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  • 1.  Earthem Dam Design Principles

    Posted 02-03-2022 10:07 AM
    In the design principle of earthen Dam, the filling material to be used in earth dams should be sufficiently less permeable. If the stability of the foundations and embankments is not impaired by piping, sloughing ..etc, there should be litle harm in the SEEPAGE through a flood control dam. However, the earthen dam may be failed and may need mentainance  due to SEEPAGE problem through foundation of the dam and it is challengable. Is there a low cost technique or new finding related to this issue?

    Ebissa Gadissa S.M.ASCE
    PhD Scholar
    Addis Ababa

  • 2.  RE: Earthem Dam Design Principles

    Posted 03-12-2022 01:59 PM

    Hi Ebissa! thank you for submit the issue!  We had in Brazil the case of a recent Major failure in one of this type of Structure, at cost of 270 losses, so many lives were lost!

    I would answer your question with a mix of perspectives, with unlimited point of views, and possibilities / potentials!  So a question is the Place where We are trying to built, will adapt a better Innovation? If yes, at what Impact rate for environment? Does the technology we are selecting has significant damnable cost overruns to consider in the future (long-term) and how the local community will be affected by the construction decision?

    While 21Century is demanding changes that will revolutionize the way we think. We, as Engineers...  must be open to Innovation while attending to Resilience & Sustainability purposes first, but "Always at any case/cost/life, Safety must comes F1rst!" (this is one reason why I intend to classify the use of this type of DAM as critical in my view, because if you don't integrate all technology that exist today you would search for a single composition for the DAM Construction, and you might fail!  Yes, you might not have achieved an efficient design. As I am seeing here we get some innovation along the years by comparing structures types. One of the best ways is to find this link-connection is use techniques like Performance Base-Design (include new types of DAM and efficient shape geometries/ pattern), Data, and combination use of A .I and Machine technologies, optimizing for the best input (this can be achieve by using ORM techniques for strategic vision).

    In this case, the best input might be change the Type of DAM you are designing (data), although if is not possible wise choice to be made available you can begin to question Why!, we want to start to think in DAMs if they are really necessary, but for bigger areas? and When it has to cover a large area, we must pay even more attention, is this type of DAM Safe?

    Since I have done a quickly research & I could discover that Overall DAM's Design relies at the base of critical levels (Journal of Hydrology X – Vol 3, April 2019, 100026):


    "Because 40% of dam failures worldwide are estimated to fail due of foundation conditions (ICOLD, 1973) and with an estimated 20,000 lives lost due to major dam failures during 20th century (Jansen, 1980), the consequences of large dam failure are high"

    • One of the investigation reports on past failures of earthen dams states that 40% failures were due to hydraulic failures and 30% each due to seepage and structural failures.

      According to the graph & info, the most costly technology is the Earthfill and Rockfill types! And the uncertain increases as the SIZE of DAM increases! Imaginable as in contrast! we can analyze the Arched DAM (a mixed material of concrete makes the DAM far eligible type that has more resilience, at a lower cost!! This represents to be a great innovation) This gives one simple & elegant abductive logic response: Where to build a DAM? Should we limit the Height of Dams? Why not reduce its volume too, so the environmental impact?   Thank you.

      Ebissa. . . Let me explain if it is the case - About the cost technique you want to achieve I would suggest and recommend to use this type of DAM in small areas regions. If you persist in this design, I guess that trying to incorporate some other complementary innovation will improve resilience while in its Design & Construction phase. As I said before, we had in Brazil the Brumadinho failure & destruction at cost of many lives. And we fail to provide Reliable Infrastructure for this type.  Here and Now, It's the time to stop looking for old patterns that don't work anymore! Also you would have the consequences of living with environmental issues are always visible to communities, and are at risk when unpredicted post-extension tension disaster exist (for this case). We often see Embankment DAMs at very frontline usages when Questionable Politics takes place.

      So We are starting to change the way we construct here in Brazil. . . This means that the Upstream variant of this DAM is now prohibited in Brazil! great progress I think!

      I would give you some examples of Complementary Innovation to try to enhance this type of system, of course, but it could be hard for some nations to achieve because will increase the overall cost of  the project:

      "GRT: DamSealer is a complex matrix of soluble and insoluble polymers designed to find and seal leaks from tailings and water storage dams. Through the currents caused by the leaks, the product finds problem areas sealing leaks. GRT: DamSealer is applied on the dam surface at a rate of approximately 100g per square metre." (GRT, Website 2022)

      "In Brumadinho, over the days the tailings begin to lose moisture and the fine particles are carried through the air causing dust. As explained before this dust is harmful to people's health and can further aggravate the problems of the region." (GRT, Website 2022)

      "For places such as Brumadinho, GRT: Rubble-Loc prevent from harmful dust with silica, iron or asbestos be carried by air. The range of GRT products and its various applications enable the use of technology during all the process of project, construction, maintenance and management. Furthermore, we understand that dust is not only a nuisance, but a risk to people." (GRT, Website 2022)

      "Disasters such as occurred in Brumadinho teach us that engineering needs constant innovations and structure monitoring. Often maintenance is delayed because we think that nothing bad will happen, but they occur and results in much higher costs than those periodic maintenance." (GRT, Website 2022) 

      When I think in Innovation, I am thinking about the largest cause of failure in a range of GLOBAL Dams Disasters. So If 40% of DAM is accountable being lost by Foundation causes. So I would redirect your answer to this elegant statement: What We Can Do to minimizing THIS ISSUE , and I am thinking at the following idea:   

      • I believe that Arched DAM Systems, and the very special case of Double Curvature Arch Dam could innovate if reinvented with environmental places with small river areas. "We should provided strong foundations when use this type of DAM, because is necessary" as required more concerns by this type, it is better covered (more study is also necessary). Thus this could be a the way to advance. Since in the future, we would be able to reshape the environment as well! We had already discovered the Structural Concrete technology and we can improve it by upgrading it the years to come with new matrix composites, and also machine operations by A.I!  

      Any Structure Design in a World of Climate Change is still a World of Uncertainty!!!

      In this scenario, We will have to be able to predict other uncertainties from different loads that are limited today in some prescriptive codes. (in general we have Dead Loads, Earthquake, Thermal . . . but now this Dust management… Yes and Why?)

      Yes, Dust… The post-consequence of a Disaster! Will affect lives until governments be proactive, more people will be at risk/ suffer can appear!

      *DUST This is the worst thing in Universe according to Nobel Prize Winning Astronomer Brian Schmidt, It will turn things difficult on clarify some data while searching for stellar formations. It will be almost always a limit factor when we are looking for different Structures portions in the Universe. Why it also cannot be reviewed in the CE profession, why persist the choice of the model??   

      I am sending you the links of my Sources:


    • I hope I could have contributed here and give you some insights about how Innovation can play a role in the Age of Futuristic DAM Designs, the way we use those types of structure today – might not being very Wise – especially in the case of short-term vision structures.  Andre   

    Andre Newinski S.E., A.M.ASCE
    Engenheiro Estrutural
    Santo Angelo

  • 3.  RE: Earthem Dam Design Principles

    Posted 03-13-2022 12:46 PM
    Dear Andre, Thank you very much for your recommendations and suggestions. Appreciated!

    Ebissa Gadissa S.M.ASCE
    PhD Scholar
    Addis Ababa