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Hydropower canal geomembrane liner

analytical techniques
J.P. Giroud1, Neil Jacka2, Christopher Dann3 and Jeremy Eldridge4
1

JP GIROUD, INC., Ocean Ridge, USA


URS New Zealand Limited, Auckland, New Zealand
3
URS Australia Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Australia
4
Genesis Energy Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand

The remediation of a large hydropower canal included the lining of selected reaches of
the canal with a geomembrane to extend the life of the canal and enhance seismic
resilience. This paper presents a summary of innovative analyses performed to select
and design the geomembrane liner system. Two mechanisms that induce tensile stress
and strain in the geomembrane following the development of cracks in the supporting
subgrade resulting in the deflection of the geomembrane over the cracks under the
applied water pressure were analysed. The analysis uses the concept of co-energy, a
geomembrane property that evaluates its ability to withstand stresses and strains
together. A range of ballast configurations undertaken to assess the tension, strain and
deflection of the geomembrane while evaluating the resistance to hydrodynamic forces
and other loads were analysed. Stability analyses showed that geosynthetic
reinforcement of the ballast over the upper canal slopes was required.
Keywords: Canal, Lining, Geomembrane, Design, Seismic resilience.

Introduction
The canal
A hydropower canal in New Zealand is 25.3 km long and transfers flows from the tailrace of
one power station to the headpond of another. The canal has an invert width between
11.0 m and 11.8 m, a water depth of 5.3 m to 6.0 m and a flow capacity of 120 m3/s. The
side slopes are 1V:2H or 1V:2.5H depending on the canal reach, and the longitudinal slope
is approximately 1/8500. The canal was constructed in the mid-1970s. The canal was lined
with a silty gravel lining from glacial till deposits, which is 0.8 m thick across the invert and
3 m wide (measured horizontally) on the side slopes.

The remediation
The remediation includes lining three reaches of the canal with a geomembrane liner to
improve the overall durability and longevity of the canal, to manage deterioration of the
existing soil liner system and to enhance seismic resilience. The total length of the three
geomembrane-lined reaches is 7.155 km.

Design challenges
The main design challenges regarding the geomembrane liner were: (i) selection of the type
of geomembrane based on its ability to maintain its integrity in the event of cracks
developing in the supporting subgrade; and (ii) evaluation of the resistance of the selected
geomembrane liner to hydraulic forces induced by the canal flows.

Purpose and scope of the paper


This paper presents a summary of the analytical techniques used to address the above
design challenges. The paper describes the analyses undertaken by presenting the
methodology and the main results, without presenting the numerous equations. In the future,
other publications will provide the detailed calculations.

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

Part 1. Selection of geomembrane for spanning embankment crack


Lining selection process
The lining selection process was the result of a series of logical steps.

First, it was recognized that an additional, or supplementary, lining was needed in


selected canal reaches to address the deterioration of the original canal lining in specific
locations. In these locations the development of discrete defects in the original lining
required staunching. These defects were a result of incompatible material characteristics
between the original lining and supporting soil at these locations.

Second, a list of options for remediating the lining was reviewed and assessed on
technical merit and the ability to meet the project performance requirements. This
included all the systems and materials listed in the ICOLD (2010) Bulletin 135 and other
common systems used in canals. The assessment criteria included durability, longevity,
seismic resilience and environmental factors such as chemical stability. For instance
fresh concrete could elevate the pH of the canal water for a prolonged period, which
would be detrimental to fish in the canal.

Third, it was recognized that a geomembrane provides distinct advantages over other
lining materials (e.g., compacted clay and concrete), including the ability to deform while
maintaining its integrity, low hydraulic friction, and speed of installation.

Fourth, of the various geomembranes available, two were identified as worthy for
progressing further in the projects development: the HDPE geomembrane and the
composite PVC geomembrane. The reasons are discussed below.

Fifth, the composite PVC geomembrane was preferred to the HDPE geomembrane as a
result of the analysis presented in the first part of this paper.

Tensile properties of the candidate geomembranes


For the selection of the geomembrane liner material, two candidates were considered: a
2.5 mm thick polyvinyl chloride (PVC) geomembrane thermally bonded to a polyester
needle-punched nonwoven geotextile having a mass per unit area of 500 g/m2, herein
referred to as composite PVC geomembrane, and a 2 mm thick high density polyethylene
(HDPE) geomembrane. The tension-strain curves of these two liner materials play an
important role in the analysis. These curves are presented in Figure 1.
(Note: A tension-strain curve is used to represent the tensile behavior of a composite
geomembrane because stress cannot be defined in the case of a composite material.
Tension is force per unit width of geomembrane. Stress is tension divided by geomembrane
thickness; but this is applicable only in the case of homogeneous geomembranes, such as
HDPE geomembranes.)

Figure 1. Tension-strain
curves of the candidate
geomembranes.

IPENZ Proceedings of Technical Groups 39 (LD)

Figure 1 shows that the tension-strain curve of the HDPE geomembrane has a yield peak at
a strain of 12% to 15%. After the peak, the HDPE geomembrane strength decreases and the
strain increases to about 500% without applying any additional load. Thus, beyond the yield
peak, an HDPE geomembrane ceases to function from a mechanical standpoint (Giroud
1984). Therefore, HDPE geomembranes are typically used only where the geomembrane
strain is well below the yield strain, with a substantial factor of safety.
In contrast, Figure 1 shows that the tension-strain curve of a composite PVC geomembrane
has a peak at a strain of about 70% due to the rupture of the geotextile component of the
composite geomembrane. Beyond this peak, the PVC geomembrane component of the
composite geomembrane still maintains its integrity and the tension-strain curve of the
composite geomembrane becomes identical to the tension-strain curve of the PVC
geomembrane alone. In conclusion, after the peak at 70% strain, the PVC geomembrane
component of the composite PVC geomembrane maintains its strength characteristics.
Therefore PVC geomembranes can be used in situations where the geomembrane will
experience considerable strain.

Figure 2. First part of the


tension-strain curves of the
candidate geomembranes.
(This is essentially the left
part of Figure 1shown with
a different scale.)

Figure 2 shows the first parts of the tension-strain curves presented in Figure 1. The first part
of the tension-strain curve of the composite PVC geomembrane is linear until approximately
70% strain. The first part of the tension-strain curve of the HDPE geomembrane has the
shape of a parabola with a 3.5 power (y = x3.5 with the origin of xy axes at the yield peak)
(Giroud 1994). Only these first parts are used in the analyses presented in subsequent
sections.

Geomembrane selection criteria


A variety of geomembranes are available and many have been used in canal lining projects
internationally; and the performance of some were evaluated for the project. However, two
candidate geomembranes were selected for further consideration for the following reasons.
HDPE geomembranes are relatively inexpensive and, taking account of all applications, they
are the most widely used geomembranes. They are used in most modern waste disposal
landfills (in great part due to their excellent chemical resistance), but they are less frequently
used in hydraulic applications (where chemical resistance is not required and other
properties are less favorable). PVC geomembranes, in particular composite PVC
geomembranes, are the most frequently used geomembranes in large dams. In summary,
composite PVC geomembranes have a dominant position in highly demanding technical
hydraulic applications, while HDPE geomembranes have a dominant position in waste
disposal landfills. No other geomembranes have such dominant positions. In addition both
geomembrane materials can be demonstrated to meet the 50 year design life requirement

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

for the project. For these primary reasons HDPE and composite PVC geomembranes were
selected for further project evaluation.
The selection between HDPE geomembrane and composite PVC geomembrane was done
in part on the basis of practical considerations. The type of composite PVC geomembrane
considered for this project includes a compelling track record of 50 years of installation by
the same company on large dams and other large hydraulic structures. Other practical
considerations included: (1) HDPE geomembranes are not easy to install because high
wrinkles often occur in the geomembrane as a result of its high coefficient of thermal
expansion and its high stiffness. The development of high wrinkles makes the geomembrane
susceptible to stress concentrations and mechanical damage, both of which are detrimental
to integrity, longevity and the hydraulic performance of the canal. (2) The selection also
considered the ability of the liner material to accommodate the presence of large stones and
other irregularities in the supporting material, and to resist differential settlement at
connections with concrete structures; from this viewpoint, test results demonstrated the
superiority of the composite PVC geomembranes. (3) When HDPE geomembranes are
used, it is necessary to prepare a relatively smooth surface, which is costly and timeconsuming (an important consideration since rapid installation was required in this project).
The main factor in the selection of the geomembrane for the project was the analysis of the
ability of a geomembrane to span a crack in the supporting subgrade that might develop
while in service. In this analysis, the tension-strain curve of the geomembrane plays a key
role. From this viewpoint, there is a major difference between the HDPE geomembrane and
the composite PVC geomembrane, as illustrated in Figures 1 and 2.

Overview of the analysis of geomembrane ability to span a crack


A theoretical analysis was performed to evaluate the performance of the geomembrane in
case of development of a crack. The following sequence of events was assumed: (1) the
geomembrane is installed on a subgrade free of cracks; (2) the canal is put in service; (3)
during canal operation, a crack develops in the material underlying the geomembrane. The
analysis addresses the two mechanisms that induce tensile stress and strain in the
geomembrane: the development of the crack and the deflection of the geomembrane over
the crack under the applied water pressure.
The liner system is required to accommodate two crack widths; a serviceability crack width
of 30 mm and a maximum design crack width of 80 mm (Mejia and Dawson 2013). The
analysis demonstrates that the performance of the geomembrane and the calculated factor
of safety are dependent on the geomembranes co-energy rather than on the geomembrane
tension or geomembrane strain. The co-energy is a geomembrane property that represents
its ability to withstand stresses and strains together. The concept of co-energy is described
in a subsequent section. The resulting calculated factor of safety was found to be adequate
in the case of the considered composite PVC geomembrane but was insufficient in the case
of the HDPE geomembrane.

Main aspects of the analysis


A schematic cross section of a geomembrane located on a supporting material where cracks
develop is presented in Figure 3. The geomembrane is subjected to a pressure, p, applied
by the overlying water. When cracks develop, shear stresses are applied on the lower face
of the geomembrane on each side of the cracks being formed. These shear stresses are
transmitted from the supporting material to the geomembrane through interface friction. At
the same time, the geomembrane deflects over the cracks. As a result, the geomembrane is
subjected to tensile stresses over the cracks and over a length L on each side of a crack.
The maximum tension in the geomembrane, T c , occurs in the portion of geomembrane
located over a crack. The analysis shows that the geomembrane tension decreases linearly
over a distance L from the edge of a crack. This distance depends on the following
parameters: the interface friction between the geomembrane and the supporting material,
IPENZ Proceedings of Technical Groups 39 (LD)

the pressure applied by water on top of the geomembrane, and the tension-strain curve of
the geomembrane. The tension in the geomembrane is zero beyond the distance L from the
edge of a crack. While the tension in the geomembrane is linearly distributed over the length
L, the strain in the geomembrane is generally not linearly distributed as it is related to the
tension through the tension-strain curve, which is generally not linear. The strain in the
geomembrane is linearly distributed over the length L only if the tension-strain curve is
linear.

Figure 3. Schematic cross section of a geomembrane subjected to shear stresses due to the
formation of cracks and deflecting over the cracks due to pressure applied by water on top of
the geomembrane. (Not to scale)

The above analysis shows that the tension in the geomembrane is the result of two
mechanisms: shear stresses applied to the lower face of the geomembrane by the
supporting material during the opening of the crack; and strain of the geomembrane as it
deflects over the open crack. The two mechanisms were analyzed together, and the analysis
provides a quantification of the tension in the geomembrane, the strain in the geomembrane,
and the length, L, over which the geomembrane is subjected to tension and elongates.

Solution of the analysis


The solution of the analysis depends on the following integral:
Tc

E = dT
0

(1)

where E is the required co-energy of the geomembrane, T c is the geomembrane tension in


the portion of geomembrane that bridges the crack, is the strain in the geomembrane, and
T is the geomembrane tension. This integral is the surface between the vertical axis (i.e., the
tension axis) and the tension-strain curve from the tension zero to the tension T c (i.e., the
tension in the geomembrane over a crack, which is the maximum tension in the
geomembrane). This is the shaded area in Figure 4 (i.e., area ABC). This area is the
required co-energy (Giroud and Soderman 1995; Giroud 2005).
The analysis shows that the factor of safety is the square root of the ratio of the ultimate coenergy and the required co-energy. The ultimate co-energy is the maximum amount of coenergy associated with a given geomembrane. This is the area hatched in red in Figure 4
(i.e., area ADE, with E being the end of the portion of the tension-strain curve considered in
design). [The square root mentioned above can be briefly explained as follows: Co-energy
has the dimension of tension multiplied by strain. Therefore, if the traditional factor of safety
is defined as tension ratio or strain ratio, the co-energy factor of safety must be defined as a
square root.]

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

Figure
4. 4.
Co-energy
of of a
Figure
Co-energy
a geomembrane.
(Note:
geomembrane.
(Note:
The
energy
is the
The
energy
is the area
area
below
the
tensionbelow the tension-strain
strain curve, hence the
curve, hence the term
term co-energy for the
co-energy forarea.)
the
complementary

complementary area.)

As illustrated in Figure 4, the factor of safety (which is the square root of the ratio of the
hatched area and the shaded area, as indicated above) can be determined graphically. It
can also be determined analytically if the equation of the portion of the geomembrane
tension-strain curve used in the design is known. This is the case for the composite PVC
geomembrane (linear portion considered in design) and for the HDPE geomembrane (3.5
order parabola). Lengthy calculations are not presented here. Only results are presented.

Results of the analysis


Numerical calculations were performed for a range of values of the relevant parameters.
Thus, for each of the two geomembranes, the range of calculated factors of safety is due to
different property values considered in the calculations: i.e., different interface friction angles,
the presence or not of a seam (i.e., a joint between panels of liner, which affects the tensionstrain curve), and the geomembrane direction with respect to the crack direction (as
geomembranes are not perfectly isotropic). Regarding interface friction, the HDPE
geomembrane was assumed to be textured on both faces to ensure similar values of
interface friction angle, hence the same level of slope stability, as with the composite PVC
geomembrane. The following results were obtained:

For a crack width of 30 mm (serviceability crack width), the factor of safety is from 3.64
to 4.70 for the composite PVC geomembrane, and 1.06 to 1.45 for the HDPE
geomembrane.

For a crack width of 80 mm (maximum design crack width), the factor of safety is from
2.32 to 2.98 for the composite PVC geomembrane, and for all parameter values is below
1 for the HDPE geomembrane.

Conclusion of Part 1 geomembrane selection


The above results show that, in the conditions considered for the design of the canal
remediation project, the considered composite PVC geomembrane meets the performance
objectives and has an adequate factor of safety, whereas a typical 2 mm thick textured
HDPE geomembrane does not have a sufficient factor of safety and thus does not meet the
projects performance objectives. As a result of this analysis the composite PVC
geomembrane was selected. Therefore, the design, presented in the second part of this
paper, was progressed on the basis of the composite PVC geomembrane.

IPENZ Proceedings of Technical Groups 39 (LD)

Part 2. Design of geomembrane ballasting


Applied forces and the need for geomembrane ballasting
A geomembrane liner in a canal is exposed to hydraulic drag forces and uplift forces by the
flowing water. The project design analysis shows that the drag forces are relatively low,
whereas the risk of geomembrane uplift requires significant ballasting of the geomembrane.
Furthermore, the project required that the portion of geomembrane above water be protected
from potential mechanical damage and exposure to sunlight and atmospheric agents. To
maintain the hydraulic performance of the canal, protection and ballasting were selected
such that a significant fraction of the geomembrane remains in direct contact with water.
Several types and geometries of protection and ballasting were considered: mats of
articulated concrete blocks, cobbles, gabions, and sand-filled tubes. Numerous calculations
were performed for the evaluation of exposed geomembrane tension, strain and deflection;
required thickness or mass per unit area of ballasting materials (cobbles, articulated
concrete blocks); stability of various components of the liner system and associated ballast
(cobble zones in upper and lower parts of side slopes, mat of articulated concrete blocks);
required anchorage at the crest of geosynthetics (geomembrane; geotextile supporting the
mat of articulated concrete blocks; geogrid reinforcement used for the stability of the upper
slope ballast cobble zone), etc. A summary of the design methods used is presented in the
following sections.

Configurations considered
Several configurations were considered for the ballasting of the geomembrane, such as:

Ballasting at the invert: (i) gabions (or other longitudinal structures such as sand-filled
geosynthetic tubes) near the toes of the side slopes (Figure 5); (ii) uniform layer of
cobbles at the invert (Figure 6).

Ballasting at the lower part of the side slopes: (i) wedges of cobbles between the gabions
and the side slopes (Figure 5); (ii) cobble buttresses at toes of side slopes (Figure 6).

Ballasting at the upper part of the side slopes: (i) articulated concrete blocks of various
types attached to a geotextile anchored at the crest (Figure 5); (ii) zone of cobbles (with
uniform or non-uniform thickness) resting on a bench and reinforced or not by a geogrid
anchored at the crest (Figure 6).

Figure 5. Schematic cross section with gabions ballasting the geomembrane at the invert,
cobble wedges ballasting the geomembrane on lower parts of the side slopes, and articulated
concrete blocks ballasting the geomembrane on the upper parts of the side slopes. (Not to
scale)

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

Figure 6. Schematic cross section with cobbles ballasting the geomembrane at the invert and
on the lower and upper parts of the slopes. (Not to scale) (Note: This is the configuration that
was actually selected and that is being constructed, with the geomembrane being a composite
PVC geomembrane installed with the PVC component up.) (Note: The geotextile protection
between geomembrane and cobbles is not shown; and the geogrid used to reinforce the upper
slope ballast is not shown.)

It should be noted that the ballasting of the geomembrane in the upper part of the slope had
several functions: ballasting the geomembrane against uplift and drag forces; protecting the
geomembrane from sun-generated heat and ultraviolet radiation that accelerate
geomembrane aging; and allowing safe egress should people fall into the canal.
Several combinations of the invert and side slope ballast were considered. In all considered
configurations, the geomembrane was left exposed on a portion of the side slopes.
For all configurations, a hydrodynamic evaluation was performed to determine if the
hydraulic performance of the canal would be acceptable. Also, the resistance of cobbles to
erosion by water flowing in the canal was evaluated. These design aspects are not
discussed herein. The focus of this part of the paper is on original analyses conducted for
evaluating the geomembrane resistance to uplift and the geomembrane ballasting.

Stresses applied on the geomembrane


Water flowing in a canal applies a static pressure on the geomembrane, which tends to
stabilize the geomembrane. At the same time two actions from the flowing water tend to
displace the geomembrane: (i) the dynamic pressure tends to uplift the geomembrane; and
(ii) the shear stresses (generally referred to as hydraulic drag forces) tend to displace the
geomembrane in the direction of the flow.
Drag forces result from the friction of water on the geomembrane. This type of action is easy
to understand and calculations show the drag forces are small. Furthermore, shear stresses
due to interface friction between the geomembrane and the underlying soil are significantly
greater than the shear stresses due to flowing water. Therefore, as long as the
geomembrane is in contact with the supporting soil (i.e., as long as the geomembrane is not
uplifted by the dynamic pressure), it is not displaced by drag forces. Therefore, drag forces
are not further discussed in this paper.

Uplift of geomembrane by dynamic pressure


While drag forces are easy to understand, uplift of geomembrane by dynamic pressure of
the flowing water is a subtle mechanism that requires explanation.
If the geomembrane has no hole and the soil is not saturated under the geomembrane, the
static pressure of water applies a normal stress on the geomembrane. This normal stress,
associated with interface friction between the geomembrane and the underlying material,
prevents the geomembrane from moving.

IPENZ Proceedings of Technical Groups 39 (LD)

If the geomembrane has a hole, and if the underlying soil is not effectively drained, the static
pressure of the water is established on both sides of the geomembrane.
According to Bernoullis equation, at a given location in the canal:

V2
p +
=
constant
2

(2)

where p is the water pressure, is the water density, and V is the water velocity. The term
(V2/2) is the kinetic energy of water. This term may be converted into pressure under
certain circumstances as discussed below.
In the case of steady flow (i.e., with no liner irregularity disturbing the flow), the pressure is
the static pressure. If an obstacle tends to decrease the velocity, the pressure increases in
accordance with Equation 2. If the geomembrane has a hole, and if the soil underlying the
geomembrane is not drained, water tends to accumulate in the soil. The worst case is when
the hole faces the flow. This may happen, for example, if the hole is located in a wrinkle of
the geomembrane or if the hole is an open geomembrane seam facing the flow (a
configuration which should be avoided when possible). If all these conditions are met, the
velocity of water at the hole is abruptly decreased from V to zero. In accordance with
Equation 2, the pressure under the geomembrane is then the total pressure given by:

ptotal + 0= ptotal= p stat +

V2
2

(3)

where p stat is the static pressure in the water at the geomembrane level. The geomembrane
is then uplifted by the difference between the total pressure, which exists under the
geomembrane, and the static pressure, which exists above the geomembrane. The
difference is the dynamic pressure:

pdyn =

1
V 2
2

(4)

From a theoretical standpoint, one may consider the ideal case where the geomembrane is
perfectly flat (i.e., no wrinkles) and parallel to the flow of water. In this ideal case, the hole in
the geomembrane does not disturb the flow and does not cause any change in the velocity
of flow. Therefore, in this ideal case, the kinetic energy of water is not converted into
pressure and the pressure under the geomembrane is the static pressure, as it is above the
geomembrane. In this ideal case the only force that tends to uplift the geomembrane is the
buoyant force on the geomembrane, which is extremely small and negligible. This ideal case
is highly unlikely because geomembranes are never perfectly flat and, therefore, a hole in
the geomembrane will locally cause a drastic decrease in flow velocity, which will cause a
conversion of kinetic energy of water into dynamic pressure applied under the
geomembrane, hence geomembrane uplift.
In spite of the theoretical evidence presented above, the uplift of geomembranes by dynamic
pressure of water has sometimes been considered unlikely. However, this mechanism is real
and it has been demonstrated experimentally by model tests at the Technical University of
Munich (2005).
Since this mechanism is linked to the presence of a hole (or holes) in the geomembrane, it is
clear that portions of the geomembrane may be uplifted when others are not. Therefore, the
analysis presented herein considers cases where the entire geomembrane is uplifted as well
as cases where only certain areas of the geomembrane are uplifted, in order to determine
the worst case.
Based on the above discussions, geomembrane uplift by dynamic pressure would be
impossible with a geomembrane that has no hole. However, assuming at the design stage

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

that a geomembrane will never have a hole is unrealistic. It has been clearly established in
the 1980s (Giroud and Goldstein 1982), and it has been the state of practice since then, that,
in all applications, lined facilities should always be designed assuming there will be holes in
the geomembrane.
The above discussions also indicate that effective drainage beneath the geomembrane
would minimize the risk of uplifting. However, at the canal, the existing earth liner (which is
located beneath the geomembrane) does not have the capacity to rapidly drain potential
leakage and dissipate water pressure beneath the geomembrane. Therefore, the
geomembrane liner needs to be anchored and/or ballasted against uplift by dynamic
pressure and the exposed portion of the geomembrane has to be able to withstand stresses
generated by uplifting.

Overview of the analysis of geomembrane uplift


As indicated earlier in this paper, to minimize the impact on the canals hydraulic
performance, the geomembrane is left exposed in a part of the side slopes (Figure 6). Prior
to designing the ballasting, it was necessary to analyze the uplifting of the exposed portion of
the geomembrane by the dynamic pressure to determine: (i) the factor of safety of the
geomembrane; and (ii) the amount and direction of the geomembrane tensions that the
ballast will have to resist. The uplifting of the geomembrane is governed by the tensioned
membrane theory (Giroud 1981). This theory gives a relationship between geomembrane
tension and strain for a given dynamic pressure and a given geomembrane span (i.e., width
of exposed geomembrane). This relationship, which is independent of the tensile
characteristics of the geomembrane, is represented in Figure 7 by the uplift curve.

Figure 7. Uplift curve obtained


analytically from the dynamic
pressure and the exposed
geomembrane span; and
geomembrane tension-strain
curve obtained from test on a
geomembrane specimen.

The point that represents the geomembrane tension and strain must obviously be on the
tension-strain curve of the geomembrane. Therefore, the tension and strain of the uplifted
geomembrane must be at the intersection of the two curves, the uplift curve and the tensionstrain curve, as shown on Figure 7. The method, presented graphically in Figure 7, can be
implemented analytically if the equation of the tension-strain curve of the geomembrane is
known. This is the case with the composite PVC geomembrane adopted for the project. In
fact, with this composite geomembrane, the tension-strain curve is linear, which greatly
simplifies the calculations.
Then, there is a relationship between geomembrane strain and deflection, which depends on
the shape of the uplifted geomembrane. If the dynamic pressure is assumed to be uniformly
distributed over a certain portion of the geomembrane, this portion deflects with a circular
shape (Giroud 1981), and the relationship between geomembrane strain and deflection is
then given by a simple equation. Therefore, the shape of the uplifted geomembrane can be
determined once the geomembrane strain is known.

IPENZ Proceedings of Technical Groups 39 (LD)

10

As a result of the analysis described above, the magnitude and the direction of the tension at
the edge of the exposed geomembrane (i.e., at the edge of the ballast zone) are determined.
These two parameters are needed for the design of the ballast.

Ballast design
When the geomembrane tension at the edge of the ballast is known in magnitude and
direction, then the ballast can be designed. Ballast should be stable in case of a seismic
event and able to resist tensile forces applied by the uplifted geomembrane. However,
geomembrane uplift and seismic event were not assumed to occur at the same time.
Stability analyses conducted for all types of ballast resulted in the sizing of the ballast (e.g.,
mass per unit area of articulated concrete blocks, cross section of gabions, cross section of
cobble zones). Thus:

The articulated concrete blocks (Figure 5) had to be sufficiently heavy to resist the
maximum tensile forces that may be applied by the exposed portion of geomembrane
and sufficiently heavy to resist uplifting by dynamic pressure applied directly under the
articulated concrete block mat. The potential deformation of the articulated concrete
block mat by the uplifted geomembrane was taken into account in the analyses.

The gabions (Figure 5) were subjected to stability analyses for uplifting, sliding and
overturning.

The cobble buttresses ballasting the lower part of the side slopes (Figure 6) were
subjected to stability analyses taking into account the tensile forces exerted by the
uplifted geomembrane and the potential deformation of the buttress by these forces. A
tapered cross section was adopted to enhance stability.

The upper slope ballast cobble zone (Figure 6) stability analyses showed that
reinforcement is needed to meet the dynamic and static stability criteria for this zone
(Jacka et al. 2013). Accordingly, the upper slope ballast cobble zone was constructed on
a geogrid anchored at the crest.

All of the above ballast solutions were technically viable, but there were significant
differences in cost and constructability. For example, articulated concrete blocks require
specialized equipment imported from overseas whereas cobbles are abundant close to the
site. However, the placement of cobbles requires heavy equipment that might, if left
unprotected, damage the geomembrane. A field test was conducted to evaluate the
placement of cobbles (Eldridge et al. 2013; Jacka et al. 2013). As a result of this field test: (i)
a nonwoven geotextile protection with a mass per unit area of 2000 g/m2 was used between
the composite PVC geomembrane and the cobble layer at the invert of the canal and
between the composite PVC geomembrane and the cobble buttresses in the lower part of
the side slopes of the canal; and (ii) a nonwoven geotextile protection with a mass per unit
area of 1000 g/m2 was used between the composite PVC geomembrane and the cobbles in
the upper part of the side slopes of the canal. Another construction consideration is the size
of the toe buttresses such that they could be constructed by equipment resting on the cobble
layer at the invert. These examples show that constructability was considered throughout the
projects design phase.

Conclusion of Part 2 Ballast design


In conclusion, the cobble solution (Figure 6) was adopted based on cost, and ease and
rapidity of construction. In January-April 2013, construction of two of the three remediated
reaches has proceeded in accordance with the design and was completed ahead of
schedule. Thus, 5.73 km of the canal were lined in 12 weeks (84 days) including 66 working
days, which included approximately 14 working days for installation of cofferdams,
dewatering, re-watering and removal of cofferdams.

Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs: Needs, Benefits and Risks

11

Conclusion
The design procedure for the geomembrane liner on a large hydropower canal in New
Zealand is more sophisticated than many designs for canal liners using geomembranes. The
procedure allowed the project to differentiate between potential performance characteristics
of different geomembranes and included a detailed design of various systems for the
protection and anchorage of the geomembrane. As a result, the project objectives could be
met with confidence. This paper provides a general description of the methodology used and
subsequent publications will provide greater detail of the design procedure.

Acknowledgments
The authors are grateful to the owner of the canal for authorization and encouragement to
prepare this paper, and to D. Cazzuffi, J. Cowland, I.D. Peggs, A. Scuero, G. Vaschetti, and
J. Wilkes, for valuable comments.

References
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installation of the geomembrane liner for the Tekapo Canal Remediation Works.
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Rotorua, New Zealand.
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the NZSOLD/ANCOLD Conference: Multiple Use of Dams and Reservoirs, Rotorua, New
Zealand.
Mejia, L.; Dawson, E. 2013. Seismic evaluation of embankments for the Tekapo Canal
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