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Selection of Design Floods in Southeast Asia

Jian Liu*1)

The design flood criteria suitable for Southeast Asian nations are recommended
after reviewing the design criteria and guideline of China, Japan, UK, USA and
ICOLD. The project’s scale, the downstream hazard potential and dam type
should be considered when the design floods are determined. PMF as a design
flood is a suitable adoption for an embankment dam, but it is excessively
conservative for a concrete dam. As case studies, the selection of design floods
for the Kelai 2 Hydropower Project in Indonesia and the Namkok Hydropower
Project in Myanmar are discussed.

The design floods for the dams and spillways in the Southeast Asian nations are determined
on the basis of the design standards of the countries outside the region, because they do not
have their own design criteria. In most cases, the design standards and guidelines of Australia,
Canada, China, EU, Japan, Russia, USA and International Commission on Large Dams
(ICOLD) are used without any modification, though the climate conditions in the monsoon
regions are different from the countries whose criteria are used. Japan uses the maximum
value between 200-year frequency flood and maximum experienced flood as the design flood
for concrete dams and 1.2 times the relevant value for the concrete dams for embankment
dams. All the other counties and organization mentioned early use the probable maximum
flood (PMF) as the design floods for embankment dams. The design flood criteria of China,
Japan and Russia for concrete dams are lower than the standards of the English-speaking
nations that also use PMF as a design flood for concrete dams. Japan uses the lowest probable
flood as a design flood in the world, but the dam failures in Japan due to low design floods
have not occurred until the present, and this means the low design flood would not absolutely
increase the dam failure rate. Although there are a lot of arguments on PMF as a design flood
regardless of dam type, for the embankment dam, PMF would be a better choice in
consideration of the structure’s weakness and high failure rate. However, the selection of PMF
as the design flood for the concrete dams seems to be too conservative, taking the free board
effects and high safety factors of concrete dams. The overall failure rate is considered as
around 1% and the annual failure risk for any dam is about 0.00001 on average. They have
been reducing with appearance and improvement of new investigation techniques, the wide
dissemination of knowledge on risks and increase of hydrological records. Actually, the dam
failures mainly occurred before 1970, and most of them were small embankment dams built
in 1920-40s, when the hydrological data were limited and there was a lack of geological
knowledge. The failed concrete dams account for 3% of all damaged dams and almost no
concrete dams failed due to overtopping after 1970s (ICOLD, 1974; Lecornu, 1996).
In practice, different country’s consultants often select different design floods for the same
project due to a lack of the unified standards. In most of the cases, PMF is chosen as a design
flood because dam professionals do not want to be associated with dam failures which cause
death and property damage. This often results in unnecessary huge spillways and an increase
of project costs and duration. In order to find a suitable design flood criteria for the Southeast
Asian nations, most of which do not have their own dam design criteria, the design flood
standards of Great Britain, China, Japan, USA and ICOLD are reviewed and the selection of
design floods for the Kelai 2 Hydropower Project in Indonesia and the Namkok Hydropower
Project in Myanmar are discussed as case studies.

1) Department of River & Coastal Engineering, NEWJEC Inc.; email: liujn@osaka.newjec.co.jp

Design flood criteria in different countries and organizations

China has 86000 dams with a total storage capacity of 560 billion m3, and 90% of them are
embankment dams. The large dams are up to 24136 in 1999, accounting for about 50% of the
large dams in the world (Pan & He, 2000). The large dam failure rate is estimated at 0.1% and
almost all are embankment dam due to piping, overtopping, design and operation mistakes
and bad construction quality, but the damage is very serious. The most catastrophic dam
failures occurred at the Banqiao dam and Shimantan dam in the Huai River basin on August 9,
1975 in the Zhumadian Prefecture of Henan province in central China and the recent collapse
is the Gouhou dam in August 1993 in Gonghe County of Hainan Tibet Autonomous
Prefecture, Qinghai province in Northwest China. In August 1975, a typhoon passed through
the whole of the region south of the Yellow River, and this led to a set of storms, which
dropped 1005mm of water in 24hr in the Huai River basin. After the storms, the 118m
Banqiao Dam on the Ru River and the Shimantan dam on the Hong River collapsed due to
overtopping as did other 60 small dams in the Huai River basin. Eleven million people were
severely affected. The death toll estimates for these failures varied widely. Approximately
26000 deaths occurred from drowning in the immediate aftermath of the dam collapses. There
were as many as 230000 deaths if those who died of consequent health epidemics and famine
are included. Because China did not establish its criteria, the two dams were all built in 1950s
according to the former Soviet Union criteria without any modification and the check design
flood was designated as a 1000-year flood for the Banqiao dam, which was estimated at 530
mm rainfall over a three day period, and 500-year flood for the Shimantan dam, which was
estimated at 480 mm rainfall over a three day period. The Banqiao Dam was originally
designed to pass about 1742 m3/s through its sluice gates and a spillway. The storage capacity
was set at 492 million m3 with 375 million m3 of the capacity reserved for flood storage. The
Shimantan Dam had a capacity of 94.4 million m3 with 70.4 million m3 for flood storage. It
can be found that the rainfalls used for calculating the check design floods of the two dams,
which were determined on the basis of the maximum daily rainfall of 320mm are much less
than the precipitation of 1005mm recorded in 24 hours in August 1975 (Dai, 1998). After the
catastrophe, a survey of historical floods has been emphasized, and PMF or 10000-year flood
has been using the check design flood for large embankment dams, and sometimes used for
concrete dams until 1990. Since 1975, no dam has failed by overtopping because the
discharge capacities of all dam were checked and the new discharging structures for the dams
with small releasing capacities were designed and constructed according to the revised
Chinese criteria in which PMF was first used. The 71m high Gouhou concrete-faced rockfill
dam (CFRD) was built in 1989 and collapsed by piping due to bad construction quality and
design mistakes on August 27, 1993. The dam failure, which is the first CFRD breach in the
world, caused 242 people dead, 330 injured, 2,932 houses collapsed and 90 ha. farmland
inundated. The property loss is up to US$22.7 million. The dam failure investigation indicated
that the water level at the reservoir at the collapse (El. 3277.25) was 3.75m lower than the
dam crest (El.3281) and the flood was smaller than the design flood with 500-year return
period and much smaller than the check design flood with 10000-year return period (Li et al.,
1999). This dam failure resulted in that the CFRD guideline was heightened into the design
code and the construction specification on CFRD was developed.
The Chinese design flood criteria were developed in 1964, and first revised in 1978 after the
catastrophe of the Banqiao and Shimantan dam failures and secondarily revised in 1990. The
design floods for dams and other relevant structures are determined by the project rank,
structure class and dam type. The water conservancy and hydropower projects in China are
classified into five different ranks in accordance with their scales, benefits and importance in
national economy. The criteria for classifying project functions as specified in Chinese design
codes are listed in Table 1 (CEC, 2000). The various hydraulic structures of a project are
further divided into five classes based on the rank of the project in which they work and their
roles and importance in the project (Table 2). For example, the dam of a 1 GW hydropower
project that is classified as Rank 1 will be designated as a Class 1 structure, while a bridge on
an access road for the same project will be designated as a Class 3 structure, and the
cofferdams for river diversion will be set as a Class 4 structure.

Table 1 Classification of Water Conservancy and Hydropower Projects in China

Water logging Water Water
Storage Flood prevention Irrigation
control supply power
Rank of capacity of
Cities & Draining water Irrigation Installed
project reservoir Farmland Cities &
6 3 industrial 3 logged area area capacity
(10 m ) (10 ha) mines
regions (103 ha) (103 ha) (MW)
Very Very
I > 1,000 > 333 > 133.3 > 100 > 750
important important
1,000 –
II Important 333 – 67 133.3 - 40 100 - 33.3 Important 750 - 250
Moderately Moderately
III 100 – 10 67 – 20 40 - 10 33.3 - 3.3 250 - 25
important important
Less Less
IV 10 - 1.0 20 - 3.3 10 - 2.0 3.3 - 0.3 25 - 0.5
important important
V < 1.0 < 3.3 < 2.0 < 0.3 < 0.5
Notes: 1. The storage capacity of reservoir means the storage of reservoir below check flood level.
2. The irrigation and waterlogged areas refer to design areas.
3. The rank of tide prevention projects may be defined referring to the stipulations for flood
prevention. Where disasters of tide are very serious, the rank may be raised properly.
4. The importance of water supply works shall be defined in accordance with their scale, economic
and social benefits.

Table 2 Classification of hydraulic structures in China

Rank of projects Grade of permanent structures Grade of temporary
Main structures Less important one structures
I 1 3 4
II 2 3 4
III 3 4 5
IV 4 5 5
V 5 5 -
Notes: 1) Permanent structures are the structures used for operation of the project, and are divided into two
categories in accordance with their importance: Main structures that will cause a catastrophe in
downstream areas in case of failure or seriously damage the function of project, such as dams, sluices,
pump station and hydropower houses. Less important structures that will not cause a catastrophe in
downstream areas in case of failure and not cause serious influence to project benefits, such as
retaining walls, diversion walls, and bank-protection works.
2) The temporary structures are the structures used during construction, such as diversion structures,
cofferdams etc.
3) For projects of rank II to V and temporary structures, the grade of their structures may be raised or
lowered in the following situations through evaluation:
a) The location of projects is of vital importance and failure of structures may cause a serious
catastrophe. The grade of the structures may be raised by one grade.
b) Where the engineering geological conditions of the hydraulic structure are very complicated, or
new type of structures are used. The grade of the structures may be raised by one grade.
c) The grade of temporary hydraulic structures, if their failure will cause serious catastrophe or
influence seriously the construction program the grade may be raised by one or two.
d) For the projects which will not cause considerable influence after failure, the grade of their
structures may be lowered properly through evaluation.
The hydraulic structures of different classes are designed to fulfill different flood handling
requirements, load conditions, and so on. Two different conditions are usually considered,
namely: the normal operating condition (design condition) and the extraordinary operating
condition (check condition). For permanent structures defined as the ones used for operation
of the project, the design flood (normal condition) for different classes of structure is
recommended as shown in Table 3. For structures where failure would cause heavy loss of life
and property, PMF should be considered as the extraordinary operation condition (check
condition) for embankment dams, and 10000-year flood should be adopted for concrete dams
(MWREP, 1978; MWR & MOE, 1990). For less important structures, the floods to be
considered as extraordinary operation conditions are recommended as shown in Table 4. The
extraordinary operating condition (check condition) is a provision for extremely unfavorable
conditions that might occur only very rarely. In some cases the safety factor of the dam can
be reduced. For example, the height of freeboard can be reduced by 0.2 m to 0.8 m for some
classes of structure. The design flood and check design flood criteria for powerhouses and
non-damming structures are shown in Table 5, and it can be found that the values are lower
than those for damming structures because the powerhouses and non-damming structures
have less damage in the event of failure. For the powerhouse that is a portion of the damming
structure such as the Gezhouba dam on the Yangtze River, the design flood and check design
flood are selected by the standards for the dam. The design floods for temporary structures
should be adopted in accordance with Table 6, based on the characteristics of the project,
diversion scheme, construction period, utilization requirement, inundation effects and
hydrological conditions of the river. The design floods and check design floods of some
representative projects in China are shown in Table7 (Cheng, 1989).
Table 3 Design flood criteria for permanent structures
Class 1 2 3 4 5
Return period of flood 500 100 50 30 20

Table 4 Check design flood criteria for permanent structures

Class 1 2 3 4 5
Embankment dams 10,000 or PMF 2,000 1,000 500 200 Return
Concrete dams, etc. 5,000 1,000 500 200 100 period
Notes: 1) The standards of powerhouse and irrigation structures (Classes 4 and 5) may be lowered according to
actual situations.
2) For Class 1 embankment dam, PMF should be considered if its failure will cause catastrophe in
downstream area, and for Classes 2 to 4 embankment dams, the check design floods may be raised by
one grade.
3) For concrete dams that cause seriously damage in case of overtopping, 10000-yr flood may be
adopted as check design flood after examination and approval by competent authorities.
4) For low water head structures and the structures that do not cause seriously damage, check design
flood may be lowered by one grade after examination and approval by competent authorities.

Table 5 Design flood and Check design flood criteria for powerhouse and non-damming structures
Class 1 2 3 4 5
Design flood 100 50 30 20 10 Return
Check design flood 1,000 500 200 100 50 period

Table 6 Design flood criteria for temporary structures

Type of structure 2 3 4 5 Class
Embankment >50 50-30 30-20 20-10 Return
Concrete and Masonry >20 20-10 10-5 5-3 period
Table 7 Design flood and check design floods of representative hydropower projects in China
Projects Drainage Max. recorded flood Max. Historic flood Design flood & Check flood &
Area probability (P) probability (P)
km2 m3/s Date m3/s Date m3/s P (%) m3/s P (%)
Three Gorges 1,000,000 71,100 1896 110,000 1870 98,800 0.1 120,000 0.01
Gezhouba 1,000,000 71,100 1896 110,000 1870 86,000 - 110,000 1.0
Sanmenxia 688,399 22,000 1933 36,000 1843 36,000 0.1 - -
Xiaolangdi 694,155 22,000 1933 36,000 1843 40,000 0.1 52,300 0.01
Liujiaxia 181,766 5,640 1946 7,500 1940 8,860 0.1 10,800 0.01
Dahua 112,200 18,700 1968 21,800 1872 23,200 1.0 31,000 0.1
Danjiangkou 95,200 50,000 1935 61,000 1583 64,900 0.1 82,300 0.01
Wujiangxi 83,800 30,500 1935 41,700 1766 57,700 0.1 69,300 0.01
Fengman 42,500 19,600 1953 15,300 1856 28,000 0.1 36,200 0.01
Panjiakou 33,700 18,800 1962 24,400 1883 40,400 0.1 63,000 PMF
Wujiangdu 27,800 11,400 1964 15,000 18?? 19,200 0.2 24,400 0.02
Beishan 19,000 11,800 1960 - - 17,600 0.2 24,200 0.02
Fengtan 17,500 16,900 1963 17,900 1927 20,400 0.1 26,600 0.01
Xin’anjiang 10,422 20,000 1942 22,900 1682 27,600 0.1 41,280 0.01
Fengshuba 5,150 7,660 1935 - - 11,100 0.1 13,200 0.02
Niululin 1,236 4,420 1950 - - 8,600 1.0 11,400 0.1

In Japan, the inflow design floods for dams are stipulated in the Structural Standards for River
Protective Facilities (Cabinet Order), which was drawn up on the basis of River Law.
According to the standards, when the dam is constructed or reconstructed, the inflow design
floods for a concrete dam must be taken on the largest value among the following three
discharges: (1) 200-year flood at the damsite; (2) maximum experienced flood discharge at
the damsite and (3) maximum flood discharge that can be expected at the damsite based on
the maximum experienced flood discharge in the basins with similar hydrological conditions
or climate. For an embankment dam, the design flood should be specified to be 1.2 times of
the relevant values for a concrete dam (JICE, 2000). The return period of the design flood for
an embankment dam is actually equivalent to 1000 years or more.

United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, dam safety is entrusted to individual members of a statutory panel of
engineers determined by the government to be qualified to design and inspect impoundments.
The panel engineer is personally responsible for the safety of the dam he is hired to supervise,
and no mandatory standards are imposed by the government. The design floods are generally
determined by the guidelines published by the Institution of Civil Engineers, London in 1978.
Depending on the categorization (e.g. Categories A, B, C and D), the relevant design floods
are selected from PMF, 0.5PMF, 0.3PMF, 0.2PMF and/or the flood with a recurrence interval
of 10000, 1000, 150 years respectively (Table 8).

In most cases, the design floods in USA are PMF. In case of adoption of an inflow design
flood less than PMF, the owner, agency, or organization in charge of construction of the
project would be responsible for a dam break. Therefore, most engineers do not want any
level of risk. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recommended that the design floods
should be adopted by the height of a dam and storage impounded and, also, by hazard
potentials in the downstream areas in the event of a failure of the dam. The US Bureau of
Reclamation (USBR) uses the inflow design flood, which is PMF in most instances, as the
design flood. The design flood criteria of USACE and USBR are shown in Tables 9 and 10
(Committee on Safety Criteria for Dams, 1985).
Table 8 Reservoir flood and wave standards by dam category, United Kingdom (ICE, 1978)
Category Initial reservoir Dam design flood inflow Concurrent wind speed and
condition General standard Minimum standard if minimum wave surcharge
rare overtopping is allowance
A Spilling PMF 0.5PMF or 10000-yr Winter: maximum hourly wind
Long-term flood (take larger) once in 10yr
average daily Summer: average annual
inflow maximum hourly wind
B Just full (i.e. 0.5PMF or 0.3PMF or 1000-yr Wave surcharge allowance not
no spill) 10000-yr flood flood (take larger) less than 0.6m
(take larger)
C Just full (i.e. 0.3PMF or 0.2PMF or 150-yr Average annual maximum
no spill) 1000-yr flood flood (take larger) hourly wind
(take larger) Wave surcharge allowance not
less than 0.4m
D Spilling 0.2PMF or 150-yr Not applicable Average annual maximum
Long-term flood hourly wind
average daily Wave surcharge allowance not
inflow less than 0.3m
Notes: 1) Category A= reservoirs where a breach will endanger lives in a community; Category B= reservoirs
where a breach (i) may endanger lives not in a community (ii) will results in extensive damage; Category C=
reservoirs where a breach will pose negligible risk to life and cause limited damage; and Category D= special
cases where no loss of life can be foreseen as a results of a breach and very limited additional flood damage
will be caused. 2) For the reservoirs with Categories B and C, alternative standards of the dam design flood
inflow, if economic study is warranted, are the flood with probability that minimizes spillway plus damage
costs, inflow not to be less than minimum standard but may exceed general standard. 3) Where reservoir control
procedure requires and discharge capacities permit, operation at or below specified levels defined throughout
the year that may be adopted providing they are specified in the certificates or reports for the dam. Where a
proportion of PMF is specified, it is intended that the PMF hydrograph should be computed and then all
ordinates be multiplied by 0.5, 0.3, or 0.2 as indicated.

Table 9 Design flood criteria of the US Army Corps of Engineers

Size classification
Category Reservoir capacity (hm3) Height of dam (m)
Small From 0.62 to 1.23 From 7.6 to 12.2
Intermediate From 1.23 to 61.5 From 12.2 to 30.5
Large ≧61.5 ≧30.5
Hazard potential classification
Category Loss of life (extent of development) Economic loss
Low None expected (no permanent structures for Minimal (undeveloped to occasional
human habitation) structures or agriculture)
Significant Few (no urban developments and no more than Appreciate (notable agriculture, industry or
a small number of inhabitable structures) structures)
High More than few Excessive (extensive community, industry
or agriculture)
Recommended safety standards
Hazard Size Safety standard
Low Small 50-yr to 100yr frequency
Intermediate 100-yr to 1/2 PMF
Large 1/2 PMF to PMF
Significant Small 100-yr to 1/2 PMF
Intermediate 1/2 PMF to PMF
Large PMF
High Small 1/2 PMF to PMF
Intermediate PMF
Large PMF
Table 10 Design flood criteria of US Bureau of Reclamation
Hazard Size Safety standard
High Small PMF
Intermediate PMF
Large PMF
Notes: Design floods for dams with significant and low hazard
potential are not specifically defined.

As a general rule, ICOLD recommends that design floods shall be PMF (Table 11) and the
capacity of gated spillways shall be sufficient to discharge the full design flood without taking
into account the dampening effect resulting from flood routing through the reservoir. But for
the ungated spillway of a flood control dam, the retention effects may be considered when
calculating the design outflow flood (ICOLD, 1984; ICOLD, 1992).

Table 11 Design flood guidelines of ICOLD

Hazard Size Safety standard
High Small -
Intermediate PMF
Large PMF
Significant Small -
Intermediate PMF
Large PMF

Case study

Namkok hydropower project in Myanmar

The Namkok hydropower project on the Namkok River, a tributary of the Mekong River is
located in the famous Golden Triangular Area in Myanmar. The damsite is at Hwai Sai Lone
village, Shan state near the border between Myanmar and Thailand. In order to reduce poverty
in the area and promote access to electricity, the Myanmar government and the consortium
that consists of the corporations from Thailand and Japan signed an agreement on the
development of the Namkok project by BOT in 1990s. This project is also the first BOT
hydropower project in Myanmar. The Developer is responsible for the project’s investigation,
design, construction and operation. The consultants from Japan, United Kingdom and
Thailand carried out the feasibility study on this project. The main parameters related to the
design flood are shown in Table 12, and PMP and the probable flood discharges for different
return periods are listed in Table 13. In order to select a suitable design flood for the project,
the Engineer reviewed the criteria of Japan, China, UK and USACE because Myanmar and
Thailand did not have their own design flood criteria. The Engineer recommended the
10000-year flood or PMF of 1550m3/s be the design flood in consideration of the special
conditions of the project (e.g. bad security situation in the project area and minimization of
the influence of the dam failure to the downstream area). The PMF of 1550m3/s was obtained
by the Tank model on the basis of the measured flood data and the probable maximum
precipitation (PMP) in the reservoir area. The parameters of the Tank model were verified by
the measured discharges at the Ban Tha Ton gauging station and the recorded rainfalls for
about 30 years. The figure of 1550m3/s is smaller than the PMF of 3000m3/s, obtained by the
Creager Curve in Thailand during the pre-feasibility study. The larger PMF was finally
determined as the design flood by the Developer from the safest point of view. Moreover, if
the criteria of China or UK were adopted, the relevant design flood would be 980m3/s or
1200m3/s, as shown in Table 14 (NEWJEC et al., 1998). This indicates different criteria and
calculated methods for PMF would give different design floods and during the selection of a
design flood, a lot of people prefer to take larger figures to avoid any risk.

Table 12 Main characteristics of Namkok Hydropower Project

Item Description
River Namkok River
Damsite Hwai Sai Lone, Shan state, Myanmar
Catchment area at damsite 2953km2
Annual average rainfall 1572mm
Average discharge at damsite 68.5m3/s
Nearest discharge station Ban Tha Ton, Chang Rai, Thailand (CA=2980km2)
Inflow design flood (PMF) 3000m3/s
Ungated spillway capacity 2700m3/s
(120m wide×5m high)
Reservoir storage capacity 355 million m3 (active); 730million m3 (gross)
Type of dam RCC
Length of dam crest 538m
Elevation of dam crest El. 535m (Non-overflow portion)
El. 530m (Overflow portion)
Height of dam 63m
Flood water level (at PMF) El. 534.99m
High water level El. 530m
Low water level El. 518m
Installed capacity 55MW

Table 13 Probable basin rainfalls and floods at Namkok damsite

Return period (yr) 3-day basin Rainfall Discharge by recorded data Discharge calculated by Tank
(mm) (m3/s) Model (m3/s)
50 161 689 770
100 168 755 804
200 175 820 839
500 185 906 884
1000 192 971 914
10000 216 1187 1023
PMF 328 (PMP) - 1522
Maximum record 551 on Aug.25, 1972
PMF during pre-feasibility study obtained by Creager Curve in Thailand 3000

Table 14 Determination of a design flood for Namkok project

Criteria Return period Discharge (m3/s) Remarks
Japan 200yr 820
China 1000yr 980 Check flood
UK 0.5PMF/10000yr 1200 Recommended by the
Design flood 3000 Determined by the

Kelai 2 Hydroelectric Power Project

The Kelai 2 hydroelectric Power Project on the Kelai River is located in East Kalimantan
province, Indonesia. The average annual rainfall over the project area of 4478km2 is about
2800mm, and the average annual discharge at the damsite is 259m3/s. The height of the
embankment dam is 65m and the gross reservoir storage capacity is 1175 million m3. The
main parameters of the Kelai 2 project are shown in Table 15, and the PMP and PMF are
listed in Table 16. Because there are not design flood criteria in Indonesia, the PMF calculated
on the PMP with a 3-day duration was selected as the design flood for the spillway according
to the criteria of USBR and USACE, taking the Monsoon climate and weakness of the
embankment structure into account (JICA, 1998). It should be noted that the peak value of the
PMF was obtained from the ECAFE Curve developed by the United Nations in1970s for
Southeast Asia, because the peak discharges at the gauging stations were not recorded.

Table 15 Salient features of Kelai 2 project

Item Description
River Kelai River
Damsite Muaralasan, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia
Catchment area at damsite 4478km2
Annual average rainfall 2800mm
Average discharge at damsite 259m3/s
Nearest discharge station Lesan Dayak (CA=4542km2)
Inflow design flood (PMF) 6200m3/s
Gated spillway capacity 4400m3/s
(four bays, each 12m wide×12m high)
Reservoir storage capacity 1175 million m3 (gross); 567million m3 (active)
Type of dam Zoned rockfill dam will center core
Length of dam crest 55.5m
Elevation of dam crest El. 90m
Height of dam 65m
Flood water level (at PMF) El. 87.8m
High water level El. 85.0m
Low water level El. 72.5m
Installed capacity 115MW

Table 16 Probable basin rainfalls and floods at Kelai 2 project site

Return period (yr) 1-day basin rainfall (mm) Daily discharge (m3/s) Remarks
50 80 1574
100 87 1715
200 93 1835
500 101 1996
1000 108 2140
10000 129 2578 (peak=3083)
PMF (1day) 228 (PMP) 4641 (peak=5550)
PMF (2day) 274 (PMP) 5158 (peak=6169)
PMF (3day) 291 (PMP) 5217 (peak=6200) Design flood

The design flood criteria and guidelines of China, Japan, UK, USA and ICOLD are reviewed
and almost all counties and organizations except Japan have similar design flood criteria for
embankment dams. The criteria for concrete dams are different and the criteria of Japan and
China are generally are not so stringent as compared with those of UK, USA and ICOLD in
which the dam type is not taken as a classification factor. In spite of the failure rate of
concrete dams being much less than that of embankment dams, the criteria of China and Japan
in which the dams are classified into concrete and embankment dams seem to be more
reasonable. From a safety point of view, PMF as a design flood is a suitable adoption for an
embankment dam, but it is excessively conservative for a concrete dam. From a conservative
point of view, the US criteria and ICOLD guidelines for embankment dams would be suitable
for determination of the design floods in the Southeast Asian Nations. For concrete dams, the
Chinese and UK standards would be better from an economic, hydrological, geographical and
technical point of view. The Chinese criteria are especially recommended in consideration of
Southeast Asia and South China having similar meteorological and geological conditions.
The selection of design floods for the Kelai 2 Hydropower Project in Indonesia and the
Namkok Hydropower Project in Myanmar are discussed, and PMF was adopted as the design
floods for the two projects. For the Namkok project, PMF is too conservative and should be
reevaluated during the detail design phase. However, it is a suitable choice for the Kelai 2
project, though the value of PMF should be checked after the measured peak discharges are

The author is grateful to Professor Ellis of Sonoda Women’s University for reviewing this

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