Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

Dam Safety: Sediments and Debris Problems

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  • Abstract


    Sedimentation of reservoirs has its negative impacts on dams, first by reducing useful storage, altering the benefit/cost ratio originally calculated for the dam, and second by reducing the damsí capacity for flood routing; increasing flooding hazards on the dam itself and for the downstream. More problems can be created by sediments and floating debris during floods on outlet structures by clogging them and thus creating dangerous situations, or damage trash screens leading to even more problems. If these debris and coarse sediments are allowed in, then they may damage dam structures such as gates, spillways intakes in addition to chutes, stilling basins and power penstocks by the mechanical abrasion impacts of such sediments on them. Frequent inspections, especially after floods must be made to ensure proper functioning of such structure and take actions for reducing the damage. In small reservoirs, dredging; although it adds to maintenance cost, may ease the problem, but in very large reservoirs, this may prove unpractical. Designers, therefore, have a duty to consider sedimentation problem seriously in the initial stages of design by: checking the anticipated accumulation of sediments, allowing enough storage free from siltation, foreseeing their negative impacts on intakes and outlet structures and taking design measures to reduce these impacts. At the same time, dam stability calculations shall have to provision for the anticipated new conditions of silting up at the face of the dam. Operators of dams, on the other hand, shall have to keep open eyes for all the negative issues created by sediments and floating debris, repairing damages caused by them and take measures to reduce their impacts in the future.

    Keywords: Sedimentation, siltation, benefit/cost ratio, flood routing, debris, trash screens, penstocks.