Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Dam Safety and Earthquakes

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  • Abstract

    Earthquakes may cause failure or profound damage for dams. Factors contributing to this are, magnitude on the Richter scale, peak horizontal and vertical accelerations, time duration, in addition to the epicentral distance, nature of foundation rock, criteria of the design, and finally, if appropriate type of dam and materials has been used.  Extensive lists of dam failures and damaged once are presented with many case histories. Most failed dams were tailing dams or hydraulic fill dams or small earth fill dams, which reflect the weight of the design and construction factors. Embankment dams, normally, are less tolerant to ground shacking than concrete dams. While rockfill and RCC dams have shown good performance. The developments of design methods and criteria are traced here, from the early use of the pseudoptotic method to the more rational dynamic analysis, which is used nowadays making construction of very large safe dams in seismic regions possible. The method adopts peak ground accelerations from anticipated earthquakes as inputs to the analysis which produce a full spectrum of the factor of safety during any considered event. This has led to increased use of seismic instrumentation to produce seismographs of actual events in the free field, and on dams hit by earthquakes for comparison with outputs of this analysis and for future use for similar dams in similar circumstances, and to decide on rehabilitation measures. The safety levels to which any dam is to be designed are defined in terms of the Maximum Credible Earthquake, Safety Evaluation Earthquake, Maximum Design Earthquake and other similar terms. Dam repairs after sustaining earthquake damages are described in real cases and upgrading of older dams to withstand higher expected seismic events are also treated here and supported by case histories.

    Keywords: Earthquakes, Seismicity, Epicentral Distance, Focal Distance, Peak Horizontal Acceleration, Pseudo-static Analysis, Dynamic Analysis, Maximum Credible Earthquake, Safety Evaluation Earthquake, Maximum Design Earthquake.