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An embankment dam is a massive artificial water barrier. It is typically created by the emplacement and compaction of a complex semiplastic mound of various compositions of soil, sand, clay and/or rock. It has a semi-permanent waterproof natural covering for its surface, and a dense, waterproof core. This makes such a dam impervious to surface or seepage erosion.



Earth-filled Dam Rock-filled Dam

Earth-Filled Dam (terrain dam)

are constructed as a simple embankment of well compacted earth. A homogeneous rolled-earth dam is entirely constructed of one type of material but may contain a drain layer to collect seep water.

Rock-Filled Dam

are embankments of compacted freedraining granular earth with an impervious zone. The earth utilized often contains a large percentage of large particles hence the term rock-fill.

Phases of Construction


4. 5.

Evaluation of plans, specifications, basic requirement, and features of the site. Planning and scheduling of the job Making the site ready Building up the structure Clean Up

Design of Earth-fill dams


design of an earth-fill dam consists in developing a fill of sufficiently low permeability for the intended purpose out of available materials at minimum cost.

Elements of Earth-filled Dams

Height of dam required height must be form the foundation to the water surface in the reservoir when the spillway is discharging at design capacity, plus a freeboard allowance for wind setup, waves, frost action, and earthquake motions. 2. Top width the top width of an earth dam should be sufficient to keep the phreatic line, or upper surface of seepage, within the dam when the reservoir is full. Usually 10 ft (3m) for maintenance. 3. Seepage - No earth-fill dam can be considered impervious, and some seepage through the dam and its

Elements of Earth-filled Dams

Pore pressure a soil mass is composed of solid particles and void spaces filled with water and air. The air-water mixture in the voids creates a pore pressure that reduces the contact pressure between soil particles. 5. Slope Stability - If the forces available to resist movement are greater than the forces driving movement, the slope is considered stable. A factor of safety is calculated by dividing the forces resisting movement by the forces driving movement. 6. Slope protection the upstream slope of an earth-fill dam should be protected against wave action by a cover or riprap or concrete.

The reason for such wide spread use of earthfill dams are:
1. 2.


The foundation requirements are not as rigorous as other dams Local available soil is the main construction material High skill not required No special plants are required. Most earth-moving machines can be used

Design of Rock-fill Dams

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.

Advantages of Rock fill 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.

The rock fill dam consists of a number of components:

The main rock fill - provides the structural support for the dam by its weight and internal stability. 2. 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 rock fill. 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 3. Auxiliary supporting members - help to sustain the membrane or parts of the main rock fill. These components are similar to the shell, core, and appurtenances of the earth-fill dam and are analyzed in a similar way.

Failures, Safety, and Rehabilitations of Dams

3 major reasons on Dam Failure:

2. 3.

Inadequate spillway that results in overtopping dams Foundation failure due to seepage rates Improper protection against wave action, improper design or construction leading to stability failure


The best way to assure safety of a dam is through proper design and construction and the use of sound materials. In addition, surveillance and monitoring of dams is important. All dams ought to be inspected every few years.

Rehabilitation of Dams

If inspection of a dam indicates possible problems, remedial action should be taken at once. For example, excess seepage through an embankment can be remedied by installation of an impervious blanket on the upstream face of the dam.