Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Dam Safety and Overtopping

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  • Abstract

    Overtopping is one of the most serious modes of failures for all dams causing great numbers of human fatalities and material damages. Statistics show that overtopping failures are the highest, especially for embankment dams. The main reason for this is the erroneous prediction of the inflow design discharge, which has resulted from lack of realistic flow data and imperfect hydrological procedures. Failure in most cases occurs when the inflow exceeds the spillway design capacity, but to a lesser extent from the buildup of very high wave setup and runs up. This has led to active efforts in upgrading dams for such occurrences, by either upgrading spillways, adding auxiliary spillways, increasing freeboard by either heightening the dams or the parapet walls on the crest. Advancement in predicting the safe inflow discharges are also made by adopting such procedures as the calculation of the Probable maximum flood based on predicting the Maximum Probable Precipitation or using statistical methods by treating long records of available flow data. Recently, another challenge has come up facing dam owners and builders who are represented by the climate change impacts on the hydrological cycle; this has put a new responsibility to the governments to issue new regulations and plans to mitigate these impacts reducing failure possibilities and improve dam safety against overtopping.

    Keywords: Overtopping, Inflow Design Discharge, Spillway Design Discharge, Wave Set Up, Wave Run Up, Probable Maximum Discharge, Probable Maximum Precipitation, Climate Change.