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Rock-filled Dams


FIG 1: Typical characteristics of a rock-filled dam centrally located core

(http://aitech.ac.jp/~narita/tembankmentdam1.pdf - accessed 2015/03/19)

FIG 2: Rock-filled dam specifications

1.0 Specifics:
1. The height of the dam is the greater of the following
(a) The height from the natural bed of the stream at the downstream
edge of the dam wall to the top of the dam, or
(b)The height from the lowest elevation of the outside limit of the dam
to the top of the dam (top of the dam means the uppermost part of
the dam excluding any settlement chamber or structures as
parapets and guard rails that are part of the main water retaining
2. The cut-off trench is required to be taken down a minimum of 600mm
into impervious solid and backfilled with good quality clay that is
thoroughly compacted.

3. A crest settlement allowance for the total length of the crest of 5% of

embankment height is required unless otherwise recommended.
2.0 Design stability considerations and failures
2.1 Stability requirements:
Stability against failure of embankment evaluation of pore-water
pressure during and after construction)
Shear strength and deformation characteristic of fill materials
Seismic stability
Stability at the contact face of dam body and base of foundation
(contact clay, compaction relative displacement, arching,
2.2 Seepage through embankment and foundation
Seepage analysis (discharge, pore-water pressure, leakage
through foundation critical velocity, critical hydraulic gradient,
hydraulic fracture
2.3 Foundation treatment
Stability (counterweight fill, relief well)
Seepage (drainage facilities, grouting, blanket)


3.1 Alignment
Axes of embankments that are long with respect to their heights may
be straight or of the most economical alignment fitting the topography and
foundation conditions. Sharp changes in alignment should be avoided
because downstream deformation at these locations would tend to produce
tension zones which could cause concentration of seepage and possibly
cracking and internal erosion.
The axes of high dams in narrow, steep-sided valleys should be curved
upstream so that downstream deflection under water loads will tend to
compress the impervious zones longitudinally, providing additional protection
against the formation of transverse cracks in the impervious zones. The
radius of curvature forming the upstream arching of the dam in narrow
valleys generally ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 ft.

3.2 Embankment
Embankment sections adjacent to abutments may be flared to increase
stability of sections founded on weak soils. Also, by flaring the core, a longer
seepage path is developed beneath and around the embankment.
3.3 Top width (crest)
The top width of the dam within the specified conventional limits has little
effect on stability and is governed by whatever functional purpose the top of
the dam must serve. The minimum width should be between 25ft and 40ft. if
the top is to carry a roadway, road shoulders must be considered in its
conformation design.

3.4 Core
The main body of the dam (the core) should have structural resistance
against failure, consisting of rock-fill shell and transition zones core and
facing have a role to minimize leakage through embankment. A filter zone
should be provided in any type of rock-fill dams to prevent loss of soul
particles by erosion due to seepage flow through embankment. The core is
separated from the rock shells by a series of transition zones built of properly
graded material.
A membrane of concrete, asphalt, or steel plate on the upstream face
should be considered, in lieu of an impervious earth core only when sufficient
impervious material is not available. NOTE: This means that if the core is not
impervious to water, then the upstream face of the rock-fill dam itself should
be impervious.

3.5 Rock fill

Rock-fill dams are made up mainly from dumped and compacted rockfill, help together in a closed or stable system usually mesh baskets and
more lately, geofabrics. Rock filled zones are compacted in layers of 12 or 24
inches thick, by heavy rubber-tired or steel-wheel vibratory rollers. Materials
range from sound free draining rock to the more friable materials such as
sand stones and silt-shale that break down under handling and compacting
to form an impervious to semi-impervious mass. They are often termed
random rock and can be used successfully for dam construction but because

of stability and seepage considerations, the embankment design using such

materials is similar to that of earth dams.
Materials used for the cover (impervious cover, with reference to nonimpervious core), include reinforced concrete and asphaltic concrete as
mentioned before.

FIG 3: reinforced concrete cover on upstream face of dam (Quoich Dam http://www.britishdams.org/images/quoich_face.jpg accessed 2015/03/17)

3.6 Freeboard
a. Vertical distance: Freeboard is the vertical distance from the top of the
embankment to the level of the spillway. Adequate depth must be
Freeboard must not be less than the dimensions specified initially. The
absolute minimum is 500mm, with an additional 250mm to cater for any
form of wave action.
Note: protection from wave action additional height required is given
by the formula:
Hawksleys formula:

H=0.0135( F )0.5

Where H is the wave height in meters, and F is the fetch distance

over the longest exposed water surface expressed in meters.
b. Elevation: In seismic zones, the elevation of the top of the dam should
be the maximum determined by either maximum water surface plus

conventional freeboard or flood control plus 3% of the height of the

dam above stream bed.

3.7 Spillway (stream return)

Consider open crest (ogee) spillway: The purpose of the spillway is to pass
flood flows without overtopping the dam wall. Particular attention must be
aid to providing adequate width and depth (or free board) of the spillway. The
following guidelines apply to spillways:
1. The absolute minimum width of the spillway is three (3) meters
2. The spillway should be cut in solid material (preferably rock) that will
resist erosion. The stream return should be channelled back to the
original watercourse and stabilised with a suitable sized riprap
consisting of rock or other materials such as geofabric.
3. Specific engineering advice must be sought before changing or
modifying or obstructing a spillway in any manner.
3.8 Abutments

Works Cited
2014. About dams. Accessed 3 17, 2015.
Corps, US Arm. 2004. "Engineers Manuals ." publications.usace. Jul 30. Accessed 3
17, 2015.
Tasmania. 2008. "Guidelines for construction of Embankment dams ."
dpipwe.tas.gov.au. Accessed 3 17, 2015.
n.d. Types of earth embankment Dams. SJ. Accessed 3 19, 2015.