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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

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the water head behind, the pressure from the water
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towards the dam materials, the neighboring geology as
well as from the size of the reservoir. These features are
unique in the case of dam structures.

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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

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Common Causes of Failures

of Dam Structures
The most common reason behind the failure of dam
structures from the review taken from past studies is
overtopping. The overtopping is caused either due to
overtopping, which is something concerned with the
design of the spillway. Common Causes of
Failures of Dam

Overtopping is a major failure that is created due to

heavy floods. There are two main factors that cause the Common Causes of
overtopping failure. One is the continuous flow that is Failure of Bridge
created due to surface elevation that will exceed the Structures
complete structural elevation profile.

The second main reason is the over wash from the

waves, where the surface of the water stays below the
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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

structure elevation profile. Most of the embankment dams

does not have much withstanding power towards the
overtopping effect. But the concrete dams will withstand
this to certain level as they have strong rock foundation.

Measurement of
Plinth Area and
Carpet Area of a

Fig.2. Failure of Dam due to Overtopping

Many other causes of dam failures are mentioned


1. Water Breaching
2. The foundation of the dam is inadequate
3. Piping causes erosion of the foundation
4. Subsidence and the movement of the foundation
Coefficients for
5. Uplift from the ground and sliding of the structure Various
6. Variation in temperature unequally throughout the Construction Works
dam structure
7. Water breaching issues
8. Dynamite blasting in the nearby areas causing
vibration to the dam structure
9. Seismic load action
10. Wave action on the structure and weak energy
absorption characteristics of the structure
11. Higher amount of silting causing greater loads that
Terms Used in
expected during the design of the dam.
Plane Table
12. The concrete and nearby rock or the soil surface
loosing shear capacity.

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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

Causes of Failures of Earth Dam

In the case of earth dam, the unique feature is that the
material used for the structure is made from earth
materials or the rocks that is nearby the site. This makes
the structure to be heterogeneous in nature that it shows Types of Arches
different properties for different conditions of moisture as Construction based
well as internal pore pressures. This material will bring on Shape, Material,
variations in the physical properties like density, shear Workmanship
strength and permeability.

Other primary phenomena that will create failures for

the earthen dam structures are:

1. Inadequate spillways constructed causing

overtopping issues
2. Piping erosion
3. Failure of the structure along the outlet pipes Common Causes of
4. Animals creating undermining issues on the
Failure of Bridge
5. The water will cause the clay blanket to swell. The
water pressure will force the front wall of the structure
6. Puddle core settlement
7. Drainage and saturation of the drainage
8. Shrinkage in clay caused from droughts
9. Compaction not up to the desired level
10. Breach formed at the intake device
11. Slip of the upstream slope and use of material that is
unsuitable Gabion Wall Design
12. Upstream clay face subjected to sloughing – Materials and
13. The clay blanket will be subjected to swelling due to Applications of
the water. This is then forced on to the front wall. Gabion Wall
14. Slope instability creating rapid draw down and slide

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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

Causes of Failures of Gravity Dam

Another type of dams are the gravity dams which are
constructed from concrete and masonry. The major
causes of failures of gravity dam structures are:
1. Erosion of soil near to the foundation causing CHECKS IN
2. Construction joints undergoing failure
3. The quality of the material used is very poor
4. The degradation of the material due to excessive
5. Rock foundation subjected to horizontal shear.
6. The footing constructed found to be too shallow in
nature. This creates scour or blowout of the

Causes of Failures in Arch Dam Seismic Design of

Structures Earth-Retaining
Structures and
Another type of dam is the arch dam. This dam differs
from other dams in terms of in plane stresses existing
and the thrust. These factors are employed for the design
of the structure in large extend. These factors are
completely dependent on the soil and the conditions of
the rock.

Other major reasons causing failure in arch dams


1. The structure lacks the ability to adjust with the

existence of the slip plane. This instability of the
structure may not be identified in the soil
2. Penstock vibration resulting in cracks on the

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2/8/2018 Common Causes of Failures of Dam Structures

3. Inadequate grouting action of the contraction joints

causing cracks in the structure.

Causes of Failures in Buttress Dam

Another type of dam is the buttress dam. This dam is
unique in the case that the horizontal forces are
transferred to the rock foundation. This is carried out by
means of a vertical component of the water pressure.
This is the force that is analyzed for the sliding and
overturning failure of the dam structure. The main
reasons behind the damage of these structures are:

1. Alternate freeze and thaw cycles undergone by the

abutments will cause frost damage.
2. Masonry bases that are constructed poorly for
multiple set of concrete dams causing failure of the
concrete masonry joints
3. Abutments subjected to cracking
4. Permeability in concrete or formation of porous

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