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Internal erosion in embankment dams

Published: 22 April 2006

Researchers: Sven Knutsson, Staffan Lundström, Hans Mattsson, Gunnar Hellström
Leader: Sven Knutsson, Staffan Lundström
Funding: SVC

Since older embankment dams have a tendency to gradually display an increased degree of leakage it is interesting to find out if this phenomenon can be captured by an inverse modelling approach. Numerical tests with a model system will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the decomposition of material in dams and enhance the knowledge about the long term effects in order to forsee potential problems in the future.These embankment dams typically consist of a central core of moraine that is surrounded by a filter, a transition layer and a fill material.

Ideally the seepage through the dam is relatively small and the effect on the dam from the flow is negligible. However, in reality there are several situations that promote a fatal failure of the dam including overtopping at high flood discharges, internal erosion and seepage problems in the embankment and the foundation. The status of embankment dams are generally examined by in-situ measurement of one or several of the following quantities: pore pressure, inclination and settlement, temperature, resistivity, self-potential, seepage rate, turbidity of the seepage water, ground penetration radar and bore hole tomography. These indirect and/or discrete methods give indication of the condition of the dam leaving the real situation for the imagination. Hence, when there are alterations to measured values great efforts are often spent on reinforcing dams in order to keep a high safety level. An increased knowledge of the composition of material in dams would enable the usage of focused measures reducing the costs and increasing the safety.

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