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**Flownets-11: Flow through the clay core of an earth dam.

An earth dam on a pervious but strong earth foundation has the cross-section shown in
the figure below. The core of the dam is sealed from the jointed rock foundation with a
thin layer of grout.
(a) State the function and properties of the core shell and drains;
(b) What is the function of the grout between the core and foundation? Under what
conditions is it most important?
(c) Calculate the seepage quantity per foot of length of the dam (1) through the dam, (2)
through the foundation, and 3) the total.
(d) What grading requirements should be specified for the inclined filter A?
(e) What minimum permeability k is required in the horizontal drain B to prevent
saturation from rising into the random fill zone? Give the results of k in ft/day.

Reservoir surface
inclined filter A

10 ft
H=100 ft

shell dam permeability k1= 0.001 ft/day

150 ft

horizontal drain B

H=5 ft
Note: The grain size of core = 100% passes 1”, 15% size = 1/8”, and 85% size = 0.001 in.

Foundation layer permeability k2 = 0.1 ft/day


(a) The core is used to retain water within the dam, that is, to resist seepage. The material
should be relatively impermeable (clay) and should not shrink or swell excessively.
The shell provides the structural strength to support and protect the core. The material
must be more permeable than the core material, strong and durable.

The drains are provided to reduce the pore water pressures in the foundation and in
the embankment to increase stability. The drains also remove seepage water to reduce
soil erosion. The drain material must be permeable enough to permit drainage with a
low head loss and yet fine enough to keep the adjacent soil in place.

(b) The primary function of the grout between the core and foundation is to form an
impervious layer which prevents seepage along the contact surface. This becomes
most important when the ratio k2/k1 becomes large.

(c) Calculate the seepage Q by using the flow net shown in the figure.

1) Through the dam: Q = k1(∆h/L)b in ft3/day/ft where b is the normal distance

between streamlines. The flow net divides the core into 4 zones (#1 at the bottom, #4
at the top).
4 4
Q = k1 ij bj = k1 (∆h)j (b)j
j=1 j=1

In zone #1, the flow net is nearly rectangular, so (b)1 = 2; for zone # 4, (b )j = 1

The average head loss hl across the core in each zone

( ) + Zu = constant = 100’ on the upstream face
On down stream face of core ( ) = 0 is assumed in the drain,
so that ZL + hL = constant = 100’ on the downstream face

Using an average ZL for each zone by scaling,

Zone#1 ZL = 2’ hL = 98’ ∆hL = 98

6 6
Zone#2 ZL = 10’ hL = 90’ ∆hL = 90
5.5 5.5
Zone#3 ZL = 25’ hL = 75’ ∆hL = 75
4.5 4.5
Zone#4 ZL = 55’ hL = 45’ ∆hL = 45
3 3
Q1 = k1 ∆hj (b/L)j = 0.001 [98’(2) + 90’ + 75’ + 45’] = 0.081 ft3/day/ft of dam
6 5.5 4.5 3
2) Through the foundation Q2 = NF kh


where NF = number of flow paths, Nd = number of equipotential drops and

h = total head dissipated.

Q2 = 3 (0.1)(100) = 3.75 ft3 /day/ft of dam


3) The total seepage Q is therefore,

Q = Q1 + Q2 = 0.081 + 3.75 = 3.83 ft3/day /ft of dam

(d) The grading requirements for the inclined filter A,

(1) Free drainage, require D15 (filter) ≥ 4 D15 (soil)
D15 (filter) ≥ 4 (0.001 in)
≥ 0.004 in
(2) To prevent erosion of the core material requires D15 (filter) ≥ 4 D85 (soil)
≥ 4 (0.001 in)
≥ 0.004 in
So 85% of the filter material must be coarser than 0.01” to 0.2”. The filter grain size
grading curve should be parallel to or flatter than the core material grading curve. See
the graph on the next page for one possible grading curve, which gives
100% passes = 10 inch
15% passes = 2 inch
85% passes = 0.01 inch

(e) The drain B must carry the total seepage flow Q = 3.83 ft3/day/ft of dam calculated above.
The Dupuit formula for two-dimensional flow on a horizontal impervious boundary is

Q = k (h12-h22)

where Q = 3.83ft3/day/ft, L = 150 ft, h1= 5 ft and h2 < 5 ft.

At what value of h2 will it minimize k? Clearly it is when h2 = 0, although this does seem
unrealistic since we are saying that the flow at the lower end of the drain has zero depth.
Nevertheless, it gives us a minimum value, which is:

kmin = 2LQ = 2(150)(3.83) = 46 ft/day

h1 2 52

Grading Requirements for filter A


Suggested grading curve

Acceptable Range