick arch dams with a thickness of less than the gravity section will be
constructed in the future as more confidence is gained in:
The reliability of new models confirm and even supplant the mathematical
The experience of strengthening weak foundations to carry heavier unit
pressures which are to be sustained compared with the gravity section.

4.6.3 Dams in wide valleys

Wide valleys may be defined where the chord-height ratio of the dam is above 6 or 7. In a
wide valley nearly every type of dam can be constructed, except a thick or thin arch dam.
The most influential factors in a wide valley in determining the type of dam are:
The geology of the site.
The proximity of materials from which the dam is to be made.
Many different types of dams have been built in wide valleys;
Gravity Dams : there are many examples of masonry and concrete gravity dams in wide
valleys, especially where the bedrock is close to the surface. The earliest large example in
Great Britain is the Vyrnwy dam (masonry), which supplies water to the city of
Liverpool. The chord-height ratio of the dam is 7.
Earthfill Dams : because there are a great many wide valleys in England, there are a
number of examples of earthfill dams. These dams are most suitable if the foundation is
soft compressible sedimentary strata.
Rockfill Dams : the wide valley is suitable for all forms of rockfill dams.
Buttress Dams : with suitable foundations capable of withstanding direct pressures and
resistance to sliding, the buttress dam can usefully be adopted in a wide valley.
Example : Scotland, the Errochty and Shira dams are situated in wide valleys and have
chord-height ratios of 10 and 15 respectively.

4.6.4 Dams in Country Plains

Normally, dams are associated with valleys and are not built on level ground in the
middle of sandy plains. However, examples of dams on plains are to be found on the
Rhone diversion canals, the Rhone being diverted by means of gate-control barrages, into
canals. These canals are some 30 miles in length and lead the water from the Rhone to
normal gravity section dams, built several miles away on alluvial permeable strata.
Other types of dams constructed on flat country and which may certainly be considered
dams, are the embankments of the large reservoirs of the Metropolitan Water Board, and
the large reservoirs at Cheddar, Bristol. There are also many instances of what might be
considered to be dams; the embankments of which are measurable in terms of kilometres
in length and which retain water well above ground, such as the man-made levees on the
Mississppi River.

4.7 Excavation and Filling of Valleys

4.7.1 Introduction
Valleys have been formed or have been modified by downward and lateral erosion of
running water and/or ice, and commonly contain unconsolidated deposits transported by
water, ice, or wind. The individual characteristics of a valley are a function of the
topography, climate, rock type and geologic structure.
Artificial reservoirs are usually created by construction of a dam or dams in a large or
small valley, commonly in a constriction. Correct interpretation of the various physical
aspects of a valley reveals much concerning the characteristics of bedrock beneath a dam
site and beneath the floor and sides of the reservoir basin above the dam site.
4.7.2 Erosion, transportation, and deposition by running water
Running water erodes the materials in the bottom and sides of the channel by corrosion,
corrasion and cavitation.
Corrosion - is a chemical process whereby materials are taken into solution so as to
become part of the dissolved load of a stream. Limestone is very susceptible to this
Corrasion - is a mechanical process that causes materials to wear away and includes
abrasion by solid particles carried by the stream, and evorsion, which wears down
compact materials by the impact of clear water carrying no suspended load.
Cavitation - requires high velocities in running water and results first from formation of
vapour bubbles because of pressure decrease associated with velocity increase in

accordance with the Bernoulli theorem, and then explosive collapse of the bubbles where
the velocity diminishes.
Deposition of the solid load is a consequence of a decrease in the stream gradient, volume
or velocity. Features of deposition in a stream are alluvial flood plains, deltaic deposits
and alluvial fans.
When considering the construction of a dam and reservoir in a valley the concern
generally is with only a relatively short segment of the total length of a stream, and
particular attention is given to whether in the floor of the valley erosional features on the
average dominate or are subsidiary to depositional features.
4.7.3 Glaciated Valleys
Streamcut valleys that have been modified by glaciers moving through them are of
interest. The figure shows an idealised plan and sections of a stream and glacier eroded
valley with two stages of glacier advance and retreat and prior and intervening periods of
stream erosion. Morainal ridges formed by deposition of glacial till along the sides of the
glacier are called lateral moraines. Stationary moraine is termed end or terminal moraine.

Shear failure and slope stability of valley sides

See Slope Design Web Pages by H. Connolly
4.7.4 Gravity slip dislocations in steep-walled valleys
The alluvial, glacial, and landslide deposits on the floors and sides of valleys generally
have locations, configurations, and physical properties that are identified in the field with
relative ease. During planning, design, and construction of a dam and reservoir an
assessment of these deposits can be made without difficulty, and appropriate measures
can be taken for their removal or stabilisation.
In many steep-walled valleys, stream-cut or glaciated a relatively inconspicuous kind of
slope failure is present, especially in highly competent, crystalline igneous and

metamorphic bedrocks. Although they may not be easily observed, gravity-slip surfaces
may be present in bedrock as indicated in the figure below and contribute to the
instability of the foundation and abutments of a dam that might be constructed at the site.

4.7.5 Obstructions in Stream Valleys

The two major consequences of impounding water in a natural or artificial reservoir are

Deposition of all or much of the suspended and traction load transported by the
Increase in downward and lateral erosion by clear or desilted water downstream
from the obstruction.

Attempts to control the rate of filling of reservoirs by sediment may include construction
of dams and reservoirs to intercept sediment upstream from a major facility, such as a
large dam for electric power generation, and regional programs for soil stabilisation and
conservation in upstream drainage basins.
Based on Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites by E.E.

4.8 Topographical and Geological Conditions for Different

Types of Dams
When the size of the dam has been determined, the type of dam envisaged requires
certain geological and topographical conditions which, for the main types of dams, may
be stated as follows.
Concrete Dams
Embankment Dams

Gravity Dams
Buttress Dams
Multiple Arch Dams
Thick Arch Dams

Thin Arch Dams

Rockfill Dams
Hydraulic Fill Dams
Earthen Embankments

Composite Dams

4.8.1 Gravity Dams

Hard rock at or near the surface.

Depth of soft material above the rock should not exceed 7-10m thereby avoiding
Materials for concrete, i.e. aggregate, stone and sand should easily be accessible
within 5-10 miles.
Gravity dams are suited when the length of the crest is five times or more than the
height of the dam.

4.8.2 Buttress Dams

The buttress dam is suitable where the rock is capable of bearing pressures of 2 3 MPa.
Buttress dams require between a half and two thirds of the concrete required for a
gravity section, hence making it more economical for dams over 14m.
Additional skilled labour is required to create the formwork.
Threat of deterioration of concrete from the impounded water is more likely than
from a thick gravity section.
There is also an elimination of a good deal of uplift pressure, the pressure
resulting from the water in the reservoir and possibly of water from the hillside
rocks gaining access through or under any grout curtain and exerting upwards
underneath the mass concrete dam.

An arch dam utilises the strength of an arch to resist loads placed upon it by 'arch action'.
The foundations and abutments must be competent not only to support the dead weight of
the dam on the foundation but also the forces that are directed into the abutments because
of arch action in response to the forces acting on the dam. Therefore, the strength of the
rock mass at the abutments and immediately downvalley of the dam must be
unquestionable and its modulus of elasticity must be high enough to ensure deformation
under thrust from the arch is not so great as to induce excessive stresses in the arch.
4.8.3 Multiple Arch Dams

The multiple arch concrete dam is a variety of buttress dam.

The chief geological criterion is that the rock must be absolutely reliable to bear
2-3 MPa or more without any appreciable settlement (<8mm)
There is some saving in concrete compared with buttress dams.
In respect of uplift, corrosion and economy the two types are very similar.

4.8.4 Thick Arch Dams

The thick arch dam can be built where the crest chord-height ratio is between 3
and 5.
The chief geological criterion is that the rock must be absolutely reliable to bear
3.5 MPa or more without any appreciable settlement.
A substantial saving in material compared with that of gravity dams.
Thick arch dams are difficult to design on paper but are well determined from
trials on models.

4.8.5 Thin Arch Dams

Thin arch dams require valleys to have a crest chord-height ratio of under 3, with
a radius of under 150m.
The pressure exerted on the valley sides is between 5.5 - 8 MPa
Where there is a vertical radius of curvature as well as a horizontal, this is known
as a cupola or dome type.
Used where cement is expensive and labour is cheap.

4.8.6 Rockfill Dams

Rockfill dams can be built where the following conditions exist

Uncertain or variable foundation which is unreliable for sustaining the pressure

necessary for any form of concrete dam.
Suitable rock in the vicinity which is hard and will stand up to variations of
An adequate amount of clay in the region which may be inserted in the dam either
as a vertical core or as a sloping core.
Accessibility of the site and the width of the valley is suitable for the
manipulation of heavy earth-moving machinery, caterpillar scrapers, sheepfoot
rollers and large bulldozers.

4.8.7 Hydraulic Fill Dams

Suitable in valleys of soft material and are constructed by pumping soft material
duly consolidated up to moderated heights up to 30m.

4.8.8 Earthen Embankments

Near the site there must be clay to fill the trench and embanking material capable
of standing safely, without slipping, to hold up a clay core.
An advantage of earthen embankments is that troubles due to the deterioration of
the structure by peaty waters of low pH do not arise.

4.8.9 Composite Dams

Not only can different types of dam can be built in the same valley, but the same
dam can be of different types owing to the varying geological and topographical
features of the dam site.
Many buttress dams also join up with gravity mass concrete dams at their
haunches at the sides of the valley, and again at the centre have a mass concrete
gravity dam to form a suitable overflow or spillway.

4.9 Seismic Activity

An engineer is interested in two aspects of seismic activity:
1. Whether natural earthquakes are likely to occur in close proximity to the dam and
would they be of an intensity to cause damage to the dam or appurtenant
Natural Events

2. Whether filling of the reservoir might induce earthquake activity, with the
possibility of damage to the dam or liability for damage to other structures or
persons. Although the magnitude of the shocks maybe low, the proximity of the
epicentres could make the effects more serious.
Triggered Events

4.9.1 Seismic Activity - Natural Events

Preliminary investigations should include researching the earthquake history of the
region. This should involve investigating official records and local newspapers which
often reveal shocks felt by people in centres remote from any seismographs. If no
evidence of earthquake activity in the region is apparent, it would be unwise to assume
nothing could happen in the future. Field surveys should include the recording of all
faults in the region and the installation of seismographs in the region.
The scope of the seismic investigation is decided by the engineer. The engineer must
consider the probable cost in comparison with the cost of conservative assumptions in
design, the effect of such extra cost on the viability of the project, and the damage that
might occur by neglect of such investigations.
Appraisal of the seismicity of the site should be undertaken at the earliest possible date.
Seismographs should be installed to establish the magnitude of all natural events, their
epicentres and depths of focus. Background noise, such as quarry blasting should be
filtered out of the records. Records should be continued for at least 5 years after filling of
the reservoir, and preferably to cover periods of large drawdown and refilling of the

Seismographs - For large dams the installation of seismographs is not expensive. These
seismographs will be triggered to record major events of a predetermined magnitude. It is
usual to install such instruments on rock at the base of the dam, on the crest of the dam
and preferably on rock at a short distance from the dam.
The magnitude of an earthquake is an indication of its absolute size, or total energy
release. It is measured by the Richter Scale which is an arbitrary logarithmic scale. It
defines the magnitude in terms of the maximum amplitude of a standard seismometer at a
distance of 100 km from the epicentre.
The intensity of an earthqu

4.9.2 Seismic Activity - Triggered Seismic Events

Underground Explosions
Fluid Injection
Reservoir Filling

Underground Explosions - Underground nuclear explosions have been carefully

monitored and provide a powerful source for study of seismic events. It was reported in
1969 that on explosion triggered thousands of small earthquakes in a zone 12km long and
4km wide a depths of 4 to 6km. Observations have been made at over tewnty
underground explosions and it is quite evident that they are capable of triggering seismic
events. It has been suggested that thay may be activating stressed fault zones that are
already highly stressed tectonically.
Fluid Injection - Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, Colorado. A well was drilled
over 400m deep and huge quantities of fluid were gravitated or pumped into it between
1962 and 1966. Previous seismic history is lacking, but the region was of low seimsicity.
In the period 1962-1965 there was good correlation between the number of shocks per
month and the rate of injection. An unusual feature is that during 1967, that is after final
cessation of injection, the seismic activity increased - three tremors of magnitudes greater
than 5 being recorded.
Reservoir Filling - Prior to the construction of the Hoover Dam no earth tremours had
been recorded in the region. Filling of the Lake Mead impounded by the Hoover Dam
began in 1935. The first shock was recorded in 1936 when the water level had reached
100m. During 1937 over 100 tremours were felt, the largest shock felt was magnitude 5
on the Richter scale. It is assumed that the extra load of the reservoir and dam being
imposed on the crust triggered the earthquakes, probably along faults or regions of
weakness in the rocks.
The Konja dam in India was sited in a region regarded as exceptionally quiet seismically,
being classified 0.1 on the Indian seismic zoning range of 0 - 7. The dam is 103m high
and the reservoir capacity is 2,800 million tons. The strongest earthquake recorded after

filling was of 6.4 which subjected the dam to accelerations of 0.5 g under which it did not
fail, despite considerable damage. It was later strengthened by heavy buttresses.

4.10 Geological Hazards

4.10.1 Valley Wall Stability
A gorge wherein the side slopes are equal to or steeper than the angle of repose of loose
rock is attractive as a damsite, however, in such a gorge instability of the slopes can pose
serious problems.
Landslips are a common feature of valleys in mountainous areas and large slips often
cause narrowing of a valley which may then look topographically suitable for a dam.
Unless they are shallow seated and can be removed or effectively drained, it is prudent to
avoid land slip areas in dam location, because their unstable nature may result in
movement during construction or subsequently on drawdown.

4.10.2 Valley Bulging

Valley bulges consist of folds formed by mass movement of argillaceous material in
valley bottoms, the argillaceous material being overlain by thick, competent strata. These
features cause stress-relief, that is, as stream erosion occurs within the valley the excess
loading on the sides causes the argillaceous material to squeeze out towards the area of
minimum loading. This causes the rocks in the valley to bulge upwards.
The valley movement of argillaceous material results in cambering of the overlying
competent strata, blocks of which become detached, and move down the hillside.
Fracturing of cambered strata produces deep debris-filled cracks which run parallel to the
trend of the valley.

Valley Bulging and Cambering

4.10.3 Mining
The existence of a mine either under a reservoir or a dam will present many problems
such as:
Possible subsidence of the foundation of the dam
Loss of water from the reservoir
Flooding of the mine
Excessive hydrostatic pressure at faces in the mine
When the mine is under a reservoir there is the possibility that sufficient water could pass
through the intervening rocks to flood the mine, or at least increase drainage problems.
Even if the rock series were sufficiently impermeable to impede the flow of water, there
is the possibility that excessive interstical pressure could build up - with the danger to
mine faces. If the mine is above and adjacent to the reservoir, saturation of the hillside
and change in the water table could lead to potential instability. Seismic effects from
blasting within the mine might then be sufficient to trigger a landslide.
Any site investigation must include both existing mines and potential mines, for matters
of liability.


5.1 Hydrology Introduction

Hydrology is a science of prediction - the likelihood of recurrence of natural events.
Mathematicians may try to predict events based on past history but Nature is
unpredictable as to time and magnitude of occurence.
Based on past information the low flow characteristics of the river will control the storage
required and hence the normal full supply level of the reservoir. High flow records and
flood forecasting techniques provide the basis for design of the spillway, and hence the
flood storage required above normal full supply level.
Meteorology - Weather forecasting is important to the dam engineer because future
seasonal weather could influence the decision as to which type of dam is built. For
example, too short a dry season may preclude the economical construction of an earthfill
dam. A weather station should be established at a proposed dam site at the earliest
possible date. Records of temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind and air pressures can
materially assist the meteorologists in synthesising storm patterns and is one step in the
process of maximum flood estimation.
Whatever dimensions the Engineer selects for the dam and spillway there will always be
some risk, assessment of the acceptable risk is the art of dam engineering.

5.2 Hydrological Cycle

The cyclic movement of water from the sea to the atmosphere and thence by precipitation
to the Earth, where it collects in streams and runs back to the sea, is referred to as the
hydrological cycle. The cycle is not as simple as that, firstly, precipitation may fall at all
stages, secondly, there is no uniformity in the time a cycle takes, thirdly, the intensity and
frequency of the cycle depend on geography and climate.

Water in the sea evapourates under solar radiation, and clouds of water vapour move over
land areas. Precipitation occurs as snow, hail, rain and condensate in the form of dew,

over land and sea. Snow and ice on land are water in temporary storage. Rain falling over
land surfaces may be intercepted by vegetation and evaporate back to the atmosphere.
Some of it infiltrates into the soil and moves down or percolates into the saturated ground
zone beneath the water table, or phreatic surface. The water in this zone flows slowly
through aquifers to river channels or sometimes directly to the sea. The water that
infiltrates also feeds the surface plant life and some gets drawn up into this vegetation
where transpiration takes place from leafy plant surfaces.
The water remaining on the surface partially evapourates back to vapour, but the bulk of
it coalesces into streamlets and runs as surface runoff to the river channels. The river and
lake surfaces also evapourate, so still more is removed here. Finally, the remaining water
that has not infiltrated or evapourated arrives back at the sea via the river channels. The
groundwater, moving much more slowly, either emerges into the stream channels or
arrives at the coastline and seeps into the sea, and the whole cycle starts again.
Man can exercise some control only when the rain has fallen on the land and is making
its way back to the sea.

5.3 Storage Capacity

The storage capacity
required in a reservoir
may be determined in a
number of ways. In
tropical regions it may be
decided to store the whole
runoff from precipitation
in one season. Whether
this would ensure
continuity of flow would
depend upon the season
selected and the seasons
occurring later. It may be
decided to provide
sufficient storage to
ensure continuity based upon a repetition of past history.
In evaluating storage requirements a hydrologist would use various hydrological tools
such as cumulative mass curves, runoff, estimation of flood design, flood routing and
other factors.

The storage capacity of a reservoir is defined as the

volume of water which can be stored. Initial
estimates of storage capacity can be made from
topographic maps or aerial photographs.
The reservoir volume can be estimated by
planimetering areas upstream of the proposed dam
site up to the proposed top water level. The mean of
the two successive contour areas is multiplied by the
contour interval to give the interval volume, the
summation of the interval volumes provides the total
volume of the reservoir site.
The figure shows a typical mass curve.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

5.4 Freeboard
Freeboard - 'The vertical distance between the top of the dam and the full supply level on
the reservoir.'
The top of the dam is the level of watertightness of the structure and may be the top of a
parapet that is watertight throughout its length. Full supply level is the level adopted in
design for the maximum operation of the reservoir.
To determine a value for freeboard the following must be considered;

Flood Surcharge
Seiche effects
Wind set-up of the water surface
Wave action
Run-up of waves on the dam.
Inaccuracy of data;
Large risks if breached;
Type of dam.

5.4.1 Flood Surcharge

The design flood hydrograph delineates the peak

inflow and the total volume of water expected to
enter the reservoir over a particular period of time.
The routing of this water through the reservoir will
cause a rise in the reservoir level which will depend
upon the lake area at the time and the discharge
characteristics of the spillway. The hydrograph will
have been determined from past events. A variation in
either the height or width of the graph will affect the
calculated peak discharge over the spillway.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

5.4.2 Seiche Effect

This effect refers to periodic undulations in the reservoir, believed to be related to or set
in motion by intermittent wind, varying atmospheric pressures, earthquakes or irregular
inflow and outflow of water. After the generating influence is removed the oscillations

5.4.3 Wind Set-up

This is the shear displacement of water towards one end of a reservoir by wind blowing
continuously, or in repeated regular gusts. The Zuider Zee formula can be used as a guide
for the estimation of set-up;

S=VFcosA / kD
S Wind setup
V Wind speed over water


F Fetch


D Average depth


A Angle of wind to fetch


k Constant

62 000

Set-up of the reservoir will depend upon the period of time over which the wind blows.
The wind speed 10m above the surface of a new reservoir will be greater than the
recorded over the original topography and the following factors usually apply:
Effective fetch(km)


Wind Ratio (Over water / Over land) 1.1 1.16 1.23 1.29 1.31

5.4.4 Wave Action

The transfer of energy from the wind to the surface of the water will create waves. The
run-up of water against the dam will depend upon the height of the wave, the depth of
water in front of the dam and the geometry and material of the upstream face. To provide
the basis for calculation of probable wave heights an anemometer should be installed at
the site at the earliest practicable date.
At Kingsley Dam, USA on 1/2 May 1972 winds held at nearly 90km/h for 4 hours. The
lake is 40km long, the waves were estimated to be between 2.5 and 3m.
It is obvious that the dam Engineer must exercise judgement, based upon the best
information he can obtain of wind speeds that may occur at the site when the reservoir is
full. All factors should be considered together and be balanced against damage that may
occur should the dam be overtopped by waves or spray.

5.5 Floods
5.5.1 Estimation of design flood
There are two methods now commonly used;

The statistical analysis of past floods with extrapolation to estimate the magnitude
and probability of occurence of future floods, and;
The estimation of probable maximum precipitation on to the particular catchment
under the worst meteorological conditions likely to occur over the catchment,
followed by an estimation of the run-off that would result from such a storm.

The determination of probable maximum precipitation for a particular drainage basin

requires comprehensive study of major storms on record and is a job for experts. One is
limited by the lack of data, records usually do not go back more than 50 years, which
makes prediction of more than the 100 year flood impossible. As it is, 50 years of data
will predict a 100 year flood to within 25%, and 115 years will predict it to 10%.
The Engineer is faced with conflicting requirements in terms of safety and economy, he is
therefore obliged to use to the best advantage the data and procedures that are available;

Statistical analysis of past flow records at the site - and extrapolation;

As above, but with extension of the flow records by correlation with flows from
adjacent catchments;
Statistical analysis of rainfall records and extrapolation;
As preceeding, but with extension of data by correlation with other stations;
Correlation studies including both rainfall and flow records;
Estimation of 'maximum possible' rainfall by Meteorological Services and
application of such data to the estimation of 'probable maximum flood' from
Comparison with known events and other designs adopted for the region by the
use of such means as the Creager coefficients.

5.5.2 Flood Routing

When a flood enters a reservoir it will cause the water
level to rise, with consequent discharge over the
spillway. The reservoir level will continue to rise
until the free discharge over the spillway equals the
inflow at time 'X' on the figure. Spillway discharge
will then exceed inflow until the reservoir level falls
to spillway crest level.
If spillway gates are installed they can be opened in
advance of peak of the flood. The rate at which they
can be opened will usually be governed by
permissible river rise conditions downstream. There
is the danger that the flood inflow will not reach the
volume anticipated and the water will be wasted or a
flood of unjustifable size will be created downstream
of the dam.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

5.6 Hydrodynamic Flow Nets

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Flow of water through permeable materials is directional and is in response to head

differentials. Flow can be graphically portrayed by hydrodynamic flow nets, which are
drawn in vertical section parallel to the general direction of flow. A flow net consists of
two sets of lines, flowlines and equipotential lines. Flowlines or streamlines are the loci
of the paths of flow of individual water particles. Equipotential lines pass through points
of equal pressure. All intersections between the streamlines and equipotential lines are at
right angles.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Symmetrical hydrodynamic flow net beneath a dam with its base at ground level
When the base of the dam figure 2, is set below ground elevation and a cut-off is
constructed there is a change in flow net compared to figure 1, that results in the
following advantages:
1. The uplift pressure at the heel of the dam is reduced and the total uplift pressure
downstream from the cut-off has been diminished. Accordingly, the moment of
uplift forces tending to lift the dam has been reduced.
2. The danger of piping and erosion at the toe of the dam has been reduced or
3. The longer flow paths along the streamlines below the cut-off causes a notable
decrease in the exit velocities downstream in the proximity of the dam and
reduces total seepage under the dam.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Hydrodynamic flow net beneath a dam with its base below ground level and with an
impermeable cut-off near the heel of the dam

5.7 Hydrology of Anisotropic Bedrocks

Almost an infinite number of possibilities exists with respect to the magnitude and space
distribution of zones of potential seepage in bedrock in the vicinities of dams and in the
reservoirs behind the dams. A few of the many possible configurations of zones of
potential are shown below;
Idealised cross sections of dams showing various kinds of zones of potential seepage
in bedrock.

Brittle, fractured sandstones in horizontal sedimentary

sequence beneath dam present a potential seepage.

Dam is situated on basltic lava flows and interlayered

pyroclastic deposits. Lava flows are fractured, brecciated at
their tops, and contain lava caves.

A brittle layer of quartzite in tightly folded metamorphic

rocks is likely to contain numerous intersecting fractures.

Sandstone layers alternating with shale layers in a syncline

contain fractures associated with development of a syncline.

A fault provides access of water to brittle sandstone layers

which dip upstream.

A fault provides egress for water moving through inclined,

brittle sandstone layers.

Brittle sandstone layers have been extensively fractured

during development of an anticline.

Fractured sandstones in folded rocks are intersected by a

fault zone which expedites groundwater movement to the
surface beneath the dam.

Faults in brittle crystalline rock provide channelways for

groundwater circulation.

Fractured sandstones, a weathered zone on granite beneath

the sediments, and a fault zone create channelways for
subsurface circulation of water.

Extensively jointed crystalline rocks are permeable to

groundwater flow.

A closely jointed igneous dike intersects a sedimentary

sequence and provides a channel for groundwater movement.

Idealised cross section of valleys at dam and/or reservoir sites.

Jointed sandstones present potential for seepage around dam

abutments when reservoir is full.

Basaltic lava flows and layers of pyroclastic rocks create

potential for seepage. Lava flows are jointed, have breccia
tops, and contain lava caves.

Fractured sandstones in a strike valley are prone to seepage.

A subsided block (arrow) has created an open channelway in

a massive horizontal sandstone layer.

Gravity-slip faults and fractures formed by elastic rebound

produce potential zones for groundwater movement in a
glaciated valley.

A strong fault system renders crystalline rocks permeable on

one side of a valley.

A wide fault zone promotes deep circulation of water

beneath dam.

Fractured sandstones and a weathered zone beneath an

angular unconformity enable easy circulation of

Fractured sandstones in an anticline create a permeable zone

parallel to the valley.

Folded, jointed rocks and a strong fault create a potential for

groundwater flow.

A sheeted, jointed zone in crystalline rocks create a

permeable zone.

Joints in a brittle quartzite layer and a fault produce

channelways for underground water circulation.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

5.8 Hydrology of Filled Reservoirs

Failure of slopes on sides of reservoirs frequently during drawndown when the reservoir
is nearly empty doesn't produce unmanageable problems. However, of more concern is
when rock and earth slides into a full reservoir causing sudden destructive overflow of
the dam.
Filling of a reservoir causes adjustments in the groundwater table in adjacent materials.
Over a period of time when the reservoir is full a new groundwater table is established
with coincides with the elevation of the water surface. The groundwater surface is a free
surface in contact through unfilled pore spaces with the atmosphere, changes in
atmospheric pressure are accompanied by changes in pore pressure in the saturated zone.
Wave action also undercuts the slopes and oversteepens them.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Figure 1 - Glacial till deposits in a glaciated canyon in crystalline rocks

A reservoir is located in an extensively glaciated valley in crystalline rocks. Lateral
morraines, consisting of a jumbled mixture of large and small boulders, gravel, and rock
flour have been deposited by the glacier that occupied the valley high on its sides. Filling
of the reservoir causes an elevation of the water table in the rill in the moraines, and
because of the cross-sectional configuration of the valley, considerably increases the
possibility for sudden downslope movement of the moraine material. Failure of the slopes
might occur at any time.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Figure 2 - Tilted alteration of sandstone and shale

The bedrock profile of a canyon eroded by a stream in a tilted succession of sandstones
and clay-rich shales. Unconsolidated materials in rock slides and stream deposits are not
shown. Water from the reservoir, by seepage through the sandstones, comes into contact
with the shale layers for a considerable distance into the canyon walls, and by slow
penetration of the shales, greatly reduces their strength. Under these circumstances, a
highly unstable condition is created, especially where the sedimentary layers dip into the


6.1 Foundation Introduction

The foundations of a dam must be able to withstand without unacceptable deformation

the loads imposed upon it by the structure, both immediately after filling the reservoir
and in the long term.
With time, deteriotation by saturation and percolation of water can occur, whilst soft
rocks and clays usually exhibit lower residual strengths under sustained loading than
under rapid testing. It is the 10-20m of rock immediately below the dam that is of greatest
Terzaghi's advice might well apply to foundation testing - "...because of unavoidable
uncertainties involved in the fundamental assumptions of the theories and the numerical
values of the soil constants, simplicity is of much greater importance than accuracy." The
Engineer must use all the available resources, concentrating on the zones of foundation
that appear weak and that will be subject to stresses once loaded.

6.2 Foundation Preparation

6.2.1 Introduction
If it is economically feasible, all material under the base of a proposed dam which could
cause excessive settlement and leakage should be removed. If this cannot be done, the
dam design should be modified to take account of such material. Sometimes it may be
necessary to remove material to considerable depths in isolated areas of the foundation.
This is known as dental work. The general overall removal of material is termed
stripping, whereas the removal of loose masses of rocks on the abutments is termed
scaling. The engineering geologist has to determine the expected depth of weathered or
unsound rock or overburden that must be removed in advance of construction.
6.2.2 Foundation programme
A planned programme of foundation excavation should be initiated with the view that the
volume of excavation and configuration of the excavation will approximate reasonably to
the plans and specifications established. It is the responsibility of the construction
engineer to ensure slopes for excavations will be permanently stable or will not fail
during construction. In earth materials slopes of 1.5:1 to 2:1 are excavated in permanent
cuts and slopes of 1:1 are established in temporary cuts, except where unusual conditions
are anticipated. In bedrock that is not closely fractured or does not contain inclined planes
of potential slippage, such as bedding planes in weak rocks, slopes are excavated at
angles up to the vertical.
6.2.3 Problematic foundation materials
In foundations in unconsolidated material excavation of natural deposits may reveal
inadequate localised or widespread foundation materials that require special treatment or
total removal. Unacceptable or inadequate materials rich in organic substances such as

topsoil, swamp muck or peat, loose deposits of sand or silt, talus accumulations and
plastic, active, sensitive, or swelling clays.
Poor foundation conditions in rocks are associated with close fracturing, weathering or
hydrothermal alteration, or poorly indurated sedimentary rocks.
6.2.4 Excavation in bedrock
The objective of excavation is the preparation of a clean surface that will provide
optimum contact with the dam materials, whether earth or concrete is to be placed on that
surface. Therefore excavations in bedrock should extend into firm, fresh rock. Any
closely fractured zones extending downward, especially if containing soft altered
materials such as clay gouge or other products of weathering, should be removed if
Prolonged exposure of both earth and rock foundations to the atmosphere or to water
frequently results in deterioration by hydration, dehydration, frost action, shrinkage, and
expansion with changes in temperature. It is good practice to protect reactive surfaces
that will be exposed for long periods of time with bituminous materials. Alternatively,
original cover is not removed until final cleanup and just prior to placement of the dam.
6.2.5 Construction on unconsolidated deposits
At an ideal site, excavations in unconsolidated deposits should extend to solid bedrock
for the full width of the dam, whether it is constructed of concrete or earth/rock fill.
However, there are many locations where the depth of the valley fill is so great that dams
must be constructed in part or entirely on unconsolidated deposits. Where this is the case
steps must be taken to improve the engineering properties of the foundation materials and
to reduce subsurface seepage to allowable levels.
Except for low dams of small gross weight, concrete dams are not built on
unconsolidated deposits because of their generally low bearing strength. Larger dams
constructed in whole or in part on unconsolidated deposits should without exception, be
earth or rockfill dams with the capacity to adjust to settlement in the foundation
Preparation of foundations - the extent of the work that will be necessary in the
foundations for a concrete dam will be determined by two main factors, their strength to
sustain the loads that will be imposed by dam and the reservoir water, and the effect of
water entering the foundations under pressure from the reservoir.
Generally the quality of foundations for a gravity dam will improve with depth of
excavation however the abutments for an arch dam often do not improve with distance

excavated into the sides of the valley. Deterioration of clay could endanger the dam
and/or lead to collapse of abutments downstream from the dam.
Frequently the course of the river has been determined by geological faults or
weaknesses; proving of the river bed is therefore of first importance in the investigation
stage. The depth to be excavated will depend upon the nature of the infilling material, the
shape of the excavated zone, and the depth of cutoff necessary to ensure an acceptable
hydraulic gradient after the reservoir is filled.
Concrete dams may be constructed on foundations other than massive rock, i.e. shales,
glacial deposits or even sand for river works. Each case must be examined relative to
permeability, settlement, and load-carrying capacity (vertical and horizontal).
The final preparation of the foundation should be undertaken just prior to the placement
of concrete. It should include the removal of loose rock and all debris, roughening of
smooth rock surfaces, washing down of all surfaces, and the removal of excess water
from pools to leave a clean damp surface to receive the concrete.

6.3 Foundation Design

6.3.1 Pressures Associated with Dams and Reservoirs
Construction of a dam and filling of the reservoir behind it create load stresses on the
floor and sides of a valley that did not exist previously.
The kinds and distributions of imposed stresses created by a dam on its foundation
depend on the shape of the dam and the materials used in its construction.
Dams built of masonry or concrete can be considered to behave as cohesive, rigid,
monolithic structures. The stresses acting on the foundation is a function of the
gross weight of the dam as distributed over the total area of the foundation on
which the dam rests.
Earth and rock fill dams exhibit gross semiplastic behaviour, and the pressure on
the foundation at any point depends on the thickness of the dam above the point.
The pressures exerted by earth and rock-fill dams resemble in some respects those
exerted by the water in a reservoir, but pressure distribution is modified by the fact that
the materials of construction have some inherent strength, and fail only after some
threshold stress has been exceeded. Pressures exerted by water in the reservoir behind a
dam are hydrostatic and increase linearly with depth.

Figure 1 - Pressures due to water in a reservoir

The pressures are hydrostatic and increase with depth. On the assumption that the
pressures are directed normal to the floor and sides, they are shown as vectors of
increasing magnitude with depth.

Figure 2 - Pressures from the weight of a rigid concrete dam

The deadweight load of a concrete dam is distributed over the total area of the foundation
and is shown by vectors normal to the surface beneath the dam. The figures are
essentially static, and depend only on the weight of the dam and the area of the
Water exerts hydrostatic pressures not only on the floor and walls of a reservoir but also
on the upstream face of a dam. D is the depth of water in a reservoir, P is the hydrostatic
pressure per unit area acting on the vertical face of a concrete dam assumed to behave as
a rigid body. The change in pressure with depth (in the y direction) is given by dP/dY=g
in which is the density of water and g is the acceleration due to gravity.

Figure - Forces acting on a rigid dam owing to hydrostatic pressures

Torque about 0 = gD/6
Resultant Pressure = gD/2
In calculations of the stability of the dam the torque tending to rotate the dam about 0
should be added to the tendency of the dam to be rotated in the same direction about the
same point by uplift forces related to seepage beneath the dam.
Figure 1 illustrates an earth dam, a nonrigid
structure that under stress behaves
semiplastically. Because of relatively easy
internal adjustments to loads, the pressure
exerted on the foundation are approximately
equal to the weight of overlying prisms of
material of different heights. Pressures exerted
on the dam by water in the reservoir tend to
cause greater adjustments near the base of the dam than at shallower depths.
A cross section of a concrete gravity dam,
presumed to behave as a rigid body. When the
reservoir is empty, the weight of the dam is
directed vertically downward. When the reservoir
is full, a combination of hydrostatic pressure on
the upstream face of the dam and the weight of
the dam produces a force vector inclined
downstream away from the vertical force vector,
and there is a tendency for the dam not only to be
displaced downstream but also to rotate about the downstream toe of the dam because of
a torque.

These figures show force vectors for

empty and filled reservoirs behind
concrete arch dams. Unlike gravity
dams, arch dams because of the eggshell effect tend to resist downstream
dislocation and the displacing forces,
instead, are transmitted laterally
through the dam and toward the
Figures (C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and
Reservoir Sites

6.3.2 Mechanisms of Foundation Failure

In general, failures in flat, nearly horizontal foundations of earth and rock-fill dams are
not the result of shearing dislocations owing to the load of the dam. Instead, foundations
give way because of inadequate treatment for seepage, either within the dam or beneath
it, or as a consequence of construction of a dam on a foundation which slopes steeply
upstream or downstream.
The figure below shows a mechanism of foundation failure under load that has been
widely employed in the analysis of bearing strengths of soils. This mechanism responds
to analysis by application of Mohr's thoery of shear failure called the plastic method of
analysis of bearing capacity.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Figure 1 - 'Plastic' Mechanism for shear failure of foundation materials; Load is directed
For a load directed vertically downward it is assumed and born out by model studies that
a symmetrical wedge is formed by shear dislocation. Extension of the shear surfaces
bounding the wedge, first as curved surfaces, and then as planar surfaces intersecting the
earth's surface, provides a mechanism for shear failure along symmetrically disposed
surfaces beneath the dam.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Figure 2 - 'Plastic' Mechanism for shear failure of foundation materials; Load is directed
Figure 2 shows the consequences of application of an inclined load, either because of an
inclined surface at the base of the dam or because of an interaction between the load
component acting vertically due to the weight of the dam and the pressure exerted on the
dam by the hydrostatic pressure of the water in the reservoir. The result is a tendency to
shear along a single surface that intersects the earth's surface downstream from the dam.
If pre-existing planes of weakness of appropiate orientation exist in the foundation
materials, it should be expected that the shear surfaces will deflect into them.

6.3.3 Geologic Conditions Promoting Foundation Failure

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

The geologic conditions in foundations for concrete dams that should be avoided are
indicated below.

Brittle, fractured sandstones rest on a weak shale

layer dipping upstream.

Horizontally layered limestones rest on a weak

shale layer which extends downstream to a steep
slope in the valley floor.

Fractured crystalline rocks lie above a flat fault

containing sheared, gougy materials of very low

Intersecting strong conjugate joints have attitudes

that promote easy mass shear dislocations.

Sedimentary rocks dipping downstream are

intersected by a fault dipping upstream and
containing materials of low strength.

Folded rocks containing thin, weak layers of

shale present a potential for foundation failure.

Slope failures toward abutments (in direction of the dam axis) which disturb or dislocate
the abutments are rare. In concrete dams in which slopes in the abutment areas maintain
themselves during excavation for the foundation, the possibility of downslope movement
along surfaces that intersect the foundation of the dam is remote because of the added
stability provided by the weight and strength of the dam. However, the possibility that
slopes above the dam, especially in deep valleys, may fail and bury surface structures
with rock and/or soil debris.
Figure - Conditions promoting possible slope
failure beneath abutments of an earth or
rock-fill dam along curves shear surfaces.
Shale beneath a sandstone layer has been
weakened by infiltration of water from the
(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

6.3.4 Bearing capacity

To avoid shear failure, the foundation pressures used in design should have an adequate
factor of safety when compared with the ultimate bearing capacity of the foundation. If
failure is to be avoided, then a factor of safety must be applied to the ultimate bearing
capacity, the value being obtained being the safe bearing capacity. The ultimate bearing

capacity is defined as the least pressure which would cause shear failure of the supporting
soil immediately below and adjacent to a foundation. However, this value still may mean
risk of excessive settlement or differential settlement. Thus the allowable bearing
capacity which is used in design will take into account all possibilities of ground
movement and so its value will normally be less than the safe bearing capacity.

6.3.5 Seepage - Introduction

Seepage under an embankment is much more dangerous than that for a concrete dam,
since embankments are usually built on soft material which is liable to be scoured out and
it is also vulnerable to influx of water; whereas a concrete dam is usually built on rock
which is not worn away so rapidly by the scouring action of water; and even then a
defective dam will not necessarily be endangered by passage of water through it or even
under it.
Basic seepage problems
Stored water behind dams, gives rise to three basic seepage problems, which can lead to
difficulties and in serious cases to total failure:
1. Piping occurs when water picks up soil particles and moves them through
unprotected exits, developing unseen channels or pipes through a dam or its
2. Heave or slope failures caused by seepage forces.
3. Excessive loss of water.
Three basic methods for controlling seepage are:
1. Use of filters to prevent piping and heave
2. Seepage reduction
3. Drainage Prevention of Piping Failures Piping failures
Water that percolates through earth dams and their foundations can carry soil particles
that are free to migrate. The seepage forces tend to cause the erodible soil or soft rock to
move towards the downstream face of the dam. That is if the seepage forces are large
enough and the pore spaces in the material are large enough. Along the unprotected
discharge face AB, the soil will heave if the gradients are large enough.

Every seepage discharge surface, both internal and external, which could be susceptible
to piping or heave must be covered with filters that permit water to pass but will hold the
soil particles firmly in place. Filter criteria
Since the core is stabilised with rock or gravel zones, it is necessary to prevent the fine
core material being sucked into the upstream shell material during rapid drawdown of the
reservoir, or forced into the downstream shell by seepage water under reservoir head.
Transition or filter zones must therefore be provided on each side of the core.
The upstream filter, if non-cohesive and of proper grading, can serve a valuable service
by providing material for induced self-healing should a transverse crack appear in the
core. Selection of the best material for this purpose is well justified. Although its prime
function is to retain the core material against movement into the rockfill, the downstream
transition material should be selected and placed so as to inhibit the propagation of a core
crack into the compacted rockfill. It is good practice to widen the transition zones
towards each abutment, i.e. where tension and oblique cracking may occur.
To prevent migration of fines from the core:
D15/D85 < 4-5
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
D50/D50 < 25
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
For sufficient permeability:
D15/D15 > 4-5
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
To prevent segregation of the filter:
D60/D10 < 20
(filter)/(filter) Problems associated with natural formations

The foundations and abutments of dams are usually stable under the influence of the
natural groundwater flow. However, reservoir filling greatly changes the groundwater
regime and may lead to piping and internal erosion. The potential for internal erosion and
piping may occur at joints in rock, beds of gravel and in cavities left by rotting roots,
animals burrows or other buried organic matter. Recommendations for preventing piping in natural formations
Field exploration and geological mapping for dam projects should identify the important
soil and rock formations that could cause failure by internal piping or heave. The
geotechnical properties of these materials should be thoroughly investigated. If the
materials are proven to be unsuitable then remedial action should be taken to improve
their geotechnical properties.
All new dams and reservoirs should be carefully observed and monitored once in service
to detect the development of unsafe conditions. If seepage quantities increase or if there
is an unexplained change in seepage conditions then protective measures should be put
into action.
Such actions should include lowering the reservoir and placing weighted filters over areas
where seepage discharges occur. Seepage Reduction Basic considerations
Seepage-reduction methods make use of impermeable cutoffs, grout curtains, and
upstream blankets, which consume energy at locations within cross sections where large
water pressures and seepage forces have no detrimental effects. The net result of these
methods is that water pressures and seepage forces are reduced in the downstream region.
These seepage-reducing features are usually combined with properly designed filters and
drainage features, since seepage reduction can only be partially effective by itself.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams Foundation grouting

Further details on grouting click on Foundation Improvements page. Drainage Methods Permeable downstream shells
At dam sites where there is an abundance of at least two different materials with
significantly different permeabilities, a zoned dam may be constructed. In such cases
permeable material is placed downstream of less permeable material, often with a
transition zone between. For example, in a zoned dam which has a thick impermeable
core and rests on an impermeable foundation, the flowpaths within the downstream
portion of the dam will be low. Thus seepage has a negligible effect on the stability of the
downstream slope, which is the ideal condition in zoned earth dams.

(C) Craig R, F Soil Mechanics Internal drain systems Purpose
A homogeneous dam with a height of more than about 6 m to 8 m should have some type
of downstream drain. The purpose of a drain is:
1. to reduce the pore water pressures in the downstream portion of the dam therefore
increasing the stability of the downstream slope against sliding.
2. to control any seepage that exits the downstream portion of the dam and prevent
erosion of the downstream slope: i.e. to prevent 'piping'.
The effectiveness of the drain in reducing pore pressures depends on its location and
extent. However, piping is controlled by ensuring that the grading of the pervious
material from which the drain is constructed meets the filter requirements for the
embankment material. Toe drains
The design of a downstream drainage system is controlled by the height of the dam, the
cost and availability of permeable material, and the permeability of the foundation.
For low dams, a simple toe drain can be used successfully. Toe drains have been installed
in some of the oldest homogeneous dams in an effort to prevent softening and erosion of
the downstream toe.

(C) Craig R, F Soil Mechanics

For reservoir depths greater than 15 m, most engineers would place a drainage system
further inside the embankment where it will be more effective in reducing pore pressures
and controlling seepage. Horizontal drainage blanket
Horizontal drainage blankets are often used for dams of moderate height.
Drainage blankets are frequently used over the downstream one-half or one-third of the
foundation area. The Bureau of Reclamation's 45 m Vega Dam is a homogeneous dam
which has been constructed with a horizontal downstream drain. Where pervious material
is scarce, the internal strip drains can be placed instead since these give the same general
effect. Disadvantages of horizontal drainage blankets
An earth dam embankment tends to be more pervious in the horizontal direction than in
the vertical. Occasionally, horizontal layers tend to be much more impervious than the
average material constructed into the embankment, so the water will flow horizontally on
a relatively impervious layer and discharge on the downstream face despite the horizontal
drain.,p> Where this has occurred the downstream slope is prone to slipping and piping.
Repairs can be made by installing pervious blankets on the downstream slopes or
constructing vertical drains to connect with the horizontal blanket. Such vertical drains
are normally composed of sand and gravel. Chimney drains

Chimney drains are an attempt to prevent horizontal flow along relatively impervious
stratified layers, and to intercept seepage water before it reaches the downstream slope.
Chimney drains are often incorporated in high homogeneous dams which have been
constructed with inclined or vertical chimney drains.

(C) Craig R, F Soil Mechanics

In some major dam projects, chimney drains have been inclined at a considerable slope,
both upstream and sometimes downstream. An upstream inclined drain can act as a
relatively thin core. In addition to controlling seepage through the dam and increasing the
stability of the downstream slope, the chimney drain is also useful in reducing pore water
pressures both during construction and following rapid reservoir drawdown. Dimensions and permeability of drains
The dimensions and permeability of permeable drains must be adequate to carry away the
anticipated flow with an ample margin of safety for unexpected leaks. If the dam and the
foundations are relatively impermeable, then the expected leakage would be low. A drain
should be constructed of material with a coefficient of permeability of at least 10 to 100
times greater than the average embankment material.

6.3.6 Settlement
All structures undergo some settlement, regardless of their construction or of the quality
of their foundations. Structures made of soil or founded on soil settle so much that their
performance is affected and their safety is compromised.
Concrete dams are almost always based on strong rock foundations where settlement of
the dam is kept to a minimum otherwise the dams would crack leading to serious
structural faults. Embankment dams can be founded on soft compressible materials and
are able to withstand large settlements.

Causes of settlement
Measurement of settlement
Effects of settlement on structures
Settlement due to changes in environment Causes of settlement

1. Bearing capaicty failure or instability, including landslides.
2. Failure or deflection of the foundation structure.
3. Elastic or distortion of the soil or rock.
4. Consolidation (compression) of the soil or rock.
5. Shrinkage due to desiccation.
6. Change in density due to shock or vibration.
7. Chemical alteration of constituents, including decay.
8. Underground erosion.
9. Collapse of underground openings such as caves or mines.
10. Structural collapse due to weakening of cementation upon saturation. Measurement of settlement

Measurement of settlement within a dam should illustrate the progress of consolidation in
the dam and point out whether addition of height will be necessary to maintain freeboard.
In embankment dams settlement measurements are helpful in computing the volume of
material placed in the dam from the dimensions of the completed structure and provide a
check on original design specifications. Measurement of Crest Settlement
Crest settlement is measured by bench marks placed at intervals along the top of the dam.
Obviously these are tied to a reference bench mark on the abutment which is immovable. Measurement of Internal Settlement
Measurement of internal settlement is made using settlement plates embedded in the dam
or the foundation.
Diagram of settlement plates - Effects of settlement on structures

The settlement configuration of a uniform load on a thick deposit of compressible soil is
a saucer shaped depression which extends beyond the limits of the structure. If the
loading is irregular or the soil uniform, the saucer shaped curve is distorted. If the deposit
is thin, the 'saucer' is flattened at the centre. The effect that the settlement has on a
structure depends on where the structure is located in the depression and on how the
movements at that location influence the performance of the structure.
Total settlement
Distortion Total Settlement

The total amount of settlement a structure can undergo without damage is large provided
it is relatively uniform. However, with large amounts of settlement several forms of
trouble develop. In embankments and dams on earth foundations the result will be a
lowering of the crest. This is an insidious form of trouble since it usually develops slowly,
often without the operators of maintenance personnel being aware of the loss of height
and free board.
Allowances must be made for settlement in the design height, and periodic measurements
should be taken to be sure that the proper crest level is maintained. A considerable part of
the settlement, both of the foundation and of the embankment, occurs during the
construction period. This can result in discrepancies in the computed volume of the
structure unless it is anticipated and careful records of the settlement are kept. With
proper allowances, embankment settlements of a few metres can be tolerated. Total
settlement is not a serious matter if it is anticapted and provisions made before hand. Tilting

Tilting occurs in the parts of the structure that are outside the centre of the saucer-like
depression. It also takes place when the structure is unevenly loaded, or when the soils
are non-uniform. It is of importance mainly with tall structures such as large retaining
walls, transmission towers, water tanks, and smoke stacks. It is particularly serious in
structures that are inter-connected. The amount of tilt which can be tolerated depends on
the height-width ratio of the structure. Distortion
Differential settlement which produces relative movement is known as distortion. The
load of an embankment on a uniform soil produces a settlement profile as shown below.
There is also a tendency for cracks to develop as indicated. These cracks may lead to
accelerated seepage, erosion, and even failure.
Figure 1 - The load of an embankment on a uniform soil produces a settlement profile as
shown and a tendency to develop cracks at the points indicated. Such cracks can possibly
lead to accelerated seepage, erosion and even seepage failure.
Figure 2 - The non uniform foundation thickness and the greater loading at the centre
than at the abutments brings about a sagging profile along the axis. Shear cracks tend to
form as shown. These are far more serious because they extend from upstream to
downstream and several dam failures have been attributed to such cracking.
Figure 3 - When a small portion of the embankment extends beyond the main section
shear cracks sometimes develop.
Figure 4 - Similar settlement adjacent to an overhanging abutment can create cracks at
their juncture. Settlement due to changes in Environment

Changes in environment can bring about a reduction in void ratio in certain soils and a
corresponding settlement. Shock and vibration from earthquakes, blasting, and
construction machinery can cause loose cohesionless soils to densify. In addition, flow
failure may accompany the settlement if the soils are saturates. Detioration of cementing
agents from physical and chemical changes brought on by exposure and inundation can
cause the collapse of loose skeleton soil structures and settlement.
Bacteriological decay of organic materials can produce settlement accompanied by
formation of gas pockets. Such decay is inhibited by permanent submergence.
Exposure to soils to hot dry weather during construction can cause both settlement and
shrinkage cracking. A desiccated clay that is subsequently inundated may swell and
damage a superimposed structure or embankment by heave. Moreover, the cracked,
swollen soil is weakened and can be a cause of foundation failure.

6.4 Foundations Improvement

6.4.1 Pre-Consolidation
Pre-consolidation is a useful foundation treatment method in compressible soils,
depending on the rate of consolidation. If the rate is rapid (one to two months for 50%) it
will be possible to pile up the soils removed from stripping and scaling of the abutments
to form an artificial surcharge.
If the rate is slower (one to two years for 50%) the dam weight can be used to consolidate
the soil and increase it's strength. It would be necessary to control the rate of construction
so that the weight applied does not exceed the ability of the foundation to support the
structure safely. It may, however, be necessary to increase the length of the construction
period to obtain a sufficient gain in strength. Drainage of the foundation can also help to
accelerate consolidation.

6.4.2 Densification of cohesionless soils

Densification of cohesionless soils is carried out using shock and vibration.
Vibroflotation is used to improve poor foundations. The process may reduce settlement
by more than 50% and the shearing strength of treated soils is increased substantially.
Vibrations can convert loosely packed soils into a denser state.
A vibroflot can be used to penetrate the soil and can operate efficiently below the water
table. The best results are obtained in coarse sands which contain little or no silt or clay,
since both reduce the effectiveness of the vibroflot.

6.4.3 Dynamic compaction

Dynamic compaction improves the mechanical properties of the soil by repeated
application of very high intensity impacts to the surface. This is achieved by dropping a
weight, typically 10 to 20 tonnes, from crawler cranes, from heights of 10 to 20 metres at
regular intervals across the surface. Passes should be repeated over a site, although
several tampings may be made at each imprint during a pass. Each imprint is back-filled
after tamping. The first pass at widely spaced centres improves the bottom layer of the
treatment zone and subsequent passes consolidate the upper layers. In finer materials the
increased pore water pressures must be allowed to dissipate between passes, which may
take several weeks.

6.4.4 Grouting
Grouting Operations in Bedrock
The goal of foundation and abutment grouting in bedrock is improvement of strength and
bearing capacity and the filling with grout of underground channelways that have a
potential for impermissible seepage. The most general technique uses drilling and
pressure grouting, either with water-cement mixtures or with other types of sealants.

Preliminary geological and geophysical investigations usually reveal only the general
characteristics of the bedrock, it is not until the keyway for the dam has been excavated
and the bare rock can be examined. This is a critical time because the constructor is eager
to proceed with the dam construction, however this is the last chance to ensure that all the
fissures are sealed to prevent water loss at a later stage and must be extensively treated to
assure ultimate safety of the dam.
Although grouting of a rock foundation may be conducted with meticulous care, the
possibiliy always exists that some channelways of underground water circulation remain
and that flow through these chanelways will accelerate as the reservoir is filled. If the
volumes are excessive then remedial steps must be taken, otherwise the flows may be
intercepted and diverted by drain holes or porous prisms.

6.4.5 Dam Construction on Unconsolidated Deposits

There are many locations where the depth of valley fill is too great to remove and so the
dam or parts of it may have to be built on unconsolidated deposits. Cross sections of
several earth and/or rockfill dams constructed at least in part on unconsolidated
subsurface deposits are shown below. It is clear that considerable information as to the
distribution and permeabilities of subsurface materials is required prior to the design and
construction of cut-off features.

Rockfill dam. Impervious membrane

(asphaltic concrete) extends to a grout
cap on bedrock.

Cut-off trench extends to bedrock

Cut-off trench penetrates impervious

layer in unconsolidated valley fill

Cut-off extends to layer of impervious

material in unconsolidated valley fill.
Grout holes extend through a
limestone layer in bedrock below
valley fill.

A cut-off is provided by sheet piling

driven into an impervious layer in
valley fill.

Flow beneath dam is reduced by a

leyer of impervious material placed
upstream from the dam.
(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

6.4.6 Grout
Grout is a liquid, either a uniform chemical substance or an aqueous suspension of solids
that is injected into rocks or unconsolidated materials through specially drilled boreholes
to improve bulk physical properties and/or to eliminate seepage of groudwater.
There are three basic types;
1. Portland cement-base slurries
2. Chemical Grouting solutions
3. Organic resins, including epoxy resins.
Portland based are the most widely used. Types of Grouting

In dam foundations three kinds of grouting programs are identified:
1. Shallow blanket or consolidation grouting over critical portions
2. Curtain grouting from a gallery or concrete grout cap
3. Off pattern, special purpose grouting to improve strength
Some cross sections of dams with rock foundations showing locations of drilled holes for
foundation treatment.
A - Curtain grout holes

B - Blanket grout holes

C - Special purpose, off-pattern grout holes
D - Drain holes

Rockfill dam with impermeable concrete face

Zoned earth and rock-fill dam

Zoned earth and rock-fill dam

Earth dam

Concrete gravity dam with 'C' holes intersecting a

fault zone

Concrete gravity dam with double grout curtain

and 'C' holes intersecting a permeable fault zone

Concrete gravity dam with special purpose 'C'


Concrete gravity dam wiht a porous filter to

collect seepage water

Hollow conrete gravity dam

Concrete buttress dam

Concrete arch-dam

Concrete arch-dam

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites Pattern Grouting

Plans for dams commonly include broad specifications for a systematic program of
blanket and/or curtain grouting. Grouting is an uncertain process, it is impossible to
accurately estimate the amount of grout required, and usually the 'take' amounts
moderately to greatly in excess of the estimate. 'Grouting is an art and not a science.'
Pattern grouting is grouting included in the plans and specifications for a dam and
commonly is the basis for estimation prior to construction of the total footage of grout
holes and the expected amount of grout consumption. It is general practice to lay out
locations of grout holes in the plans with a definite, systematic pattern, spacing and
assumed depths. Blanket Grouting

Blanket grout holes are usually shallow, not more than 6 - 9 m deep and are intended to
remedy flaws in the foundation, such as fractured rock, by reducing permeability and
increasing bulk strength. Although holes may be routinely drilled normal to the
foundation surface, there is considerable merit in directing the holes to intersect specific
local features identified in the dam foundation during excavation. Blanket grouting must
be completed before construction of a dam.
Locations of blanket grout holes may usefully be indicated on plans and specifications for
several types of dams. The drawings are entirely schematic, and no scale is shown, on the
assumption that the actual number of holes will be determined by the area and the crosssectional configuration of the excavation for the dam foundation. Curtain Grouting

In earth / rockfill dams, curtain grouting is usually completed before a dam is constructed
and involves filling a narrow excavated trench in the foundation with concrete. The
exception to the timing of the grouting operation is grouting after construction for a
grouting cap at the upstream heel of a dam.
Curtain grouting of the foundations of concrete dams is most effective after completion of
the dam, at a time when the full load is being applied to the foundation. Under such
circumstances higher pressures may be used in grouting so as to assure maximum travel
of grout in all directions along flow paths intersected by grout holes.
In gravity and gravity arch dams of moderate to large size it is common practice to
construct a gallery inside the dam for drilling curtain grout holes and drainage holes.
Foundations of small gravity and thin arch dams are efficiently grouted from grout caps
along the contact of the upstream face of the dam with rock.
Where there are no geological controls the depths of curtain pattern grout holes are
determined by a formula. A frequently used formula is: the vertical depth of grout holes
shall be a third of the dam height at the location of the hole plus (15 - 20m). Off-pattern, Special Purpose Grouting

During investigations prior to dam construction, or as unanticipated geological conditions
are exposed in foundation excavations, the need for 'off-pattern' grout holes may be
required. These holes are drilled and grouted to improve the strength and / or reduce the
permeability of rock masses that are not intersected by blanket or curtain grout holes.
The depths, directions and inclinations of the grout holes are determined by the threedimensional geometry of zones of incompetent and / or permeable rocks as revealed by
field examination of bedrock exposures in foundation and abutment excavations.

Inclined holes from the

surface and horizontal
holes from a shaft
intersect steep faults
and associated fractures
at depth.

Inclined holes are

drilled to intersect
sheeted zones in
crystalline rocks.

Dipping sedimentary
layers present a
potential for seepage
under a dam. Inclined
holes are drilled to
intersect a limestone
layer and a brittle
sandstone layer.

Inclined holes are

drilled into jointed and
sheared rock in crests
and troughs of folds.

Holes are drilled to

intersect a closely
jointed igneous dyke at

Off-pattern grout holes

intersect a jointed,
weathered zone in
crystalline rocks below
an unconformity. Grouting Consistency and Grouting Pressure

The ability of cement grout to penetrate interconnected open spaces is limited by the
dimensions of the open spaces and the amount and size of the cement particles suspended
in the water base. Openings of slightly greater than capillary size that may permit free
circulation of groundwater are quickly filled and obstructed by cement particles and

lateral and/or vertical travel of the grout suspension is greatly impeded or brought to a
halt. In larger openings, presupposing interconnecting avenues of circulation, grout
suspensions move with ease and in some instances travel surprisingly large distances.
If easy grout circulation continues with the progress of the grouting operation, the
suspension is gradually thickened and, if necessary, the pressure correspondingly
increased until filling of available openings is indicated by refusal of the grout hole to
accept additional grout. Grout leaks at the surface should be calked or otherwise sealed to
promote confined subsurface movement of grout suspensions.
The definitions of thin and thick are not precise, but generally thin mixtures are construed
to mean mixtures prepared by mixing 8-10 volumes water with one volume of cement.
Thick mixtures have volume proportions of cement to water of approximately 1:1, or
thicknesses that are not so great that the grout can not be pumped with reasonable ease. In
highly permeable materials thick grout mixtures are indicated with inert additives such as
clay or sand may be added to grout suspensions as inexpensive fillers.
If grout pressures exceed certain limits there is the possibility of foundation dislocation
and new channelways being created. Because of a wide range in complexity of patterns
of underground circulation it is not possible to establish a rigid formula for controlling
grout pressures at the top of a grout hole. For curtain grouting, a rule that is sometimes
followed states that pressure in an initially thin grout suspension is increased to a level
which establishes a free circulation (assuming channelways for circulation are present)
but not in excess of the calculated hydrostatic pressure of the filled reservoir at the
elevation of the collar of the grout hole plus 0.7-3.5 bar.
Premature thickening of grout or reduction of pressures to cause grout refusal in a grout
hole should be avoided unless it can be demonstrated that grout is escaping to the surface
well outside of the foundation area. So long as grout is circulating somewhere in the
foundation of a dam or in the near proximity of the foundation, it must be assumed that it
is contributing to an improvement of the engineering properties of foundation materials
and to a reduction in permeability to groundwater seepage.





Design Concepts and
Contraction Joints
Appurtenant Structures


Prestressed Gravity Dams


Design concepts and
Abutments - Stability
Shell geometry
Contraction joints


Concrete Slab Deck
Massive Head Buttress
Multiple Arch Dam
Uplifting and Sliding
Spill-over Buttress



7.1 Gravity Dam Contents

1. Introduction
2. Design Concepts
and Criteria
3. Uplift
4. Stresses
5. Contraction Joints
6. Galleries
7. Appurtenant
8. Prestressed Gravity
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.1.1 Introduction to Gravity Dams

A concrete gravity dam has a cross section such that with a flat bottom, the dam is free
standing. That is, the dam has a center of gravity low enough that the dam will not topple
if unsupported at the abutments. Gravity dams require maximum amounts of concrete for
their construction as compared with other kinds of concrete dams, and resist dislocation
by the hydrostatic pressure of reservoir water by sheer weight. A favourable site usually
is one in a constriction in a valley where the sound bedrock is reasonably close to the
surface both in the floor and abutments of the dam. The availability of suitable aggregate
for manufacture of concrete is also an important consideration.

Masonry dams that relied upon their weight for stability against sliding and overturning
date back 3000 to 4000 years, both upstream and downstream faces were sloped and the
base thickness was many times the height. In 1872 Rankine proposed that there should be
no tensile stress in a gravity dam. In 1895 Levy proposed that the compressive stress in
the material of the dam at the upstream face should be greater than the water pressure at
the corresponding depth in the reservoir.
The danger from uplift had been recognised in 1882, and the danger of sliding was
highlighted by the failure of the Austin Dam, USA. The most recent advance has been in
the application of the finite element method of analysis.
Typical Section


Hoover Dam, Nevada-Arizona (221m)

Grand Coulee Dam, Washington State (168m)

Fontana Dam, Tennessee (137m)

Studen Kladenetz, Bulgaria (67.5m)

Sakuma Dam, Japan (140m)

Topolintza Dam, Bulgaria (85m)

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

7.1.2 Design Concepts and Criteria

A gravity dam shall be:
Safe against overturning at any horizontal plane within the dam.
Safe against sliding at any horizontal place within the dam.
So proportioned that the allowable stresses in both the concrete and the
foundation shall not be exceeded.
Loading Criteria
See Loading and Factor of Safety Page
In 1940 Houk and Keener, listed twenty five basic assumptions that should be considered
relative to the design of important masonry dams.
1. The rock that constitutes the foundation and abutments at the site is strong enough
to carry the forces imposed by the dam with stresses well below the elastic limit at
all places along the contact planes.
2. The bearing power of the geologic structure along the foundation and abutments
is great enough to carry the total loads imposed by the dam without rock
movements of detrimental magnitude.
3. The rock formations are homogeneous and uniformly elastic in all directions, so
that their deformations may be predicted satisfactorily by calculations based on
the theory of elasticiy, by laboratory measurements on models constructed of
elastic materials, or by combinations of both methods.
4. The flow of the foundation rock under the sustained loads that result from the
construction of the dam and the filling of the reservoir may be adequately allowed
for by using a somewhat lower modulus of elasticity than would otherwise be
adopted for use in the technical analyses.
5. The base of the dam is thoroughly keyed into the rock formations along the
foundations and abutments.
6. Construction operations are conducted so as to secure a satisfactory bond between
the concrete and rock materials at all areas of contact along the foundation and
7. The concrete in the dam is homogeneous in all parts of the structure.
8. The concrete is uniformly elastic in all parts of the structure, so that deformations
due to applied loads may be calculated by formulae derived on the basis of the
theory of elasticity or may be estimated from laboratory measurements on models
constructed of elastic materials.

9. Effects of flow of concrete may be adequately allowed for by using a somewhat

lower modulus of elasticity under sustained loads than would otherwise be
adopted for use in technical analyses.
10. Contraction joints are properly grouted under adequate pressures, or open slots are
properly filled with concrete, so that the dam may be considered to act as a
11. Sufficient drains are installed in the dam to reduce such uplift pressures as may
develop along areas of contact between the concrete and rock materials.
12. Effects of increases in horizontal pressures caused by silt contents of flood waters
usually may be ignored in designing high storage dams, but may require
consideration in designing relatively low diversion structures.
13. Uplift forces adequate for analysing conditions at the base of the dam are
adequate for analysing conditions at horizontal concrete cross sections above the
14. Internal stresses caused by natural shrinkage and by artificial cooling operations
may be adequately controlled by proper spacing of contraction joints.
15. Internal stresses caused by increases in concrete temperature after grouting are
16. Maximum pressures used in contraction joint grouting operations should be
limited to such values as may be shown to the safe by appropriate stress analyses.
17. No section of the United Sates may be assumed to be entirely free from the
occurrence of earthquake shocks.
18. Assumptions of maximum earthquake accelerations equal to one tenth of gravity
are adequate for the design of important masonry dams without including
additional allowances for resonance effects.
19. Vertical as well as horizontal accelerations should be considered, especially in
designing gravity dams.
20. During the occurrence of temporary abnormal loads, such as those produced by
earthquake shocks, some increases in stress magnitudes and some encroachments
on usual factors of safety are permissible.
21. Effects of foundation and abutment deformations should be included in the
technical analyses.
22. In monolithic straight gravity dams, some proportions of the loads may be carried
by twist action and beam action at locations along the sloping abutments, as well
as by the more usually considered gravity action.
23. Detrimental effects of twist and beam action in straight gravity dams, such as
cracking caused by the development of tension stresses, may be prevented by
suitable construction procedure.
24. In monolithic curved gravity and arch dams, some proportions of the loads may
be carried by tangential shear and twist effects, as well as by the more usually
considered arch and cantilever actions.
25. The distribution of loads in masonry dams may be determined by bringing the
calculated deflections of the different systems of load transference into agreement
at all conjugate points in the structure.

7.1.3 Uplift

Two factors directly affect the design of a dam, the intensity of hydrostatic pressure at
various points within or under the dam and the area upon which pressure acts.
It is now accepted for design purposes that uplift pressures act on the full area of the
section. The intensity of pressure may be represented by the diagram showing the ideal
case of underflow conditions for an impermeable dam with a straight base on a
homogeneous isotropic foundation of unlimited depth and horizontal extent.

Headwater and tailwater depth are represented by h1 and h2, respectively. The concentric
semi-ellipses represent lines of flow of water passing through the foundation. The
hyperbolas, drawn normal to the lines of flow at all points, represent lines of equal
hydrostatic pressure within the foundation and at the base of the dam. This network of
flow lines and pressure lines is called a flow net. The diagram indicates an almost linear
distribution of pressure on the base, and this is the distribution for which the stability of
the dam should be checked if no drainage is provided. (or all drainage is blocked.)
Drainage is in the form of curtain of cored vertical holes
150mm or more in diameter at 3-5m spacing and located
304m from the upstream face. A gallery runs from one end to
the other of the dam, above the tailwater level. Drainage from
the holes is led away via open gutters, with measuring weirs
installed to record the flow.
It is now general to adopt a distribution of uplift pressure as
above, the value of factor k being decided having due regard
to the porosity of foundation rock and the existence of joints
and cracks therein. It is important to expend effort and money
on a drainage system to ensure satisfactory function over the
entire life of the dam.

Variation in contraction joints and uplift.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.1.4 Stresses in Gravity Dams

Considering vertical cantilever sectionsm of unit width it is a simple matter to compute
vertical stresses on horizontal planes for the cases of reservoir empty and reservoir full.
In general, efforts are made to avoid tensile stresses in the concrete for normal loadings.
Compressive stresses are not usually high in gravity dams.
The usual analysis stresses normal to horizontal planes are
assumed to have a linear trapezoidal distribution. Finite
element methods show the stress distribution to be as in the
It is significant that the maximum stresses do not occur at the
downstream toe, and there may be tension rather than
compression at the upstream heel. However, there is similarity
between the two methods. It is important to check the
distribution and intensity of stress around galleries and other
openings in the dam and to provide adequate reinforcement to
prevent propagation of cracks from points of high stress
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.1.5 Contraction Joints Transverse Joints
It is good practice for normal methods of construction to provide contraction joints in
gravity dams. They are usually spaced about 15m apart, experience having shown that
cracks are likely to develop in monoliths much wider than this. It is however, essential to
locate the joints to best advantage relative to the shape of the abutments.

For example, in figure 1, the protrusion of a rock

ledge into the monolith would almost certainly
result in a crack in the concrete; the second
arrangement would be more satisfactory. Or the
shaded area should be placed separately, and
cooled or allowed to cool to rock temperature.
The monolith is then started from the base AB as
an old joint. All joints are grouted solid
eventually. Longitudinal Joints
For large structures the problems of cooling large masses of concrete are enormous.
Resulting in limiting the dimensions of monoliths to 15m squares, keyed on all sides.
There is now a tendency to decrease the number of longitudional joints or even omit them
all, since there are doubts of the final behaviour of dams built in columns.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.1.6 Galleries
The normal function of a gallery is to provide access for inspection purposes, to monitor
the behaviour of the dam, and to carry out remedial work if required. It must therefore be
of sufficient height to permit easy movement of personnel and minor equipment,
commonly 2.13m but varied to suit construction methods. The width is usually 1.5m but
should be related to the function of the gallery. Wide opennings induce quite high local
stresses with consequent cracking of the concrete. Spiral staircases can link other
galleries, ventillation and pipes in quite a small shaft.
Circular shafts are the most desirable, with a removable floor covering drainage, but it is
harder and more expensive to form. Rectangular galleries
require greater amounts of reinforcement. Galleries also
should be well lit and ventillated.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.1.7 Appurtenant Structures

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US Spillways
Go to Spillways Page Power Station
At many sites a power station is embodied in the structure of the dam.

7.1.8 Prestressed Gravity Dams

Strengths of rocks in foundation and elements within concrete dams are increased by
installation of steel rocks or steel cables which are injected to tensioning. The procedure
that is followed is called prestressing.
The reluctance to use cables has been related to a lack of knowledge of steel cables when
embedded in concrete. It is however generally agreed that steel does not rust when
embedded in high quality concrete or cement grout in which there are no cracks or
interconnected voids.
If prestressing is accepted in the design then it is prudent to make provision for
retensioning if required, replacement of bars or cables, or the installation of new cables.
Serious corrosion of cables can be detected by the regular measurement of their electrical

The actual behaviour of the dam will depend upon the nature of the foundation rock, any
initial stress in the rock and the effect of saturation of the rock mass.
For reasonable stress distribution the depth of the anchorage should be not less than the
width of the base of the dam. The advantages of wires over bars are:

The allowable working stress in high tensile wires is usually greater than in bars
Wire cables can be fabricated on site in one length, avoiding the use of couplers
that are necessary with bars and are a source of trouble
Cables can be accomodated in drilled holes whereas bars with couplers usually
require larger pits
Calculating loads on a prestressed dam

Prestressed Gravity Dams 2

From point B, the downstream corner of the foundation, draw an arc AC passing
through the anchorage point A.
The position of point C will in
general be outside the upstream
foundation corner D at which the
highest tensile stresses tend to
exist, but nevertheless the line AC
will correspond approximately to
the possible crack location.
Assuming this line to correspond to
an open fissure, i.e. allowing full
hydrostatic pressure to be
developed along it, compute the
effective uplift forces U2 and U3
acting along AB and AB
respectively (for calculation of the
latter a linear decrease of uplift
pressure between A and B can be
Computing the remaining forces
acting on the dam and the portion
of the foundation BAC, i.e. the external water pressure on the upstream face U1
and the weights of the dam, W1 and the portion ABC of the foundation W2, the
magnitude and position of the resultant force R acting on the section AB can be
Clearly if this falls outside the point B reliance must be placed on tensile stresses
acting along AB and stability is therefore endangered.
The only possibilty of resisting the overturning forces entirely by compressions is
if this reaction R falls within the length AB, even so admitting a certain amount of
cracking along this length if the reaction is close to the point B.

To ensure a certain factor of safety it is necessary to arrange the anchorage at such

a depth that the reaction R passes well within the section AB.
If the stresses occurring in the section AB are computed according to some
reasonable assumption, such as linear distribution, and the maximum value of the
principal stress is found to fall within permissible limits for the foundation
material, an adequate factor will be assured.
In this calculation, no allowance should be placed on tensile stresses and the
section AB should be permitted to crack as far as is required.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.2 Arch Dams - Contents


Design concepts and criteria
Abutments - Stability
Shell geometry
Contraction joints

6. Prestressing

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.2.1 Introduction to Arch Dams

The ultimate complexity of design and

analysis of stresses is attained in arch
and dome dams. These dams are thin,
curved structures commonly containing
reinforcement, either steel rods or
prestressed steel cables the volume of
concrete required is much less than for
gravity and gravity arch dams, but the
competency of bedrock in foundations
and abutments to sustain or resist loads
must be of a high order.
Arch dams are usually built in narrow,
deep gorges in mountainous regions
where access and availability of construction materials pose especially acute problems.
Arch dams are of two kinds.
Constant radius arch dams - commonly have a vertical upstream face with a constant
radius of curvature
Variable radius dams - have upstream and downstream curves (extrados and intrados
curves) of systematically decreasing radii with depth below the crest.
When a dam is also doubly curved, that is, it is curved in both horizontal and vertical
planes, it is sometimes called a dome dam. Some dams are constructed with two or
several contiguous arches or planes and are described as multiple arch or multiple dome
Analysis assumes that two major kinds of deflections or dislocations affect the dam and
its abutments. Pressure of water on the upstream face of the dam and uplift pressures
from seepage beneath the dam tend to rotate the dam about its base by cantilever action.
In addition the pressure of reservoir water tends to flatten the arch and push it
Photograph (C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.2.2 Design Concepts and Criteria

An arch dam transfers loads to the abutments and foundations both by cantilever action
and through horizontal arches, and a method of distribution was developed by Stucky in
Switzerland and the USBoR.
The assumptions made are not strictly true so the effect of each must be understood
before accepting the design.

The concrete in the dam and the rock foundations are homogeneous and isotropic;
Stresses within the elastic limit for both concrete and the rock formations and that
stress will be proportional to strain;
That plane sections before bending remain plane after bending;
That direct stresses vary linearly between the upstream and downstream faces, in
both arch and cantilever elements;
That the modulus of elasticity of concrete and the modulus of deformation of the
foundation are the same in tension as in compression;
That temperature stresses and strains are proportional to temperature changes;
That water load on the reservoir walls does not cause differential movements at
the damsite;
That foundation deformations are independent of the shape of the foundation;
That tensions are relieved by cracking so that all loads are carried by compression
and shear in the uncracked portions;
That the dam acts as a monlith, i.e. that contraction joints or slots have been
tightly grouted and that all shrinkage of the concrete has taken place before this.

The parameters controlling design, other than actual geometry include:

The loads on the dam; Loading and Factor of Safety

The degree of fixity to foundation and abutments;
The properties of the component materials of the dam and the foundations.

Steel reinforcement can reduce the thickness of the dam but at a cost. If reinforcement
was not used then cracking in the faces of an arch dam may result from:
Excessive tensile stress due to dam geometry;
Secondary tension resulting from high compressive forces in thin members;
Secondary tensile stresses at the arch haunches and parallel to the abutments;
'Hang up' of concrete adjacent to a near vertical abutment;
Temperature effects - either due to hydration of the cement or climatic conditions.
Definition of different arch dams based on base thickness (h is height of the dam):
Thin arch
Medium arch
Thick arch

0.2h - 0.3h



Reinforcement is not generally required in arch-gravity dams or thick arch dams. Its use
in thin arch dams is favoured, however for a 90m high dam the cost of reinforcement will
be many millions of dollars, which could mitigate the adoption of such a dam.
Uplift - is not usually of importance in thin arch dams, but in thick arch dams provision is
made for internal drainage, as for gravity dams. If the design assumes that the concrete
will crack if tensions exceed say 0.4MPa, then it is consistent to assume that full
hydrostatic pressure can act in such cracks.
Tensile stresses - the aim of the designer is to eliminate tensile stresses, although this is
not always possible since an irregular cross-section can generate local stress
concentrations, and necessary excavation of abutments beyond the design limits will alter
the geometry of the dam, and possibly affect the degree of fixity.

7.2.3 Abutment Stability

In the rock body the following are involved:
The weight of the rock;
Static tectonic and dynamic seismic
Hydrostatic thrusts and buoyancy after
filling of the reservoir;
Forces transmitted from the dam.
Minimum safety is usually found in the upper
part of the double curvature dams because:
The upper zones of the valley are less
tight and earthquake forces here cause
stronger reactions;
The rock overburden is less - providing
less normal loading on possible sliding
The direction of the resultant forces from
the dam often meet the abutments at less
favourable angles.
Percolation of water under pressure may affect the strength of a rock abutment:
Saturation frequently decreases the strength of rocks, probably due to infiltration
of microcracks;
Natural rock stresses will be modified by the water pressure, and
Shearing resistance may be decreased.
Photograph (C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.2.4 Shell Geometry Constant-Radius Arch Dam

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

The simplest form of arch dam with a vertical cylindrical upstream face and a uniformly
inclined downstream face. Used in wide valleys with the possibility of slip forming
construction methods. Constant-Angle Arch Dam

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams Variable-Radius Arch Dam

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams Double curvature - Cupola Dam

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Vertical curvature introduced so that the weight of the dam will offset vertical tensions
due to water load. Cupola dams are ideal for narrow valleys and are similar to the thin
arch dams in regard to foundation requirements.

(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites

Cross Sections of typical arch dams

7.2.5 Contraction Joints

It has been normal practice to provide radial contraction joints in arch dams at
approximately 15 meter spacing. This dimension has evolved from experience since
cracks often appeared in monoliths of 20 meter or more in length, where full control of
concrete temperature was either impractical or uneconomical; cracking occurred
particularly at sides subject to sudden and large falls in ambient temperature. For constant
radius arch dams the joints are radial and plane, whereas for double curvature dams they
are frequently warped; in some cases they are formed to leave the rock almost normal to
the contact surface.
Since monolithic action is required in the arch, provision is made for the injection of
cement grout into the joints after the
concrete has cooled to mean
temperature, or has been artificially
cooled to a little below mean
temperature in order to introduce some
compression into the arches.
Each joint is usually divided by
horizontal grout stops so that zones
from ten to fifteen meters high may be
grouted progressively to ensure
stability of the completed sections
against inadvertent overtopping by
Arch dams are usually sufficiently
flexible to defect measurably under the
forces exerted by joint grouting; the
effectiveness of the grouting can
therefore be assessed by comparing
measured with calculated
deformations. To prevent harmful
overstress regular observations should
be made during grouting on joint meters embedded in the concrete across the joints, on
dial gauges fixed to be upstream and downstream faces of the joint, on clinometers on
faces of the dam and galleries and on plumbobs and survey targets as convenient.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.2.6 Prestressing
In seeking further economies in the construction of arch dams it appears to be necessary
to consider means of applying external loads to the dam to counteract undesirable tensile
stresses that would otherwise develop. Many dams have now been built with compressive
stresses up to 8.5 MPa but to increase these stresses would most likely not be possible
without prestressing to counteract the higher tensions.

Potential application of prestressing to arch dams

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Prestressing induces vertical compressive stresses upstream at the heel of the dam and
downstream near the crest. This can be achieved by two processes, firstly by the
information of flat jacks to force open the end joints of the shell which would defect the
dam upstream, secondly by applying a radial load at the crest by means of a horizontal
cable to defect the upper part of the dam downstream.

7.3 Buttress Dams - Contents

1. Introduction
2. Concrete Slab
3. Massive Head
4. Multiple Arch Dam
5. Buttresses
6. Uplifting and
7. Spill-over Buttress
8. Prestressing
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.3.1 Introduction to Buttress Dams

Buttress dams were first developed
to conserve water in regions where
materials were scarce or expensive
but labour was cheap. Dams were
used for irrigation and mining
purposes. As designs have become
more sophisticated, the virtues and
weaknesses of the buttress type
dams have become apparent.
The pressure of water on
the inclined upstream at
face adds to the stability of
the dam, both by its
magnitude and direction.
With free drainage of the
foundations between the
buttresses, uplift on their
bases is considerably reduced.
The general flexibility of the dam can accommodate differential movement of the
Unless the foundation material was erodible minor leakage should not endanger
the dam.
A minimum of materials is required but its accurate placement involves skilled
tradesmen and higher unit costs.
Whilst construction is at low levels, the work can be overtopped by floods without
serious damage - with considerable saving in river diversion works.
For large dams the stress distribution in the buttresses [from water load, own
weight, thermal effects and foundation movements] is complex and does not
conform to linear distribution on horizontal planes. Models show tensile stresses
near the foundation of buttress heads in the case of good foundations - though
such stresses are not evident from conventional analytical analysis. Preliminary
designs should therefore be supplemented by detailed studies using finite
elements or photoelastic methods.
The buttress type of dam finds particular application in wide valleys where sound
rock would be the exception rather than the rule. Thorough investigations are
therefore essential particularly if the dam is to be rigid.
If a buttress dam is of slender dimensions, especially a multiple arch, and flood
waters are to pass over it, a very careful examination is necessary of possible
modes of vibration. What may not be serious for a gravity dam could be
disastrous for a buttress dam.
Lateral stability of buttresses is not now considered to be serious except for high
dams, but it should be checked, especially in areas of known seismicity.
There appears to be a case for studying large span multiple arches in wide valleys,
i.e. the arches would be thick, unreinforced, and constructed by mass concrete

There is considerable scope for the application for prestressing to modify stresses
within buttress dams as well as to improve their stability.
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

7.3.2 Concrete Slab Deck

The flat slab is simply supported on the buttress heads to avoid negative bending and
cracking on the upstream face of the slabs. Flexible seals should be installed to prevent
water loss around the ends of the slab as they defect. Some buttress dams have been
constructed with the slab continuous over one or more buttresses.
1. Simple slab deck

2. Continuous slab deck

7.3.3 Massive Head Buttress

To avoid tensile stresses in a thin slab, and hence the need for reinforcement, the massive
head buttresses were developed.
1. Massive Head (flat head)

2. Massive Head (round head)

The relative economy of buttress dams will depend on the foundations, the cost of the
materials, and the cost and reliability of the skilled tradesmen at the particular site.
However, for a height of 20m a flat head buttress would require 40% of the concrete used
in a gravity dam.
For dams up to 150 meters high it should be possible to dimension a buttress type of dam
so that the first principal stress does not exceed 7 MPa, i.e. a stress comparable with that
in a thin arch dam.

7.3.4 Multiple Arch Dam

Multiple arch dams evolved at approximately the same time as the slab and buttress dam,
but at a slower rate. The factors influencing the selection of multiple arch dams as a
preferred type are similar to those for slab and buttress structure relative to reduction in
materials, low uplift forces, and adaptability to a wide variety of canyon configurations.

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

Multiple arches are continuous monolithic structures where loss of an important structure
component could lead to loss of the entire dam. Thus these structures require better
The majority of multiple arch dam where constructed before 1935, and although state of
the art at the time, by today's standards are deficient relative to seismic and hydrologic

7.3.5 Buttresses
For small dams the buttresses are usually analysed as gravity blocks subject to the
inclined water load, their own weight and small uplift. A buttress can also be considered
as composed of a system of curved beams, each of which trasmits part of the water load
and its own weight to the foundations.
The columns can be proportioned to develop uniform compressive stress and curved to
avoid eccentricity of loading. In order to avoid secondary tensile stresses the buttresses of
many large dams have been built with contraction joints following the directions of the
principle stresses.

7.3.6 Uplift and Sliding

A major advantage claimed for buttress dams, including the hollow gravity dam is that
uplift forces acring on the dam are minimal. It is usual to adopt a distribution of uplift
pressure, acting on 100% of the area, as shown in the figure.

For this to be factual there must be release to atmosphere, or tailwater pressure, around
the buttress footing. Should the foundation be horizontally stratified then uplift could act
on a layer of rock only a little distance below the dam; drainage of such a foundation is
therefore essential.
Example, Muda Dam, Malaysia. Using post tensioned restressible cables fixed to the foot
of the buttress to prevent uplift and sliding.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

7.3.7 Spill-over Buttress Dams

When flood waters are to be passed over buttress dams the following factors deserve
The nappe must be adequately aerated to avoid vibrations or pulsations that could
be transferred into the dam to cause overstressing or into the foundations to
weaken their shearing resistance.
The nappe should impact on to reinforced concrete slabs that are adequately
anchored into the foundations. Erosion behind the buttress heads or arches should
be prevented by provision of a concrete turbulence control wall or suitable

It must be possible to destroy most of the energy of the surcharge withiut rupture
of the river bed downstream from the dam. Should excesscive erosion occur the
shearing resistance of the foundation could be lost.

7.3.8 Prestressing
Prestessing is used to minimise the quantity of concrete and counteract tensions that
would otherwise exist. It is usually used as an extra factor of safety on an otherwise
adequate structure, for example to cope under extreme flooding or earthquake conditions.
Prestressing can be applied in at least three manners to a buttress dam,
1. To 'pull down' the upstream face
2. To 'jack up' the downstream face
3. To compact the buttress on to the foundation rock to improve the resistance to
sliding of dam onrock, at the same time tightening seams to improve the
resistance to sliding within the foundations.


8.1 Introduction to Embankment Dams
ICOLD defined an embankment dam as, "any dam constructed of excavated materials
placed without addition of binding materials other than those inherent in the natural
material. The materials are usually obtained at or near the damsite"
The materials available locally control the size and configuration of the dam. Many small
embankment dams are built entirely of a single type of material such as stream alluvium,
weathered bedrock, or glacial till. These are homogeneous dams, constructed more or less
of uniform natural material.
Larger embankment dams are zoned and constructed of a variety of materials, either
extracted from different local sources or prepared by mechanical or hydraulic separation
of source material into fractions with different properties.
An important element in a zoned dam is an impermeable blanket or core which usually
consists of clayey materials obtained locally. In locations where naturally impermeable
materials are unavailable the dams are built of rock or earth-rock aggregates, and the
impermeable layers of reinforced concrete, asphaltic concrete, or riveted sheet steel are
placed on the upstream face of the dam.
Embankment dams have been built on a variety of foundations, ranging from weak
glacial deposits to strong rock. An advantage compared with concrete dams is that the
bearing strength requirements of the foundation are much less. Minor settlement during
and after construction is generally not serious because of the adjustability of the material.

8.2 Terminology
Parts of an Earth Dam

(C) Sowers, George Earth and Rockfill Dam Engineering

Note : Not all of the above ordinarily would be incorporated in any one dam

8.3 Embankment Dams

1. Layout of Earthfill Dam Projects
2. Design Constraints
3. Impermeable Zone Location
4. Stability
5. Settlement
6. Slope protection
7. Seepage Paths
8. Filter and Transition Zones
9. Cores
10. Freeboard
11. Crest Width
12. Culverts under Embankments
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

8.3.1 Layout of Earthfill Dam Projects

Earthfill dams require ancillary structures for diversion, such as low-level outlets and
spillways, whereas such features can be embodied into concrete dams. Power waterways
are much longer, requiring surge tanks. The layout must be given due consideration to the
scheme of diversion and location of ancillary features.

8.3.2 Earthfill Design

An earth dam is basically a trapezoidal embankment built in a valley to form a water
reservoir. The design has to ensure:

1. It is impermeable enough to prevent excessive loss of water from the reservoir.

2. The design must ensure stable slopes.
3. Settlement of the dam must not be excessive so as to reduce the freeboard of the
4. The upstream slope of the dam must be protected from the destructive action of
waves, and the downstream slope must withstand rainfall erosion.
5. A sufficient bond between the embankment and its foundation must exist to
prevent the development of seepage paths; excessive hydrostatic uplift must be
controlled by proper drainage.

8.3.3 Impermeable Zone Location

The location of the impermeable zone in a rockfill dam involves the same factors as it
does in the case of an earth dam.
The upstream deck has a number of advantages:
1. It is more stable under the water load, because the downward force of the water
produces frictional resistance to sliding
2. The permeable rock embankment develops no uplift, since the embankment
permits no movement of water upward from the foundation.
3. The impermeable deck can easily be inspected and repaired if necessary.
4. During construction the height of the dam can be increased by dumping only on
the downstream side and extending the membrane upward on the sloping surface.
The disadvantages of an upstream deck are:
1. The deck is vulnerable to weather and wave attack.
2. If constructed of earth, sudden drawdown greatly reduces its stability and may
cause it to slide.
3. Settlement of the rock embankment tends to produce tensile cracks in the
The central core location has a number of advantages:
1. The core is equally supported and is more stable during a sudden drawdown (if
constructed from earth).
2. Settlement of the rockfill induces compressive stresses in the core, tending to
make it more compact.
3. There is less core volume and less cross sectional area for leakage for a given
height of dam and thickness of core.

The choice for dams with impermeable zones depends largely on the stability of the core
material. If it is strong, a near upstream location is often the most economical. However,
if the core material is weak a central location is better.

8.3.4 Slope Stability

Also see Slope Stability pages by H.Connolly. Introduction
Failure of an embankment dam can result from instability of either the upstream or
downstream slopes. The failure surface may lie within the embankment or may pass
through the embankment and the foundation soil. The critical stages in an upstream slope
are at the end of construction and during rapid drawdown. The critical stages for the
downstream slope are at the end of construction and during steady seepage when the
reservoir is full.
It is common to install piezometers to measure pore water pressures and compare data
with the predicted values used in design. Since pore water pressures are a dominant
influence on the factor of safety of slopes, remedial action should be taken if the factor of
safety, based on the measured values, is considered to be too low.
To ensure stability a number of conditions must be investigated:
1. The slopes must be safe against surface slipping. To ensure this the slopes must be
no steeper than the angle of repose
2. The dam must be safe against sliding on the foundation
3. The mass of the embankment must be safe against a circular arc failure or
composite linear failure. This is likely to occur within an earth core or weak
The safety against failure can be increased by reducing the gradient of the slopes. Homogeneous Embankment

1. Slip within embankment
2. Slip circle through foundation Zoned Embankment

1. Within rockfill
2. Through rockfill and foundation
3. Through core and foundation End of construction

Most slope failures occur either during, or at the end of construction. Pore water
pressures depend on the placement water content of the fill and on the rate of
construction. A commitment to achieve rapid completion will result in high pore water
pressures at the end of construction. However, the construction period of an embankment
dam is likely to be long enough to allow partial dissipation of excess pore water pressure,
especially for a dam with internal drainage. Dissipation of excess pore water pressures
can be accelerated by installing horizontal drainage layers within the dam. However, a
total stress analysis would result in an over conservative design. An effective stress
analysis is therefore preferred. A factor of safety as low as 1.3 may be acceptable at the
end of construction provided there is reasonable confidence in the design data. Steady seepage
When the reservoir has been full for some time, conditions of steady seepage become
established through the dam with the soil below the top flow line in the fully saturated
state. This condition must be analysed in terms of effective stress with values of pore
pressure being determined from the flow net. The factor of safety for this condition
should be at least 1.5. Internal erosion is a particular danger when the reservoir is full
because it can arise and develop within a relatively short time, seriously impairing the
safety of the dam. Rapid drawdown in low permeability soils

Rapid drawdown of the reservoir after a condition of steady seepage will result in a
change in the pore water pressure distribution. If the permeability of the soil is low, a
drawdown period measured in weeks may be 'rapid' in relation to the dissipation time and
the change in pore water pressure. Rapid Drawdown in high permeability soils
The pore water pressure distribution after drawdown in soils of high permeability
decreases as pore water drains out of the soil above the drawdown level. The saturation
line moves downwards at a rate dependant upon the permeability of the soil. A series of
flow nets can be drawn for different positions of the saturation line and values of pore
water pressure obtained. The factor of safety can then be determined, using an effective
stress analysis, for any position of the saturation line.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.3.5 Settlement
Settlement is a problem for embankment dams. It begins during construction and
continues for many years after the dam is complete. The two main causes are:
1. The migration or working of fines from between the points of contact between the
larger rock allows the particles to re-orient themselves into a more dense structure
2. The crushing of the contact points between the larger rocks under the extreme
stress developed by the embankment weight causes the rocks to develop new
points of contact which in turn crush again.
The problem can be avoided by proper compaction during construction. In earthfill dams
it may be possible to overbuild the dam, to make a, say 50% higher dam which will settle
to the correct height. Multi-stage construction also helps.

a. Settlement in section
b. Settlement - elevation
c. Irregular abutment
d. Overhanging abutment
(C) Sowers, George Earth and Rockfill Dam Engineering

8.3.6 Slope Protection

Both faces of an embankment dam must be protected against structural damage. In
normal circumstances the downstream will only be subject to the forces of nature. The
upstream face must be protected against erosion or disturbance by wave action, ice or by
impact of floating debris. Various methods of protection include large rocks (rip-rap),
precast concrete forms, soil cement or the waterproofing membrane of the dam.
Protection must be well above and below the operating range of the reservoir.

Soil Cement Slope Protection

Rip-rap size : Mass of individual rock = 1000 x (Wave Height Hs)3 (kg)
The rip-rap must be durable, weatherproof and of good quality sound rock to enable it to
withstand the changing harsh conditions.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.3.7 Seepage Paths Piping
Internal erosion of the foundation or embankment caused by seepage is known as piping.
Generally, erosion starts at the downstream toe and works back toward the reservoir,
forming channels or pipes under the dam. The channels or pipes follow paths of
maximum permeability and may not develop until many years after construction.

Resistance of the embankment or foundation to piping depends on:

1. plasticity of the soil
2. the gradation
3. the degree of compactness
Plastic clays with a plasticity index >15, for both well and poorly compacted are the
materials which are most resistant to piping. Minimum piping resistance is found in
poorly compacted, through to well-graded cohesionless soils with practically no binder. It
is also found in uniform, fine, cohesionless sand, even when well compacted. Settlement
cracks in resistant materials may also produce piping.
Piping can be avoided by lengthening the flowpaths of water within the dam and its
foundations. This decreases the hydraulic gradient of the water flow and hence its
velocity. The flowpaths can be increased by:

Cutoff walls

Impermeable cores

Impermeable blankets extending upstream from the upstream face Seepage control

Seepage is the continuous movement of water from the upstream face of the dam toward
its downstream face. The upper surface of this stream of percolating water is known as
the phreatic surface. The phreatic surface should be kept at or below the downstream toe.

The phreatic surface within a dam can be controlled by properly designed cores or walls. Internal drain systems Purpose
A homogeneous dam with a height of more than about 6 m to 8 m should have some type
of downstream drain. The purpose of a drain is:
1. to reduce the pore water pressures in the downstream portion of the dam therefore
increasing the stability of the downstream slope against sliding.
2. to control any seepage that exits the downstream portion of the dam and prevent
erosion of the downstream slope: i.e. to prevent 'piping'.
The effectiveness of the drain in reducing pore pressures depends on its location and
extent. However, piping is controlled by ensuring that the grading of the pervious
material from which the drain is constructed meets the filter requirements for the
embankment material. Toe drains
The design of a downstream drainage system is controlled by the height of the dam, the
cost and availability of permeable material, and the permeability of the foundation.
For low dams, a simple toe drain can be used successfully. Toe drains have been installed
in some of the oldest homogeneous dams in an effort to prevent softening and erosion of
the downstream toe.

For reservoir depths greater than 15 m, most engineers would place a drainage system
further inside the embankment where it will be more effective in reducing pore pressures
and controlling seepage. Horizontal drainage blanket
Horizontal drainage blankets are often used for dams of moderate height.
Drainage blankets are frequently used over the downstream one-half or one-third of the
foundation area. The Bureau of Reclamation's 45 m Vega Dam is a homogeneous dam
which has been constructed with a horizontal downstream drain. Where pervious material
is scarce, the internal strip drains can be placed instead since these give the same general
effect. Disadvantages of horizontal drainage blankets
An earth dam embankment tends to be more pervious in the horizontal direction than in
the vertical. Occasionally, horizontal layers tend to be much more impervious than the
average material constructed into the embankment, so the water will flow horizontally on
a relatively impervious layer and discharge on the downstream face despite the horizontal
drain.,p> Where this has occurred the downstream slope is prone to slipping and piping.
Repairs can be made by installing pervious blankets on the downstream slopes or
constructing vertical drains to connect with the horizontal blanket. Such vertical drains
are normally composed of sand and gravel. Chimney drains
Chimney drains are an attempt to prevent horizontal flow along relatively impervious
stratified layers, and to intercept seepage water before it reaches the downstream slope.
Chimney drains are often incorporated in high homogeneous dams which have been
constructed with inclined or vertical chimney drains.

In some major dam projects, chimney drains have been inclined at a considerable slope,
both upstream and sometimes downstream. An upstream inclined drain can act as a
relatively thin core. In addition to controlling seepage through the dam and increasing the
stability of the downstream slope, the chimney drain is also useful in reducing pore water
pressures both during construction and following rapid reservoir drawdown. Dimensions and permeability of drains

The dimensions and permeability of permeable drains must be adequate to carry away the
anticipated flow with an ample margin of safety for unexpected leaks. If the dam and the
foundations are relatively impermeable, then the expected leakage would be low. A drain
should be constructed of material with a coefficient of permeability of at least 10 to 100
times greater than the average embankment material. Thin upstream sloping core
In an earth dam with an upstream sloping core of low permeability, the foundation is
assumed to be impermeable and in a steady state. Under steady state conditions the small
amount of water that seeps through the core flows vertically downward in a partially
saturated zone and then more or less horizontally in a thin saturated layer along the
impermeable foundation. For this type of dam the downstream shell must be several
hundred times more permeable than the core. Partial cutoffs

An earth dam constructed without a cutoff on permeable or semi-permeable foundations
of earth or rock may lead to seepage beneath the dam creating unacceptable uplift
pressures and causing instability. If an impermeable cutoff is installed to 60 % of the
depth of the permeable foundation, the flow net and downstream slope gradient is only
slightly modified to a lower level. A theoretical line of seepage for several depths is given

For an effective cutoff the positioning and depth of cutoff must be essentially 'perfect'.
Since this is impossible to achieve, other methods of seepage control should be used in
conjunction with cutoffs.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams
(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites
(C) Craig R, F Soil Mechanics

8.3.8 Filter and Transition Zones

Since the core is stabilised with rock or gravel zones, it is necessary to prevent the fine
core material being sucked into the upstream shell material during rapid drawdown of the
reservoir, or forced into the downstream shell by seepage water under reservoir head.
Transition or filter zones must therefore be provided on each side of the core.
The upstream filter, if non-cohesive and of proper grading, can serve a valuable service
by providing material for induced self-healing should a transverse crack appear in the
core. Selection of the best material for this purpose is well justified. Although its prime
function is to retain the core material against movement into the rockfill, the downstream
transition material should be selected and placed so as to inhibit the propagation of a core
crack into the compacted rockfill. It is good practice to widen the transition zones
towards each abutment, i.e. where tension and oblique cracking may occur.
To prevent migration of fines from the core:
D15/D85 < 4-5
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
D50/D50 < 25
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
For sufficient permeability:
D15/D15 > 4-5
(filter)/(zone being filtered)
To prevent segregation of the filter:

D60/D10 < 20

Single filter between core and rockfill

Double filter to core

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.3.9 Cores
The core may be defined as a membrane built within an embankment dam to form the
impermeable barrier, the balance of the dam being provided to ensure stability. It may be
of natural materials, clay, gravels etc. or prepared materials such as cement or asphaltic
concrete, or of metal, plastic, rubber, etc.

The thickness of the core will depend primarily on the material available, i.e. if a good
clay is available at low cost one would
tend to be liberal with the core. The
core width will often be related to the
type of foundation, the permissible
hydraulic gradient along the contact
A core of natural materials may be
central, inclined and close under the
upstream face or in some intermediate
position. A general core thickness is
one half of the height of the dam,
depending on materials available. Permeability of the compacted core should not exceed
10-5 cm/s.
The hydraulic gradient relative to the core is the ratio of maximum head of water to the
thickness of the core. Thin cores may be adequate for impermeability but it is essential to
provide well designed filters on either side. The greatest danger with thin filters is the
possibility that a 'blow through' may occur in a segregated zone.
The principal factors considered in determining core dimensions and embankment zoning

The type and volume of core materials available;

The relative economics of earthfill and rockfill;
The plasticity of the available core material and its effect on the risk of core
The extent and rate of reservoir draw-down;
The nature of the foundation rock under the core.

Cracking of Core - cracks frequently occur in earthfill dams and in cores of rockfill dams.
Care must be taken to prevent such cracking and the Engineer must decide whether the
cracks are likely to extend and become serious or whether they are stable and can be
Influence of Post Construction Settlement at Crest on Cracking
Crest Settlement
Kind of cracking
Less than 50

No cracking of dams

Equal or greater
than 50

Transverse cracking of dams compacted dry may appear

Greater than 100

Reinforced concrete facing without perimetral joint may crack

Equal or greater

Longitudinal cracking between core and shell may appear

than 130
Greater than 160

Longitudinal cracking of core compacted dry may appear

Greater than 180

Hydraulic fracturing may appear

Equal or greater
than 220

Transverse cracking of core compacted wet may appear. Longitudinal

cracking between core compacted wet and shell may appear.

Equal or greater
than 350

Asphaltic concrete facing may crack (self healed for settlement of


Greater than 400

Longintudinal cracking of core compacted wet may appear. Reinforced

concrete facing with perimetral joint will crack

Greater than 1000

No uncracked dam in those studied

Greater than 1200

All dams exhibit transverse cracking

Equal or greater
than 1400

Serious cracking of asphaltic concrete facing

Equal or greater
tahn 3800

Cracking needing substitution of reinforced concrete facing

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.3.10 Freeboard
A homogeneous embankment dam should never be overtopped and for preference no
permanent embankment dam should be overtopped. However, provision for freeboard
can be expensive because it requires enlargement of the dam section and hence much
more materials.
It may be convenient to pave the crest and downstream face. The level of the crest is then
determined to allow for only spray to pass over, or for the peak flood discharge to pass
over or even more frequent overtopping. However this is only used for dams under 30m
An alternative method of reducing the quantity of fill is to provide a wave wall along the
crest of the embankment. See figure.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.3.11 Crest Width

This is often governed by construction procedure and the access required either during
construction or as a permanent feature. The Japanese Code 1957 specifies crest width
(W) in terms of the height of the dam, as

which would give crest widths as in the table.
Height of dam (m) Crest Width









8.3.12 Culverts under Embankments

At some locations it is necessary to construct a large culvert under the dam, although this
should be avoided where possible.
The conventional culvert is one of reinforced concrete designed to withstand both the
internal water pressure and external embankment loading. It is important that leakage
does not occur within the core area or upstream from it, or anywhere within an
homogeneous bank. To prevent this cut-off collars usually encircle the pipe, their location
and dimensions being governed by the head from the reservoir.

8.4 Earthfill Dam Contents

1. Introduction
2. Types of Earthfill Dam
3. Materials

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

8.4.1 Earthfill Dam Introduction

An earthfill dam is an
embankment dam,
constructed primarily of
compacted earth, either
homogeneous or zoned,
and containing more than
50% of earth.
A rockfill dam where all
the voids have been filled
by finer materials by
hydraulic sluicing is
usually regarded as an
earthfill dam.
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

8.4.2 Types of Earthfill Dam

1. Homogenou
2. Central
3. Sloping
4. Hydraulic
Slopes of 1 in 1.33
are suitable for
concrete faced
rockfill dams, but
for effective
placing and
stability of an
asphaltic concrete
facing, the
upstream slope
must be about 1 in
1.7. It is significant
that men can walk
on this slope
without ropes, but
on a slope of 1 in
1.33 safety ropes
are essential. An
asphaltic concrete
allows for more
movement due to
settlement that for a
rigid concrete deck.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams Homogeneous Earthfill Dams

Such embankments are made of a single type of material or material from the same
source. This may be small particles placed by hydraulic means, or compacted earth or
gravels that are handled and compacted mechanically.
Basic properties required in the material for an homogeneous embankment or for the core
of a rockfill dam are:

It must be sufficiently impervious to prevent excessive loss of water through the

dam, the acceptable loss being determined by the safety of the structure and the
value of the lost water;

It must be capable of being placed and consolidated to give a practically

homogeneous mass, free from potential paths of percolation, either through the
fill or along its contact with the foundation;
The soil should develop a maximum practical shear strength under compaction
and maintain most of it after the filling of the reservoir;
It must not consolidate, soften or liquify upon saturation.

The stability of an embankment dam is enhanced if the downstream portion can be

maintained free from seepage. Internal drains are therefore put within the dam. See
figure, leaving the 'dry' compacted fill as support. The section A-A represents the filter,
drainage, filter divisions.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

The location and inclination will depend on the materials used. It has been suggested that
maximum stability would result from locating it nearer the upstream face with the angle
less than a right angle. Central Impervious Core Earthfill Dams

Where there is only limited supply of soil for the impervious core but plenty of pervious
material for the embankment, the designer has no option but to decide on a thin core dam.
However, where there are plentiful supplies of pervious and impervious material, a thin
core dam may be more economically or easily constructed for a number of reasons:
1. The unit cost of placing impervious materials may be more than the unit cost of
placing pervious materials.
2. The amount of embankment volume can be reduced in a thin core dam more
effectively than in any other type of dam.
3. The construction time available and the weather conditions may not allow the use
of an impervious core of large thickness.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

The minimum thickness of core is dependent on a number of factors:

1. tolerable seepage loss;
2. minimum width which will allow proper construction;
3. the type of material chosen for the core and shoulders of the dam;
4. design of proposed filter layers;
5. past experience on similar projects.
Core Stability - The core material usually has less shear strength than the rest of the
embankment, therefore from a stability standpoint, a thinner core is better. However, a
thicker core has increased resistance to differential cracking; which may lead to piping.
Therefore, piping resistance is dependent upon the soil properties such as plasticity and
gradation of the core material.
Advantages of vertical cores:
1. One advantage of the vertical core is that higher pressures will exist on the contact
between the core and the foundation, and will provide more protection against the
possibility of leakage along the contact.
2. The vertical core tends to be slightly thicker for a given quantity of impervious
soil than the thickness of a sloping core.
The following criteria represent a rough cross-section of opinion among experienced
earth dam engineers:
Cores with a width 30% to 50% of the head of water have proved satisfactory on
many dams under diverse conditions. Cores of this width are adequate for any soil
type and dam height.
Cores with a width of 15% to 20% of the head of water are considered thin.
However, when adequately designed and constructed filter layers are used, then
the core is satisfactory under most circumstances.
Core widths of less than 10% of the head of water are not used widely and should
only be used when a large leak through the core would not lead to failure of the
dam. Sloping Impervious Core Earthfill Dams

Advantages of sloping cores:

1. The principal advantage of the upstream sloping core is that the downstream
portion of the embankment can be constructed first and the core placed later. This
a distinct advantage when there is only a short season of dry weather suitable to
allow construction of a core from fine-grained soils.
2. Another advantage is that the foundation grouting can take place whilst the
embankment is being placed.
3. Filter zones between the upstream and downstream pervious zones can be
constructed more thinly and are easier to install than in vertical core dams.
4. The sloping core dam is advantageous with the speed and economy of foundation
grouting which can be achieved. The advantage comes from the fact that grouting
can be performed while the main downstream pervious embankment is being
Disadvantages of sloping cores:
1. At some sites the area of contact between the core and the foundation depends on
the depth of the foundation excavation: i.e. when the excavation is carried deeper,
the contact area moves upstream. However, in some cases the depth of excavation
required to provide a suitable contact between the earth core and foundation
cannot be determined reliably in advance of construction.
2. Due to the reason above it may be difficult to locate the grout curtain in the
desired position relative to the core contact area.
3. If it is anticipated that additional grouting is required through the embankment
after the dam is completed then a central core design is preferred, because the
work can be done from the crest of the dam without lowering the reservoir. Hydraulic Fill Earthfill Dams

A hydraulic fill dam is one in which the material is transported in suspension in water to
the embankment where it gets placed by sedimentation. The sorting effect of flowing
water is utilised in creating a fine-grained core at the centre of the embankment with
coarse shells on the sides. In a semi-hydraulic fill dam the material is transported by
hauling units and dumped at the edge of the embankment. It is then washed to its final
position by water jets. The use of this type of dam is rare, because;
The cost of rolled earth has droped rapidly with the development of larger more
economical earth moving equipment.
It is difficult to control the quality which makes them less dependable than other
types of dam.

(C) Sowers, George Earth and Rockfill Dam Engineering

Drainage of the core takes place in two ways, some of the water percolates horizontally
into the more pervious shell. The remainder moves upward to the surface, allowing the
centre of the dam to subside. The downward movement eventually develops arching in
the core and prevents its full consolidation.

8.4.3 Materials
The thoroughness with which borrow areas are investigated can have a major effect on
the cost of the dam. The best information is derived from trenches cut by bulldozer. Two
questions must be asked;
1. Is the material acceptable?
2. How will it be excavated?
The materials must be tested in the laboratory and must be representative of what would
be used in the final dam.
When selecting earth for a core or for a homogeneous dam, one must consider its
permeability, resistance to piping, shear strength, flexibility and resistance to cracking.
The water content will affect each of these differently; testing and judgment are required
to determine the optimum moisture content for the particular soil in the particular part of
the dam.

8.5 Rockfill Dam Contents

1. Introduction
2. Types of Rockfill Dam
3. Advantages of Rockfill
4. Materials
5. Earth Core Rockfill Dams
6. Decked Rockfill Dams

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

8.5.1 Introduction to Rockfill Dams

ICOLD defined a rockfill dam as, "an embankment type of dam, dependent for its
stability primarily on rock. As rockfill dams must contain an impervious zone - now
usually selected earth with filter zones, comprising a substantial volume of the dam - the
term Rockfill dam usually represents a dam that contains more than 50% of compacted
or dumped pervious fill. The dam is dependent for watertightness on an impervious
upstream blanket or an impervious core."

Like an earth dam it is composed of fragmental materials, with each particle independent
of the others. The mass stability is developed by the friction and inter-reaction of one
particle on another rather than by any cementing agent that binds the particles together.

8.5.2 Types of Rockfill Dam

Composite Earth
and Rockfill
Central earth core

Sloping earth core

Upstream core
Rock with a thin
membrane or
diaphragm to
hold water
Central thin

Upstream thin
membrane or deck

Unbonded or dry
Dam with rubble
retaining zone
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

8.5.3 Advantages of Rockfill Construction

Economical - due to the use of cheap local materials.

Suitable where the foundation conditions are not good, especially where high
hydrostatic uplift is likely to be a factor in design.

Rockfill is particularly suitable when there is no satisfactory earth available and when a
plentiful supply of sound rock is at hand. The rockfilling is especially adapted to
construction during wet and cold weather and permits continuous work under weather
conditions that would not permit earth or concrete construction.
Very rapid constructions are possible with rockfill because of its adaptability to bad
weather and because the process of filling does not have to be interrupted for rolling or
other separate compaction operations.
The rockfill dam with an upstream diaphragm is very well adapted to stage construction.
The dam height can be increased merely by dumping more rock behind the impervious
diaphragm without interfering with or encroaching on the reservoir. The dam is then
made water-tight by continuing the impervious face upward. The stage construction
concept is also suitable for cofferdamming, as the first part of the dam serves as a
cofferdam which protects the remainder of the foundation for further construction.

8.5.4 Rockfill Materials

The quality of the rock is a major factor in the choice of a rockfill dam and in the design
of the structure. Extensive testing is necessary to judge whether the rock is suitable for
Quarrying - The cost of drilling and blasting constitutes a large part of the unit price of
rockfill. Quartzite for example has excellent qualities for rockfill but is extremely
expensive to drill. The way the rock breaks up is also important, sandstone produces a lot
of fines, others produce flat slate pieces which do not lend themselves to dumped
Rock Durability - There is no entirely satisfactory test to determine durability of rock
over centuries, and hence good judgement has to be used. Examining old structures such
as walls and bridge piers built of the same material is helpful. Accelerated durability tests
do exist, where the samples are subjected to alternate cycles of wetting and drying or
freezing and thawing. Compressive strength tests can be made after each series of wetdry and freeze-thaw testing if there are sufficient samples.
Strength - In high dams where crushing of the corners of the rock pieces will result in
settlement, the strength is important. In general strengths of over 35MPa or more are
desirable for dams over 40m, while strengths as low as 14MPa are more suitable for dams
less than 15m in height. Friability, the tendency to become a powder during crushing is
important because too many fines can seriously interfere with construction.
Petrography - The study of the rock under chemical reaction and under a microscope to
establish rock breakage.

Likely to be satisfactory Likely to be unsatisfactory

Granite, diorite








Dense limestone

Porous limestone


Chalky limestone

Massive Schist
Shear Strength - Large size triaxial or direct shear tests are the best method for
determining strength.

8.5.5 Earth Core Rockfill Dams

The rockfill dam consists of a number of components:
1. The main rockfill
2. The impervious zone
3. Auxiliary supporting members
The main rockfill provides the structural support for the dam by its weight and internal
stability. The impervious zone holds back the water. It is made up of the membrane which
holds the water and transition zone which transfers the water load to the rockfill. The
membrane may be a thick blanket or core of earth or a thin diaphragm or deck of wood,
concrete, steel, asphalt, dry rubble masonry or stone masonry. The auxiliary support
members help to sustain the membrane or parts of the main rockfill. These components
are similar to the shell, core, and appurtenances of the earth-fill dam and are analysed in a
similar way.

8.5.6 Decked Rockfill Dams

Timber Face - used mostly for mining purposes, relying upon dumped rock for stability
with a facing of timber for watertightness. Leakage under and around the dam could not
be prevented, but usually did no harm to a free-draining rockfill. Although not used in
present day construction, the value of timber should not be overlooked.

Steel Face - consists of large welded panels, connected by flexible joints to allow for
expansion and contraction and any displacement of the plates relative to the face of the
rockfill. To help reduce corrosion, coats of coal-tar epoxy resin preparation and
supplementary cathodic protection are provided below water level, giving about a 50 year
Cement Concrete Face - since cement has a very long life, it is an obvious watertight
membrane on rockfill dams. Details of typical facing are shown in the figure.
The facing can be tied to the dam in two ways, either poured directly onto the rubble
transition zone.
A mortar bed is
initially placed
which penetrates
into the rubble a
few centimeters.
This is
covered with the
concrete to form
a monolithic
mass which
extends into the
rubble and is
thus bonded to
the dam.
Or, ribs are
placed in the bottom of the slab by forcing grooves in the facing. The ribbed support,
however, is unnecessary if the bonding with the backing is effective.
Two types of facing have been used.
One is a thin monolithic slab of concrete with no joints. It is sufficiently flexible to
conform to movements in the backing without failure and the tensile forces are
distributed by the reinforcements so that numerous small cracks develop rather than any
major failures.
The second type, used in most concrete faced dams, has a facing which consists of
monolithic slabs, 10 to 30 sqm each. The concrete thickness is largely a matter if
experience. Only nominal reinforcement is required, about 0.5% concrete area in each
direction. Water tightness is ensured by copper water stops.

Asphaltic Concrete Face two types of asphaltic

facings have been used, a
laminated facing consisting
1. Rubble concrete
masonry transition
2. 10cm thick porous
3. 15cm bituminous
concrete, placed in
two layers and
4. Reinforced concrete
protective and
insulating layer
12cm thick.
The outer layer of concrete only serves to protect the bituminous side from sunshine and
physical damage. It is sprayed with water during very hot weather to keep the bituminous
concrete from sagging in plastic flow. The second form employs an asphaltic concrete
paving similar to that used in highways. It is placed in layers and rolled as for paving.
The advantage of a purely asphaltic paving is that it tends to adjust itself to movement by
plastic flow. As with other thin facings, a transition zone is required to equalise settlement
movements and to provide uniform support.
Rubble Retaining Zone - used in the upstream face to
permit a slope that is steeper than the angle of repose of
the rockfill. This makes it possible to reduce the volume of
rockfill, but at the expense of construction of the retaining
zone. There are two types for this zone, a wedge of
compacted rockfill, where the steeper slope is merely the
angle of repose of dense rather than loose rock. Slope
angles of 45 degrees can be obtained this way.
The second form is an unbonded rubble masonry retaining
wall. It is essentially a retaining wall, and should be
designed as such. The typical width of the base of the
supporting zone is 0.25 the height of the dam.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams
(C) Wahlstrom, Ernest Dams, Dam Foundations and Reservoir Sites
(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US



(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

9.1 Spillways - Introduction

The provision of adequate spillway facilities can pose more problems than the design of
the dam. Complete protection against the greatest flood that might occur would in almost
all circumstances be unjustifiable. The existing or possible future habitation in the valley
below the dam must influence decisions to be made regarding the spillway. Four
standards for dam design have been suggested;
Freeboard and still capacity sufficiently to ensure that the dam will not be
overtopped by floods up to probable maximum categories;
Such that the dam can be overtopped without failing, and in so far as practicable,
without suffering serious damage;
Such as to ensure that breaching of the structure would occur at a relatively
gradual rate; and
The height of the dam and storage are small enough that no serious hazard exists
downstream in the event of breaching.

9.2 Spillways - Handling of Flood Waters

Retention in Storage - In rare cases it is economically possible to store the entire volume
of the design flood within the reservoir without overtopping the dam. The occurence of a
subsequent storm shortly after the first must also be considered. In some cases an
auxillary spillway or fuse plug spillway may be built in for emergencies.

Auxiliary Spillway to another valley. At

certain locations it is possible to build one
or more spillway outlets on the rim of the
storage basin and to divert flood waters into
adjacent valleys. Impact on the total

environment must be considered before floods can be by-passed in this manner.

Generally the main valley will have carried floods of maybe half the design flood and it is
simple to assess the damage likely to be done by larger floods. The owner of the dam will
be responsible for damage resulting from diversion of a major flood into a valley not
normally subject to large floods.
Fuse-Plug Spillways are structures built instead of an auxiliary spillway. They may be
simple earth banks, flash boards, or other devices designed to fail when overtopped. Such
plugs should only be used when the sudden release of water is both safe and not overdestructive to the environment. For preference fuse plugs should be so constructed as to
make their intensional destruction. This is much more positive than endeavouring to
design a structure to fail at a predetermined overload.

Spillway Location Options - The sites indicated

by the red areas are the most favourable
locations for spillway positioning. The order of
preference for rapid concrete construction is
indicated by the numbering.
Passage over or through the dam - Many dams
are designed for the safe passage of controlled
and uncontrolled flood waters over the crest.
Radial or sector gates are also used in large
diversion weirs, however spilling over the crest
is the cheaper method.

Bottom spillway
Advantage - provision can usually be made for its
use for the passage of floods during construction.
Disadvantage - once built its capacity is finite
wheras the forecasting is indefinite.
- a single outlet can be blocked by flood debris

Siphon Spillway
Disadvantage - construction is expensive
- sudden appearance of flood water
- large flood debris can block outlet

Gates or no gates - many Engineers are not inclined to place full reliance on effective
operation of gates at the time of a major flood. The provision of gated spillways is usually
economic, whatever height of dam the cost remains roughly the same and is only
dependent on the magnitude of the flood provision. The possibility of maloperation can
not be overlooked and their accessibility is important. If proper gate operation can not be
guaranteed then the effect of flood water passing over the top of gates must be
investigated. Hydraulic gates are most reliable, followed by mechanically and electrically
operated gates.
Spillway gates may therefore be installed:

Purely on economic considerations of total cost of dam and spillway, or

In order to protect upstream property or installations, or
In order to exercise control over the magnitude and duration of flood flows below
the dam - having due regard to flow in downstream tributaries, or
In order to derive some economic benefit from water stored above the fixed crest
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

9.3 Spillways - Uncontrolled Spillways

The discharge over a spillway crest is given by the formula:
where Q=discharge, C=coefficient, L=length of the crest, H=effective head of water.

Crest Profile - the crest of an overfall spillway is usually

dimensioned to conform to the underside of the nappe of the
free-falling jet. Greater efficiency is obtained by operating a
spillway at greater than design head, as can be seen in the
figure showing the effect of nappe profile on coefficient.

It is common practice to choose the design head for the nappe as 75%-80% of the
maximum expected head. When the spillway so designed does pass the greater flows,
pressures lower than atmosphere will occur over the crest, causing problems associated
with cavitation.
The flow over a spillway gives rise to self-excited vibration, in which three coupled
elements are involved; the jet, the overflow crest and the air cushion between dam and
jet. This can be avoided by using splitters on the crest.

The cross section of a dam is normally determined to meet

stability requirements. Optimum nappe can be obtained by
the provision of an upstream overhang, as can be seen in the
figure on the left, with the overhang not less than 0.3 times
the height of the dam.

With the reservoir at a particular level the discharge over the spillway will be
proportional to its length. It is possible to introduce variations in the plan shape of the
spillway crest so that the effective length is increased, for example, rectangular 'duckbill'
spillway or triangular sections.
In narrow gorges it is often expedient to adopt the glory-hole spillway. The design of a
glory hole spillway is involved since it includes flow over the weir, free or forced flow in
the shaft, flow around the bend and flow in the discharge tunnel. Since velocities are very
high at the bottom of the shaft damage to lining is likely to occur. The main disadvantage
with the glory-hole spillway is that beyond a certain surcharge the discharge only
increases slowly with increased head. It does not provide any substantial margin for
underestimation of the maximum flood.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

9.4 Spillways - Gated Spillways

The decision for gates is more often economic, but sometimes topography may be the
controlling factor. Gates use mechanical devices and are liable to malfunction, however
they can be submerged and can operate at any head and are useful to pass floods during
construction or to control a filling reservoir.
The Engineer is concerned with the loads concentrated on certain parts of the dam by the
system for supporting and operating the gates. This is very important when one gate is
closed and the other open. Large gates require special formwork, complicated
reinforcement and probably prestressing of anchorages which puts the price up.
The minimum length is determined by the debris which could be expected to flow
through the gate. The location chosen must be easily accessible during normal operation
and during extreme floods. The engineer must be responsible for the procedures for
operation of the gates. Automatic gates may be required in remote locations however the
expense and reliability issues do not favour their installation.
Types of Gate - the trend is towards simplicity.

Vertical-lift Gates

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Nanairo Dam, Japan - Vertical-lift spillway gates

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Eildon Dam, Australia - Vertical-lift spillway gates

Submerged Radial Gates - used to provide greater discharge for a particular size
of gate.
(C) Thomas,
Henry H. The
Engineering of
Large Dams

Sainte-Croix Arch Dam - Submerged Radial Gate


Spilling dam - Flap gate with

downstream jack
1. Concrete sill
2. Flapgate panel
3. Trestle
4. Support
5. Slide
6. Jack
7. Swivel
8. Inspection Gallery
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Inflatable dam - rubberised fabric, shaped as a seal tube, capable of being

pressurised with either air or water, adaptable for installation on any reasonable
sill for flood control and other purposes.

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

Koombooloomba Dam, Australia - Inflatable 'Fabridam'

Advantages of inflatable dams
Comparatively low cost
Little maintenance
Readily collapsed to allow free flow of floodwaters
Fail-safe so long as the resulting flood wave is acceptable in the valley
Disadvantages of inflatable dams
Relatively limited life - 20 years

Vulnerable to vandelism
Availability of replacement parts in the future
Possibility of downstream flood due to malfunction

9.5 Spillways - Spillway Chutes

A chute is the means by which water is transferred over the crest to the river bed below
the dam. Its function is to prevent damage to the valley walls that could endanger the
dam. It may or may not serve to dissipate some of the energy in the water.
Cascade spillways - used to dissipate energy

The rock must be massive and free from close jointing

and competent. The rock excavated must be used in the
dam if the scheme is to be economically viable.

Lined Chutes - at most sites a concrete lined chute is required. The chute width is
determined by the length and arrangement of the spillway crest, the total energy in the
water and the economical relation between the width (including excavation costs) and the
height of the side walls of the chute. The height of the chute wall is also important
because the water could erode the side slopes.
At the bottom of the chute the water may enter a
dissipator basin, or be directed around a flip bucket so
that much of its energy is dissipated in air. Vibration will
cause movement of the slabs and even failure of them. It
is essential that slabs are anchored to the rock with steel
rods. The figure shows the correct way of laying slabs so
they do not lift up.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

9.6 Spillways - Energy Dissipation

The passage of flood waters from reservoir level to tailwater level will involve the
dissipation of vast energy. The velocities and pressures involved are huge and destructive.

Free Overfall - energy dissipated in a downstream coffer dam stilling basin unless
overflow is very high, say 80m&SUP3;/s/m or the height of the overfall exceeds 100m.
For example the scour below a free overfall at Kariba Dam is over 50m.
Flip Bucket Spillways - the purpose of this type is to throw the water well clear of the
structure. The jet of a ski jump spillway leaves horizontally wheras the jet of a flip bucket
is deflected upwards to induce disintegration in the air. The spray produced can cause
damage to the countryside and may adversely affect nearby electrical installations.

A. Roller Basin
B. Deflector Bucket
C. Flip Bucket
D. Non-radial spillway and
sluice buckets
E. Schoklitsch dissipator

Stilling Basins - are usually associated with overflow dams of

gravity type. Dissipation of energy depends upon the formation
of rollers, turbulence and/or standing waves. Dentations are often
provided to assist in dissipation of energy. The blocks are
subjected to highly fluctuating pressures of such low minimum
values that serious cavitation and destruction can occur.
The figure shows a baffled apron spillway used for energy

(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

9.7 Spillways - 3D Simulation by F Zhou and CS Song

3D simulation of free-surface over a chute spillway
By Fayi Zhou and C.S. Song
In spillway design, the free surface pattern under different geometry needs to be known.
The 3-D free surface flow in chute spillway is of typical super-critical. An unsteady three-

dimensional free-surface flow model is developed based on the compressible

hydrodynamic euqations and large eddy simulation concept using an explicit finit volume
The simulation process is divided into three steps for computational efficiency.
Approximate free-surface profile and average velocity distribution were determined first
assuming steady one-dimensional non-viscous flow. The fully developed 3-D turbulent
flow filed is simulated next holding the free-surface profile fixed. Finally, the free surface
is set free to move and the fully developed flow with strong gravity waves are simulated.
A free-surface smoothing and a wave steepness constrainbt approaches were used to
assure numerical stability while waves up to certain specified steepness can be resolved.
3D free surface pattern along the whole spillway region

3D free surface pattern at the upper part of spillway

3D free surface pattern at the lower part of spillway


10.1 General Construction

Cost and its control

Safety - with the ever increasing height of dams there is greater need for precautions,
especially against falling objects or persons. Double curvature structures have made
access and movement of personnel difficult. All site personnel must be alert at all time for
the accidents that might happen. The insurance is regular meetings of staff and

representatives of the work force, where knowledge and experience can be pooled especially in the planning stage of an unusual operation.

(C) Kollgaard & Chadwick, Development of Dam Engineering in the US

For all types of dam, the specification should cover the following:

The required date for completion, with a schedule to indicate dates for completion
of stages of the work;
The degree of responsibility to be accepted by the Contractor in the dimensioning
of diversion works, for losses due to floods, for river pollution and general care of
the river;
Clearing of the site and works areas;
The extent of foundation preparation required and the sharing of responsibility for
unforeseen conditions;
Protection of the environment, disposal of soil, rehabilitation of borrow areas,
beautification, etc.;
Premliminary work that will be done by the Owner and the degree of
responsibility accepted by the Owner for consequences of such work.

Plant - The cost of purchasing plant and its operation are major items. On a dam
involving 2 million cum of concrete, the purchase and operation might each represent 1820% of the direct cost of the dam. For an embankment dam this may be of the order of
25-35%. It is therefore important to select the correct plant to achieve optimum cost.

The specification for some major contracts calls for the use of only new plant and the
main advantage is that suitable plant can be matched to the particular job. Material
transporters can be matched to quarry equipment for example. For compaction of
embankments - soil or rock, it is important to select the most appropiate equipment and
this can be best determined by means of a trial embankment. It is also necessary to have a
supply of spare parts since many sites are remote. Plant should be simple and rugged, and
preferably modular to simplify the replacement of parts.
Consistently high quality of materials is the objective of all dam builders and to sacrifice
quality for a doubtful saving in cost is poor engineering.
Cost and its Control - Safety, Time and Cost are interrelated and usually conflicting.
Safety is always paramount, and hence time and cost directly relate to quality and degree
of perfection required. There is an optimum time for any operation and beyond this time
will incur extra costs. Cost is made up of direct charges for manpower and materials, plus
overheads and interest. Interest is out of the control of the Engineer.
With regard to the direct charges, the selection of the type of dam will be the major
decision and this might well be influenced by local conditions rather than mathematical

Is a labour-intensive job required in the interests of the local community?

Is skilled labour available?
What degree of mechanisation is desirable or possible at the particular site?

For a concrete dam, for example, the dissection of costs may be;


Plant Purchase


Plant Operation


Placing and consolidation of concrete 4%

Precooling concrete


Concrete Treatment


For an embankment dam, for example. the dissection of costs may be;
Quarry Operation




Spreading and Compaction 25-30%

Face rolling, mesh, etc.

10.2 River Diversion


Regardless of the type of dam, it is necessary to de-water the site for final geological
inspection, for foundation improvement and prepartation, and for the first stage of dam
construction. The magnitude, method and cost of river diversion works will depend upon
the cross-section of the valley, the bed material in the river, the type of dam, the expected
hydrological conditions during the time required for this phase of the work, and finally
upon the consequences of failure of any part of the temporary works.
At most sites it will be
necessary to move the
river whilst part of the
dam is constructed; this
part will incorporate
either permanent or
temporary openings
through which the river
will be diverted in the
second stage. If the first
diversion is not large
enough the initial stages
of construction will be
inundated, if the second
stage outlets are too
small, the whole works
will be flooded.
At some sites there is a distinct seasonal pattern of river flows and advantage can be
taken of such conditions but noting that Nature is random.
Construction of the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam, South Africa required a sophisticated
arrangement of cofferdams. An approach was developed based on the frequency and
distribution of floods that could occur over a five year period of construction. The
following is an extract of the original detailed specification:
First Stage (A)

Construction from each bank of the river of groynes a short distance upstream of
the dam, to alter the direction of flow and thus to move the low water channel
towards the left bank of the river at the dam site.
Construction of a semi circular concrete arch cofferdam on the right bank of the
De-watering of this cofferdam and excavation within it for the main dam blocks,
the proportion of the overspill apron and the sections of the mid channel
Concreting of the dam blocks, numbers 14 to 28 up to a minimum level of 1200
meters, the portions of the overspill apron and of the mid channel cofferdams

within this cofferdam. In blocks of the dam constructed on this stage, temporary
openings were formed through which the river was later diverted.

Second stage (B) & (C) Construction of a semi circular arch cofferdam on the left bank of the river.
Construction of the flanking portions of each of the upstream and downstream
mid channel concrete arch cofferdams which cross the river upstream and
downstream of the central section of the dam.
Excavation of a channel along the right bank, leading to the temporary openings
through the dam, demolition of portions of the right bank cofferdam to permit the
diversion of the river through the temporary openings and such clearing out of the
right bank diversion channel as may be necessary.
The cutting of a channel through the portion of the right bank groyne adjacent to
the bank to form an entrance to the diversion channel described above.
The placing of rockfill to connect together the right and left bank groynes so as to
divert the river flow into the right bank diversion channel, thereby cutting down
the velocity of the water in the vicinity of the mid river cofferdams.
Completion of the upstream mid river cofferdam completion of the downstream
mid river cofferdam.
Placing of spoil, excavated from the works, in the flood channel on the left bank
upstream of the dam to prevent the river flooding into the area to the protected by
the mid river cofferdams.

Third stage (C) & (D) & (E) De-watering of the left bank cofferdam and excavation for the dam blocks and the
portion of the overspill apron within this cofferdam.
Concreting of the dam blocks numbers 9 to 27 to a minimum level of 1206
Demolition of the left bank cofferdam.
Demolition of the remaining portion of the right bank cofferdam within the areas
protected by the mid channel cofferdams.

The de-watering of the mid channel cofferdam and excavation within it for dam
block numbers 1 to 7 and 2 to 12 and portion of the overspill apron.
Concreting of dam blocks 1 to 7 and 2 to 12 to such levels that the contraction
joints in the lower part of the dam up to gallery can be grouted.
Concreting within the mid channel cofferdams of the portion of the overspill
apron downstream of blocks 1 to 7 and 2 to 12.
Cooling of the concrete and grouting of the dam construction joints.

Diversion can also be achieved by means of a tunnel, which depends on the nature of the
rock and depth of weathering and should be far away from the dam itself to not interferre
with the foundations. The tunnel also should be large enough to avoid the possibility of
job jams.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

10.3 Concrete Dam Construction


Aggregate Production
Concrete Handling, Placing and Consolidation
Built in items
Cooling of Concrete
Economical Construction

Aggregate Production - The

acceptability of natural aggregates is
judged upon the physical and chemical
properties of the material and the
accessibility, proximity to the site and
economic workability of the deposit.
Concrete Handling, Placing and
Consolidation - The procedure to be
adopted for moving concrete from the
mixers on to the dam will be governed
by site conditions. The problem is to
transport it to the dam with the least
possible segregation or change in its consistency so it may be compacted uniformly into
the dam without unreasonable effort. The cableway is probably the simplest arrangement.
The tilting mixers will feed the buckets; these are then moved to a pick up point under the
cableway, transported smoothly to the block and emptied quickly through an air operated

Three Tower Cableway

The use of a belt conveyor has also been considered, but problems occur in keeping the
belt temperature stable in warm weather and also in windy conditions. The conveyors are
usually covered and cold air is blown over the concrete to lower its placing temperature.

The placing of a low-slump concrete, four layers in 2.3m lift

Tractor mounted vibrators at Emosson Dam, Switzerland

Proper consolidation of low-slump concrete is laborious and requires continuous
supervision. The most efficient compactor is usually the two man hand-held high-speed
Formwork - Probably the most widely used lift is 1.5m, however, on large dams a height
of 2.3-3.0m is frequently used. With the larger lifts there are fewer movements of forms
and fewer horizontal lift surfaces to be cleaned. The high-lift formwork is unique and
expensive with less prospect for re-use, heavier equipment is required for lifting the
forms and the heat problems and risks of cracking in the concrete are accentuated.
Modern steel formwork is of cantilever design, see figure. Where possible the use of slip
forms will expedite the work and lower the costs. At some locations it may be expedient
to use precast concrete slabs for formwork with set-retarding agent on the inner surface.

Built in items - The installation of built in items is always a major source of delay on
construction. Advance planning is required with close attention to detail. The
complication of installation of reinforcement, prestressing, gate hinges, drainage wells
and gate wells are common on spillways. There has been a tendency to use precast
concrete units for galleries to save time, however this prevents the inspection of the
concrete in the interior of the dam. The simplest method of forming galleries is vertical
formwork extending the full height of a lift. When this is removed, precast concrete
beams or slabs can be laid over the opening and concreted into the next lift.
Reinforcement is usually required above and below rectangular galleries and this is best
installed as prefabricated units.
Cooling of Concrete - The method of cooling concrete during the first few days after
placing can be of the utmost importance if cracking is to avoided. It is essential to give
attention to both internal and external factors that may induce cracking;

Temperature rise, which will depend upon the heat of hydration of the cement, the
quantity of cement per cubic metre, the concrete placing temperature and the rate
of construction;
Heat dissipation, which will depend upon the conditions of exposure - including
the temperature of the underlying concrete and the thermal diffusivity of the
concrete. If it is considered necessary to heat the underlying concrete the rate of
rise of its temperature should not exceed 2 Celsius per day;
The effects of restraint from a cold surface, i.e. rock or concrete say 14 days old,
it will depend upon the temperature gradient which can be reduced by placing
concrete in half lifts for a predetermined height, say 3m above the cold surface;
The arrangement of cooling pipes - at 0.25 and 0.75 of the height of the lift may
be more efficient than on the top of the old lift and at mid-height of the new lift.
The horizontal spacing will depend upon the rate of heat removal required and the
temperature of the cooling water (i.e. river water of varying temperature or
refrigerated water);

The local weather conditions - humidity, temperature and wind.

Economical Construction - Concrete dams are expensive, however mechanisation over

the last 40 years has reduced by a factor of four the number of man hours required to
place a cubic metre of concrete in a mass concrete dam. Although every Engineer strives
for perfection, consideration must be given to the degree of perfection that is really
necessary. Close co-operation between the Owner and Contractor will save time and
money. Questions have to be asked at all stages such as;
Is it permissible to design for tensile stress in the concrete?
Will arching of the dam result in overall economy?
Are longitudinal contraction joints necessary in large gravity dams?
Can the transverse contraction joints be omiited, located at wider spacing etc?
What clean up is necessary on horizontal construction joints?
Should the height of lift be specified by the designer?
Should the cement content of the concrete be specified or only the properties
required in the concrete?
Can the dams of intricate shape be justified?
Should ancillary works be separated from the dam to minimise interference with a
continuous or cyclic process of dam building?
What is the optimum layout and design for galleries?
Looking at the 'Construction - General Section' to see the proportion of costs in a
concrete dam, assumuing that the materials have been predetermined, the Contractor
should concentrate on formwork, the purchase of plant and its operation.
(C) Thomas, Henry H. The Engineering of Large Dams

10.4 Embankment Dam Construction


Phases of Construction
Quarry development and Haul Roads
Material Compaction
Earth Dams
Hydraulic Fill Dams
Rockfill Dams

General - Considerable economy can often accrue if there is 'Progressive Design' - the
aim is to provide design flexibility to cover the probability that materials will not be in
true accord with samples tested nor will foundations conform to assumptions.
Phases of Construction 1. Evaluation of plans, specifications, basic requirement, and features of the site.
2. Planning and scheduling of the job
3. Making the site ready

4. Building up the structure

5. Clean Up
Quarry development and Haul Roads - The quarry site should be determined primarily
on the basis of rock quality, i.e. the fragmented rock must be sound, hard and clean. If the
location is not dictated by rock quality, then it is desirable to separate the quarry and the
haul roads from other works such as the intake, spillway or power station construction.
Attention should be given to environmental factors such as noise, vibration from
explosives and dust. In designing the explosive charge, the form of muck pile must be
considered, i.e. for rubber-tyred loaders a wide low pile thrown well out from the face is
desirable for minimum loading costs.
Haul roads must be built to suit the required speed of construction, and this involves the
size of the haulage units. The roads should be at least 13m wide for two way traffic, for
preference, on way traffic should be organised on a large job. The gradients must be such
as to give minimum cost for the vehicles involved. The general layout of haul roads and
ramps can be greatly facilitated with scale models.
Material Compaction

Fine - Trial embankments should be constructed to determine relationships

between moisture content, layer thickness, type of roller, number of passes of the
roller and the resulting density and permeability of the fill. Additional water
during compaction usually improves the impermeability of residual soils by a
factor of at least ten compared with compaction on the dry side of optimum
moisture content.
Plastic clays - a little wetter than optimum moisture content, can be compacted by
rubber-tyred rollers, which are water ballasted. A disadvantage of the rubber-tyred
roller is that layer and shear planes tend to form in some materials. Since the fine
materials are usually sensitive to moisture the field Engineer must be extremely
weather conscious. If heavy rain is expected the surface of the fine material
should be rolled smooth with sufficient gradient to shed water from the working
Filter or Transition Material - The thickness of the filter and transition zones will
depend upon the water pressure to be sustained and the materials economically
available. For a large dam the fine filter is often of crushed rock which is
expensive. Its width would normally be the narrowest than can be placed and
compacted. Setting out of the zone boundaries is important, especially for curved
dams with a thin fine filter. The number of passes should be determined such that
future settlement of the core and the filter zone will correspond as closely as
Rock Compaction - The steel-faced vibratory roller is normally used for the
compaction of rock. On the sloping faces a roller of 1.5t is most useful. The
thickness of the layer of rockfill and the maximum acceptable size for rocks
should be regarded as factors pertinent to the design of the dam.

Water to aid compaction of rockfill - Wet rock will compact better under rolling
than dry rock. Firstly, the friction is less between the rocks and secondly many
rocks lose strength when wetted so that crushing occurs at points of contact
during the third or fourth pass of the rollers.
Provision for Instrumentation - This will inconvenience construction and failure
of the equipment to work will represent a financial loss for the cost of its purchase
and installation, and little can be done about it after the dam is built. Vital
information about the behaviour of the dam will be lost if care is not taken in its

Earth Dams The most important variables affecting construction of earthfill embankments are the
distribution of soils, method of placement, water content, and compaction.
Soils may be classified by engineering properties into various groups. These groups fall
into two main divisions, the course grains and the fine grains. Course grains are those
larger than a number 200 sieve size and include gravels and sands. Fine grains are smaller
than a number 200 sieve size and include silts and clays. Course grain material is used for
the outer zones of an earthfill embankment, and fine grain material is used for the
impervious core or central portion of the dam. A sieve analysis test will determine the
percent of material passing a given sieve size.
The soil material must be placed in horizontal layers not more than 15 cm. thick after
being compacted. The soil should be homogeneous and free from lenses, pockets, organic
material, or other imperfections. Prior to placement, the material should have the
optimum moisture content required for the purpose of compaction. The optimum
moisture content, or the water content that produces the maximum density, may be
obtained by a laboratory Proctor test.
Good compaction of a cohesive soil reduces permeability and increases shear strength
and the stability of the dam. Compaction equipment includes sheep-foot rollers,
pneumatic rollers, and hand tampers. The dry density of the soil should not be less than
95 percent of standard Proctor test.
Hydraulic Fill Dams Excavation - dredging, with hydraulic giants or dry with the aid of a hog box. The choice
of the methods depends on the cohesion of the soil and on the topography of the site.
Transport - The materials are transported in suspension in pipelines. Typical mixes are
from 10-20% solids by volume or 25-50% solids by weight.
Fill Construction - To start the fill two parallel dikes are constructed at or just inside the
embankment toes as shown in the figure. Often these are the permanent rock toes
themselves but they can also be made of rolled pervious earth. The pipelines (called

beach pipes) are laid on top of these dikes or are carried on low trestles just above them.
Outlets are provided to allow full discharge of the pipe. In filling, several adjacent outlets
are allowed to discharge into the area between the dikes. The coarse materials settle close
to the discharge points while the finer ones are carried to the centre, still in suspension. A
pool is created between the 'beaches'. The core level is always below the beach level
because the rate of sedimentation there is much slower.

The width of the core is controlled by the percentage of fines in the borrow soil and the
level of water in the core pool. At the start of each 1-2m lift, the level in the core pool is
raised to provide a width somewhat greater than the maximum limit of core in the shell.
Filling commences when the coarse materials settling on the beach above the pool and
encroaching on the pool limits. As the beach rises the core pool narrows and becomes
deeper. Filling is stopped when the pool width is close to the minimum permissible core
width. A core zone with jagged edges, as shown, is the result.
Re-working the Fill - It is seldom that the beach will conform exactly to the desired dam
shape since the deposition will vary with the distance from the outlet. Draglines are
placed on the outer edges of the shell to reshape the dam to the proper dimensions. A new
pair of dikes, if necessary, is built and the process is repeated.
From time to time fingers of core develop into the shell beyond the established limits.
These are removed by digging them out, and replacing them with the shell material.
Zones of shell material in the core are likewise equally dangerous. These develop from
slides into an excessively deep core pool or as a result of too small a proportion of fines
available from the borrow pits. A small hydraulic dredge is used to excavate the core
material and discharge the mix back into the core pool so that the coarse materials will be
widely dispersed.
Reworking the shell also tends to reduce the loose structure which often develops when
fine sands are deposited out of water. Such loose cohesionless soils are potential sources
of failures and are real hazards in hydraulic dam construction.

Rockfill Dams -

Pore Pressures - Excessive compactive effort relative to the particular material may
induce pore pressures in the earthfill greater than uplift pressures that will result from
filling of the reservoir. This would mean a lower factor of safety during construction than
when the dam is in operation. If this is not acceptable then extra money must be spent to
ensure slope stability during construction. On the other hand, a slope slide during
construction would not compare in importance to a slide in a completed dam. It may
therefore be a justifiable risk for the short term. If this were to be done then it would be
mandatory to monitor pore pressures so that it would be known definitely when the
design factor of safety was established. There is justifaction for reduction of construction
pore pressures especially when the height reaches 150m for example.
An advantage of the thin core is that construction pore pressures should normally drop by
50% by the end of the construction period. In thick cores, the pressures may remain for
Dumped Rockfill - the main body of fill is placed by dumping. The initial part of the fill
is dumped from clamshell cranes, cableways, or from ramps on the abutments to form a
mound or bank. The remainder of the fill is dumped from the top of this mound, allowing
the rock to fall down the sloping surface. The combined effect of sliding, tumbling and
impact casue the pieces to become tightly wedged together. Not more than 15% fines
should be in the dumped rockfill, since they prevent good compaction and make drainage
of water difficult.
Rolled Rockfill - if the rock is soft and breaks readily into pieces less than a third of a
cubic metre, a rolled rockfill can be used. It is placed in layers and then rolled by heavy
rubber tyred rollers and heavy vibrating rollers. Four to eight passes are required for
Reshaping the Fill - the dumped rockfill assumes side slopes of the angle of repose. If a
flatter slope is required it can be formed by introducing horizontal berms as required.

Multiple Choice Question 1
When the crest chord-height ratio is under 3 and the rock is capable of withstanding
high pressures, not being able to fail by shearing, which form of dam is most suitable?

Rockfill Dams


Thin Arch or Thin Cupola Dams


Buttress Dams


Multiple Arch Dams


Gravity Dams


Thick Arch Dams


Hydraulic Fill Dams

Analysis assumes that two major kinds of deflections or dislocations affect the dam and
its abutments. Pressure of water on the upstream face of the dam and uplift pressures
from seepage beneath the dam tend to rotate the dam about its base by cantilever action.
In addition the pressure of reservoir water tends to flatten the arch and push it
downstream. These dams are thin, curved structures commonly containing reinforcement,
either steel rods or prestressed steel cables the volume of concrete required is much less
than for gravity and gravity arch dams, but the competency of bedrock in foundations and
abutments to sustain or resist loads must be of a high order.

Multiple Choice Question 2

This effect refers to periodic undulations in the reservoir, believed to be related to or
set in motion by intermittent wind, varying atmospheric pressures, earthquakes or
irregular inflow and outflow of water. After the generating influence is removed the
oscillations subside.

Tectonic Effect


Seismic Effect


Freeboard Effect


Seiche Effect

Correct Answer

Multiple Choice Question 3

What type of spillway is this?


Auxiliary Spillway


Bottom Spillway


Siphon Spillway


Fuse-plug Spillway

Correct Answer

Worked Question - 1

Q. Find the Shear Friction Factor and the factor of Safety against overturning for
the dams section below:




Moment Arm













Self Weight A




Self Weight B




Uplift a




Uplift b




Uplift c




Sum V = +7,303

Sum MD(+ve) = 68435

Sum H = +4,555

Sum MR(-ve) = 124092

1. Anon. 1981c. Codes of Practice on Site investigations, BS. 5930. British
Standards Institution, London.
2. Bell, F. G. 1993. Engineering Geology. First Edition, Blackwell Scientific
3. Bougin, A. 1953. The Design of Dams, Sir Issac Pittman & Sons.
4. Casagrande, A. 1973. Embankment Dam Engineering, John Wiley and Sons.
5. Craig, R.F. 1992. Soil Mechanics. Fifth Edition. Chapman & Hall.
6. GeoCAL Group 1994, Authoring GeoCal Reference file, GeoCAL.
7. Goodman, R.E. 1989, Introduction to Rock Mechanics, Second Edition. John
Wiley and Sons.
8. Houk,I E. and Keener, E. May 1940. Masonry Dams - A Symposium. Basic
Assumptions, Proc. ASCE.
9. Laginha Serafim, J & Clough, R. W. 1990. Arch Dams, International Workshop on
Arch Dams / Coimbra / 5-9 April 1987.
10. Meigh, A. C. 1980. Geotechnical investigations for dams. In: Symposium on
Problems and Practice of Dam Engineering / 1 - 15 Dec. 1980. pp 163-181.
11. Sowers, G. F. 1962. Earth and Rockfill Dam Engineering. Asia Publishing House.
12. Thomas, H. H. 1976. The Engineering of Large Dams, Part 1, John Wiley and
13. Thomas, H. H. 1976. The Engineering of Large Dams, Part 2, John Wiley and
14. Toll, D. G. 1996-7. Lectures on Geotechnics, University of Durham.
15. Wahlstrom, E. E. 1974. Dams, Dam Foundations, and Reservoir Sites. Elsevier
Scientific Publishing Company.
16. Walters, R. C. S. 1962. Dam Geology. Butterworth.
17. Wilson, E. M. 1990. Engineering Hydrology, Fourth Edition. Macmillan.
18. Wilson, S. 1995. World Wide Web Design Guide, Hayden Books.

Abutment - That portion of the foundation, especially in the sides of a valley, which is in
contact with a dam. Also, that portion of a dam which makes contact with and abuts
against the foundation at the sides of a valley.

Active Basin - The portion of a reservoir basin above a given elevation which can be
used for power generation or other beneficial purpose.

Active Capacity - The reservoir capacity normally usable for storage and regulation of
reservoir inflows to meet established reservoir operating requirements. It extends from
the highest of (l) the top of exclusive flood control capacity, (2) the top of joint use
capacity, or (3) the top of active conservation capacity, to the top of inactive capacity. It is
also the total capacity less the sum of the inactive and dead capacities.

Active Conservation Capacity - The reservoir capacity assigned to regulate reservoir

inflow for irrigation, power, municipal and industrial use, fish and wildlife, navigation,
recreation, water quality, and other purposes. It does not include exclusive flood control
or joint use capacity. It extends from the top of the active conservation capacity to the top
of the inactive capacity.

Active pool - See Active Basin

Active storage - See Active Basin
Aggregate - Natural material used in the manufacture of concrete. Also any natural
material, sorted or unsorted, used in dam or other construction. Aggregate for concrete
commonly is obtained from alluvial stream deposits or from rock quarries.

Appurtenant feature - Any physical feature other than the dam itself which contributes
to the operation of the dam and reservoir for its intended purpose or purposes.

Aquifers - Water bearing strata of the ground

Arch Dam - A concrete or masonry dam which is curved in plan so to transmit the major
part of the water load to the abutements.

Arch-Gravity Dam - An arch dam which is only slightly thinner than a gravity dam.
Artificial abutment - An abutment, usually constructed from concrete, to sustain the
lateral thrusts of an arch dam. Such abutments are constructed where existing topographic
or bedrock geologic conditions are not adequate for the design of the dam.

Asphaltic concrete - An impervious mixture of aggregate and bitumens used in cores or

upstream surfaces of embankment dams.

Auxiliary Spillway - A spillway, usually located in a saddle or depression in the

reservoir rim which leads to a natural or excavated waterway, located away from the dam
which permits the planned release of excess flood flow beyond the capacity of the service
spillway. A control structure is seldom furnished. The crest is set at the maximum water
surface elevation for a 100-year flood or some other specific frequency flood. The
auxiliary spillway thus has only infrequent use.

Axis of dam - A reference line used for control of surveying during construction of a
dam. Commonly the axis defines the location of the upstream portion of the crest of a
dam, whether the crest is straight or curved.

Base Widthor Thickness - The maximum thickness or width of the dam measured
horizontally between upstream and downstream faces and normal to the axis or centerline
crest of the dam, but excluding projections for outlets, etc. In general. the term thickness
is used for gravity or arch dams, and width is used for other dams.

Bedrock - The natural, more or less undisturbed rock in the foundation of a dam.
Blanket - A thin blanket or inclined layer of material forming a part of an embankment

Blanket grouting - Shallow, systematic grouting with cement-water mixtures or

chemical solutions of bedrock exposed in an excavation for a dam.

Block - Many concrete dams are built in sections or blocks. A section of a concrete dam
emplaced within forms or contained between upstream and downstream forms and
adjacent sections of the dam is a block.

Borrow area - The source area for natural materials used in dam construction
Bucket - The curved bottom portion of a spillway. The bucket deflects upward and
outward the water flowing down the inclined surface of the spillway.

Bulkhead - A structure built to resist rock pressure or to shut off water flow, as in a

Buttress - A thin, erect, tabular concrete supporting member used in construction of slab
and buttress dams. Also a projecting structure providing lateral support to a rock face or a
portion of a dam.

Buttress Dam - A dam consisting of a watertight upstream part supported at intervals on

the downstream side by a series of buttresses (walls normal to the axis of the dam).

Cableway - A steel cable used in placing concrete in a dam and to transport excavated
materials and construction materials over and above a dam.

Chute - An inclined open trough or lined canal through which water is discharged.
Cofferdam - A temporary dam designed to contain and divert water away from the
excavation for a dam or other facility during construction. In some embankment dams the
cofferdam is subsequently incoporated into the main, larger structure.

Clay blanket - a thin layer of impervious clay placed upstream from an embankment
dam to reduce or eliminate seepage beneath the dam.

Compacted fill - Material in an embankment dam that has been compressed by rolling
or impact vibration.

Concrete piling - Pillars of conrete driven vertically downward into unconsolidated

materials below an embankment dam to reduce or eliminate seepage beneath the dam.

Control Tower - A tower commonly constructed a short distance upstream from a dam
and within the reservoir to control flow of water from the reservoir into the conduits and

Control works - Facilities such as valves and gates designed to control flow from the
reservoir through, voer, or around a dam.

Construction joint - A joint between adjacent blocks of concrete. Also, a joint, usually
nearly horizontal, between a leyer of concrete and the next one placed over it during

Core - The central portion or zone of an embankment dam consisting of impervious


Core trench - The trench excavated below the general level of the base of an
embankment dam and filled with the impervious material used to construct the core.

Crest - The top of a dam.

Curtain - A zone of foundation grouting or piling parallel to a dam axis designed to
prevent or diminish seepage beneath the dam.

Curtain grouting - Grouting of foundation materials to produce a barrier to seepage

beneath a dam.

Curved Gravity Dam - A gravity dam which is curved in plan.

Cut-off - A fabricated structure or a grout curtain placed to intercept seepage flow

beneath a dam.

Dam - A barrier, either natural or artificially constructed, that impounds or diverts the
flow of water, especially in a water course. Also, the body of water confined by a dam.

Dead Capacity - The reservoir capacity from which stored water cannot be evacuated
by gravity.

Dead storage - Water in the lower elevations of a reservoir that is unavailable for use or

Design basis earthquake (DBE) - The earthquake which the structure is required to
safely withstand with repairable damage. Those systems and components important to
safety must remain functional and/or operable. For design purposes, the intended use of
this earthquake loading is for economic design of structures or components whose
damage or failure would not lead to catastrophic loss. For most usage in Reclamation, the
DBE is defined to have a 90% probability of nonoccurrence in a 50-year-exposure period,
which is equivalent to a recurrence interval of 474 years. Economic considerations for
specific projects may lead to consideration of other values.

Dike - A long, low embankment. The height is usually less than four to five meters and
the lenghth more than ten or fifteen times the maximum height.

Diversion Capacity - The flow which can be passed through the canal headworks at a
dam under normal head.

Double Curvature Arch Dam - An arch dam which is curved in plan and elevation,
with undercutting of the heel and a downstream overhang near the crest of downstream

Drain - A facility for collecting and diverting water that seeps through a dam or through
the foundation of a dam.

Drainage holes - Drilled holes designed to intercept seepage water within or beneath a

Drainage prism - A geometrically shaped zone of permeable materials installed in or

below an embankment dam to intercept seepage.

Drawdown - Reduction of the water level of a reservoir.

Dumped fill - Material that is placed in an embankment dam without special additional
treatment, such as rolling.

Earth fill - Material consisting of earth excavated from a nearby borrow area used in the
construction of an embankment dam. The term is imprecisely defined but is generally
applied to materials containing abundant soil and clayey substances with or without rocky

Embankment - A raised structure built up from unconsolidated materials.

Emergency Spillway - A spillway which provides for additional safety should
emergencies not contemplated by normal design assumptions be encountered, i.e.,
inoperable outlet works, spillway gates, or spillway structure problems. The crest is
usually set at maximum water surface.

Exclusive Flood Control Capacity - The reservoir capacity assigned to the sole
purpose of regulating flood inflows to reduce possible damage downstream. In some
instances, the top of exclusive flood control capacity is above the maximum controllable
water surface elevation.

Fill - The natural material used to construct an embankment dam.

Filter zone - A porous zone in or below a dam designed to intercept and divert seepage

Fish ladder - A structure built at the side or up the face of a dam to enable migration of
fish upstream and downstream.

Flash board - A wood plank or a steel member place at the top of a spillway to increase
the storage capacity of a reservoir.

Flat Slab or Slab and Buttress - A buttress dam with buttresses which support the flat
slab of reinforced concrete which forms the upstream face.

Foundation - The surface and the natural material beneath it on which a dam and
appurtenant features rest.

Foundation cut-off - An excavated trench beneath or adjacent to a dam filled with

impermeable material or a grout curtain designed to prevent seepage in the foundation
beneath a dam.

Freeboard - That portion of a dam maximum water level in a reservoir.

Gallery - A long, narrow passage inside of a dam used for inspection, grouting, or

Gate - A movable facility for controlling flow of water over a dam through a spillway.

Gravity Dam - A dam constructed of concrete and/or masonry which relies on its mass
for stability.

Gravity tunnel - A tunnel through with water flows without restraint under the force of

Grout - A mixture of water and cement or a chemical solution that is forced by pumping
into foundation rocks or joints in a dam to prevent seepage and to increase strength.

Grout blanket - A grouted zone in the shallow portion of a foundation which has been
treated to improve its strength and reduce its permeability.

Grout cap - A cap, usually consisting of concrete, through which grouting operations of
foundations are performed.

Grout curtain - A zone in bedrock beneath a dam and parallel to its length that has been
injected with grout to stop or reduce seepage beneath a dam.

Grout trench - A trench excavated to enable construction of a grout cap.

Grout veil - The same as a grout curtain.
Grouting - The operation whereby grout is injected under pressure into openings in a
dam or in its foundations.

Gut - A term used for the cableway above a dam used for transportation of construction

Head - The hydrostatic pressure generated by water in a reservoir.

Headrace - The flow of water in the direction of a controlling valve or, more specially,
through a conduit or tunnel towards a power generating unit.

Headrace conduit - A conduit that conducts water under a head to a valve or into a
power generating unit.

Headrace tunnel - A pressure tunnel which conducts water from the reservoir to control
work and ultimately into a power generating unit.

Heel - The upstream contact of a dam with its foundation.

Hydraulic fill - Fill pumped or directed by channel flow into and embankment dam
during construction.

Hydraulic Height - Height to which the water rises behind the dam, and is the
difference between the lowest point in the original streambed at the axis or the centerline
crest of the dam and the maximum controllable water surface.

Impervious blanket - A thin layer of impervious material placed within and

embankment dam or on the floor of a valley upstream from the dam to reduce or
eliminate seepage through or beneath the dam.

Impervious core - A core in a zoned embankment dam consisting of impervious


Impervious material - Material, usually rich in clay and/or silt size particles that resists
penetration by water.

Inactive basin - That portion of the bottom of a reservoir that contains water that can
not be put to beneficial use for drained from the reservoir.

Inactive Capacity - The reservoir capacity exclusive of and above the dead storage
from which the stored water is normally not available because of operating agreements or
physical restrictions. Under abnormal conditions, such as a shortage of water or a
requirement for structural repairs, water may be evacuated from this space.

Inactive storage - The storage in an inactive basin.

Infiltrate - If the gruound surface layer is porous and has minute passages available for
the passage of water droplets, the water is then said to infiltrate the subsurface soil.

Inflow Design Flood (IDF) - The flood used to design and/or modify a specific dam
and its appurtenant works; particularly for sizing the spillway and outlet works, and for
determining surcharge storage requirements. The IDF is equated to less than the Probable
Maximum Flood.

Inspection gallery - A gallery within a dam which enables examination of the

performance of the dam with time and reservoir filling.

Instrumentation - Devices installed on and within a dam to monitor cyclic or

progressive changes during and after construction of the dam.

Intake - The entrance to any water transporting facility such as a conduit or a tunnel.
Intake structure - The structure built at the intake.
Joint Use Capacity - The reservoir capacity assigned to flood control purposes during
certain periods of the year and to conservation purposes during other periods of the year.

Left abutment - That portion of the dam that makes contact with it foundation on the left
side of a valley as you from upstream.

Left or Right Designation - The designation of left or right is made with the observer
looking downstream.

Length of Dam - The distance, measured along the axis of the dam at the level of the
top of the main body of the dam or the roadway surface on the crest, from abutment
contact to abutment contact.

Mass Concrete - Any large volume of concrete cast-in-place, generally as a monolithic

structure. Dimensions of the structure are of such magnitude that measures must be taken
to cope with the generation of heat and the resulting volume changes and cracking.

Massive Head Buttress - A buttress dam in which the buttress is greatly enlarged on the
upstream side to span the gap between buttresses.

Maximum Controllable Water Surface - The highest reservoir water surface elevation
at which gravity flows from the reservoir can be completely shut off.

Maximum credible earthquake (MCE) - The largest earthquake that a fault or other
seismic source could produce under the current tectonic setting. The seismic evaluation
criteria determines which faults or seismic sources are assigned an MCE.

Maximum Water Surface - The highest acceptable water surface elevation with all
factors affecting the safety of the structure considered. It is the highest water surface
elevation resulting from a computed routing of the inflow design flood through the
reservoir under established operating criteria. This surface elevation is also the top of the
surcharge capacity.

Maximum design earthquake (MDE) - The earthquake selected for design or

evaluation of the structure. This earthquake would generate the most critical ground
motions for evaluation of the seismic performance of the structure among those loadings
to which the structure might be exposed. For example, if a site were assigned MCEs for
two separate sources, the MCE which would be expected to generate the most severe
ground motions would be the maximum design earthquake. The response of the structure
to specific ground motion parameters (frequency, duration, etc.) needs to be considered in
specifying this event. In certain cases, more than one maximum design earthquake may
be specified to reflect the differing response of various components of the structure to
earthquake loading.

Medium-thick Arch - An arch dam with a base thickness to structural height ratio
between 0.2 and 0.3.

Muck - A common expression or unconsolidated, usually wet and muddy natural


Multiple Arch Dam - A buttress dam, the upstream part of which comprises a series of

Natural abutment - An abutment in natural foundation materials. Contrasted with an

artificial abutment which is constructed from concrete at the site.

Natural frequency (f) - The natural frequencies of a structure are the frequencies of free
vibration. Free vibration is vibration that occurs in the absence of forced vibration. In a
structure undergoing vibration, a mode of vibration is a characteristic pattern (shape)
assumed by the structure in which the motion of every particle is simple harmonic motion
with the same frequency. The fundamental mode of vibration of a structure is the mode
having the lowest natural frequency.

Natural period of vibration (T) - The period of vibration of a a structure is the time
required for one cycle of the simple harmonic motion in one of these characteristic
patterns (shapes). T = 1/f.

Normal Water Surface - The elevation at the top of the active conservation capacity.
The maximum elevation to which the reservoir may rise under normal operating
conditions exclusive of flood control storage. (The term is no longer used by the Service
but is offered because of its prior usage.)

Observation well - An excavated well or vertical borehole used to observe changes in

seepage flow through or beneath dams during filling and drawdown.

Operating basis earthquake (OBE) - The earthquake that the structure must safely
withstand with no damage. All systems and components necessary to the uninterrupted
functioning of the project are designed to remain operable during the ground motions
associated with the OBE. This includes the dam, appurtenant structures, electrical and
mechanical equipment, relays, spillway gates, and valves. For most usage in the Bureau
of Reclamation, the OBE is specified to have a 90% probability of nonoccurrence in a 25year-exposure period. This is equivalent to a recurrence interval of 237 years. Economic
considerations for specific projects may lead to consideration of other values.

Outlet - Any facility, such as the exit of a tunnel, from which water issues by controlled

Outlet structure - A fabricated structure at the conflict of a canal, conduit, or tunnel.

Overflow section - That portion of a dam, usually occupied by a spillway, over which
water above the spillway elevation flows.

Outlet Works - A combination of structures and equipment required for the safe
operation and control of water released from the reservoir to serve various purposes, i.e.,
regulate stream flow and quality; release floodwater; and provide irrigation, municipal,
and/or industrial water. Included in the outlet works are the intake structure, conduit,
control house-gates, regulating gate or valve, gate chamber, and stilling basin.

Parapet - Usually construed to be a low protective wall along the crest of a dam.
Pendulum Shaft - A narrow vertical opening in a dam used for surveying control during
structures and subsequently for occupation of deflections of the dam under load.

Penstock - A conduit, commonly steel pipe, leading from the reservoir to a power
generating plant downstream from the reservoir.

Pervious Material - Material through which water flows with relative ease. Contrasted
with impervious material.

Phreatic Surface - As the groundwater percolates down the acquifer becomes saturated.
The surface of saturation os referred to as the groundwater table or the phreatic surface. It
falls during dry spells and rises in rainy spells.

Piling - Elongate, post like steel or concrete members or steel sheets driven into a dam
foundation to reduce or eliminate seepage.

Power Intake - The intake to a conduit or tunnel which leads to a power generating unit.
Power Plant - The facility constructed at or near the downstream face of a dam to
generate hydroelectric power.

Pressure Tunnel - A tunnel which transmits water under moderate to high pressure.
Prestressing - Strengths of rocks in foundation and elements within concrete dams are
increased by installation of steel rocks or steel cables which are injected to tensioning.
The procedure that is followed is called prestressing.

Purge tunnel - A tunnel that is used to much more frequently used tunnels of
obstructions or deposits of sediment.

Relief Well - An excavated well below a dam to collect seepage water in the foundation.
Reservoir - In the present context a reservoir is a basin, usually artificially created, that
impounds and stores water.

Right abutment - The abutment to the right as observed from a point upstream from a

Rock blanket - A layer of rocks placed on the face of a dam to prevent wave erosion of
deeper materials.

Rock bolt - A threaded steel rod placed in a drilled hole and tensioned to increase
strength of rock masses.

Rock fill - Rock aggregate placed in an embankment dam.

Rolled fill - Fill, usually rich in clayey or silty components, that is compacted by rolling,
especially with sheep's foot rollers or vibratory compactors.

Saddle Dike - A small dam built in a topographic low in the periphery of a reservoir

Service Spillway - A structure located on or adjacent to a storage or detention dam over

or through which surplus or floodwaters which cannot be contained in the allotted storage
space are passed, and at diversion dams to bypass flows exceeding those which are turned
into the diversion system. Included as part of the spillway would be the intake and/or
control structure, discharge channel, terminal structure, and entrance and outlet channels.

Sheet Pilling - Plates of steel driven into the foundation of a dam to reduce or eliminate
seepage beneath a dam.

Sluiced fill - Fill usually clayey, placed in an embankment dam by running water.
Spillway - The structure on or at the side of a dam that contains and guides the flow of
the excess water supplied to a reservoir. Spillways inside the reservoir are called glory
holes and consist of a vertical shaft a tunnel which exits below the dam.

Spoil area - An area used to dispose of materials that are unwanted or surplus in dam

Stilling basin - A basin downstream from a dam that receives the discharge from tunnels
or conduits or overflow from a spillway.

Structural damage - Damage resulting from failure of a dam or its appurtenant


Structural Height - Distance between the lowest point in the excavated foundation
(excluding narrow fault zones) and the top of dam. The structural height of a concrete
dam is the vertical distance between the top of the dam and lowest point of the excavated
foundation area, excluding narrow fault zones. The structural height of an embankment

[earth or rockfill) dam is the vertical distance between the top of the embankment and the
lowest point in the excavated foundation area, including the main cutoff trench, if any,
but excluding small trenches or narrow backfilled areas. The top elevation does not
include the camber, crown, or roadway surfacing.

Surcharge Capacity - The reservoir capacity provided for use in passing the inflow
design flood through the reservoir. It is the reservoir capacity between the maximum
water surface elevation and the highest of the following elevations (1) top of exclusive
flood control capacity, (2) top of joint use capacity, or (3) top of active conservation

Surge tank or shaft - A vertical shaft above a pressure tunnel that provides equal
pressures at the tunnel level in response to sudden pressure changes caused by increasing
or decreasing the flow of water.

Tail water - The water issuing downstream from tunnels, conduits, or spillways.
Tail race - The movement of water below a valve or after it has passed through a power
generating plant.

Thin Arch - An arch dam with a base thickness to structural height ratio of 0.2 or less.
Thick Arch - An arch dam with a base thickness to structural height ratio of 0.3 or

Thrust block - That part of the foundation of and arch dam against which horizontal
thrust is exerted by the dam as the reservoir behind it is filled.

Toe - The downstream contact of a dam with its foundation.

Top of Active Conservation Capacity - The reservoir water surface elevation at the
top of the capacity allocated to the storage of water for conservation purposes only.

Top of Exclusive Flood Control Capacity - The reservoir water surface elevation at
the top of the reservoir capacity allocated to exclusive use for regulation of flood inflows
to reduce damage downstream.

Top of Inactive Capacity - The reservoir water surface elevation below which the
reservoir will not be evacuated under normal conditions.

Top of Joint Use Capacity - The reservoir water surface elevation at the top of the
reservoir capacity allocated to joint use, i.e., flood control and conservation purposes.

Total Capacity - The reservoir capacity below the highest of the elevations representing
(l) the top of exclusive flood control capacity, (2) the top of joint use capacity, or (3) the

top of active conservation capacity. Total capacity is used to express the total quantity of
water which can be impounded and is exclusive of surcharge capacity. Live Capacity.
That part of the total reservoir capacity which can be withdrawn by gravity. This capacity
is equal to the total capacity less the dead capacity.

Tower - A vertical structure upstream from a dam designed to control flow of reservoir
water through the dam into power generating facilities.

Trash rack - The screening facility built at the intake end of conduits or tunnels to
prevent entrance of debris.

Transpiration - Evaporation of water from the surfaces of green plants, largely through
the stomata, pore openings to the intercelluar spaces in the leaves.

Valve chamber - A chamber within a dam containing valves to control the flow of water
from a reservoir.

Valve vault - An opening excavated in bedrock at the side of a dam and containing
valves or control of flow from the reservoir.

Volume of Dam - The total space occupied by the materials forming the dam stucture
computed between abutments and from top to bottom of dam.

Water stop - A membrane placed in joints in concrete dams to prevent seepage of water.
Weir - A channel of known cross section which enables measurement of the volume of
flow of water after calibration. The top of a spillway set into a concrete dam is also
sometimes designated as a weir.

Zoned dam - An embankment dam in which materials of different properties are placed
systematically in various portions of the dam.