You are on page 1of 4

Classification of dams according to Size

Dams may be classified as small, medium or large as under:


USBR defined small dam as one having maximum height < 15 m (50 ft).


Intermediate sizes 40-70 ft


ICOLD defined large dam as a dam that follows one or more of following conditions. (Thomas
1976 P-0)

Dam height > 15 m (50 ft) measured from lowest portion of the general foundation area to the

A dam height 10-15 m but it compiles with at least one of the following condition:

 crest of dam longer than 500 m

 capacity of the resulting reservoir more than 1 million m3
 maximum flood discharge more than 2000 m3/s (70,000 cfs)
 dam has specially difficult foundation problems
 dam is of unusual design

Unique: Dams exceeding 100 m are considered as unique. Every aspect of its design and
construction must be treated as a problem specifically related to that particular site.
Based on the functions of dam, it can be classified as follows:

Storage dams: They are constructed to store water during the rainy season when there is a large
flow in the river. Many small dams impound the spring runoff for later use in dry summers. Storage
dams may also provide a water supply, or improved habitat for fish and wildlife. They may store
water for hydroelectric power generation, irrigation or for a flood control project. Storage dams
are the most common type of dams and in general the dam means a storage dam unless qualified

Diversion dams: A diversion dam is constructed for the purpose of diverting water of the river
into an off-taking canal (or a conduit). They provide sufficient pressure for pushing water into
ditches, canals, or other conveyance systems. Such shorter dams are used for irrigation, and for
diversion from a stream to a distant storage reservoir. A diversion dam is usually of low height
and has a small storage reservoir on its upstream. The diversion dam is a sort of storage weir which
also diverts water and has a small storage. Sometimes, the terms weirs and diversion dams are used

Detention dams: Detention dams are constructed for flood control. A detention dam retards the
flow in the river on its downstream during floods by storing some flood water. Thus the effect of
sudden floods is reduced to some extent. The water retained in the reservoir is later released
gradually at a controlled rate according to the carrying capacity of the channel downstream of the
detention dam. Thus the area downstream of the dam is protected against flood.

Debris dams: A debris dam is constructed to retain debris such as sand, gravel, and drift wood
flowing in the river with water. The water after passing over a debris dam is relatively clear.

Coffer dams: It is an enclosure constructed around the construction site to exclude water so that
the construction can be done in dry. A cofferdam is thus a temporary dam constructed for
facilitating construction. A coffer dam is usually constructed on the upstream of the main dam to
divert water into a diversion tunnel (or channel) during the construction of the dam. When the flow
in the river during construction of the dam is not much, the site is usually enclosed by the coffer
dam and pumped dry. Sometimes a coffer dam on the downstream of the dam is also required.
Classification of Dams According to Release Pattern
Storage dam:

Water is stored and later released through an outlet for consumptive or non-consumptive
purposes as per requirements.

Recharging dam:

There is no outlet provided to release water and all incoming water is retained. The water
infiltrates through the foundation and/or dam body. The main purpose of the dam is to induce
recharge to ground water system in the area. Small release in d/s channel to allow seepage in the
channel bed.

Delay action dam / retarding dam:

These dams are used to retard the peak flow of flash floods. There may or may not be any control
over the outflow. For no control over the outflow the outflow rate varies as function of storage
volume / water depth in the dam. The flood peak is thus considerably attenuated. The outlet
capacity is set that maximum outflow discharge do not exceed the safe capacity of the
downstream river during highest flood. The reservoir empties fully after the flood. For control on
outflow by gates (detention dam) , the flow is released in such a pattern to retain the water for
long time but there is enough storage available to store next flood event. These dams are usually
meant to reduce flood damages as well as to induce maximum recharge in the area. One type of
such dam is a porous dam built of a porous embankment, e.g. stone gabions.

Tailings dam:

These dams are constructed away from any river along a topographic slope by constructing small
dikes on three or all four sides to store slurry / waste of mineral mining and processing facilities.
The water evaporates or is evacuated and the solid contents dry up filling up the storage capacity.

Diversion dam:

These are hydraulic structures with a main purpose to raise water level to divert flow into the off
taking channels / canals/ hydropower pressure tunnels and penstock. These are preferably called
as barrage or canal head works. The storage created by these is minimal. E.g. Patrind Weir.

Coffer dam:

These are small temporary dams built across the river on upstream and downstream side of the
main dam in order to keep the flow away and the working area dry. The u/s coffer dam causes
the flow through the diversion system and d/s coffer dam prevents the flooding of the working
from backwater effects. After completion of the main dam the u/s coffer is usually abandoned
and drowns in the reservoir while d/s coffer dam is dismantled and removed.
According to Filling and Emptying Mode
The storage of a dam may be filled and emptied in short time (one season) or long
time (several seasons). The dams are defined as:

Seasonal: Seasonal dams are filled and then emptied within the same water year
to August). Example Tarbela dam. Thus water level in the dam varies from
(normal conservation level) to minimum (dead storage level) in most years. Such
dams have annual releases usually equal or little more than the minimum annual
For very wet or very dry years the reservoir may not reach the extreme levels. The
seasonal dams spread the water stored in wet months over to dry months in the
year thus provide service for a single season only.

Carry over: Filling and emptying of a carry-over dam reservoir continues over
more than
one year (e.g. 2 to 5 years). Example. Hub Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam. Thus water
stored in wet years may be released during subsequent dry years The annual
are usually more than minimum annual flow but equal to long term average annual
flow. Carry over dams are applicable where wide variations occur in annual flows.
Carry over dams spread storage during wet years/months over to dry years and
months and thus provide service for multiple seasons.