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Types of


The spillways can be classified into different types

based on the various criteria

Classifications based on PURPOSE

Classifications based on CONTROL

Classifications based on PROMINENT


Classifications based on PURPOSE

Main (or service) spillway
Auxiliary spillway
Emergency spillway

This are designed for frequent use in conveying
both normal and flood releases from a reservoir to the
watercourse downstream from a dam without
significant damage to the dam or dike.


Morning Glory


Service spillways from

top to bottom, Pineview
Dam, Utah; Monticello
Upper Stillwater Dam,

This are designed for infrequent use and
may sustain limited damage when used.
This are used in combination with service spillway
and sometimes also with flood outlets.
It is designed to function automatically
when required without aggravating downstream




from top to bottom,
Dam, Arizona; New

This are designed to provide a reserve
protection against overtopping of a dam
and are intended for use under extreme
conditions, such as misoperation or malfunction of
a service spillway or other emergency conditions.


Emergency spillway ,


Classifications based on CONTROL

Controlled (or gated) spillway
Uncontrolled (or ungated) spillway

These spillways enable storage to be
maximized by controlling water levels.
Generally more complex and more costly
to build and maintain than uncontrolled spillways.
It should be backed up by auxiliary spillways as the
gates may be subject to automatic operation
malfunction, human error and debris lockage

Most commonly used at small dams
because of their reliability, simplicity and ability to
pass debris and to reduce the magnitude of incoming
flood peaks, as well as being cheaper to build and

Ogee spillway
Chute (or open channel or trough) spillway
Side-channel spillway
Shaft (or morning glory) spillway
Siphon spillway
Conduit (or tunnel) spillway
Cascade spillway
Classifications based on PROMINENT

Types of







Ogee spillways are also called Overflow spillways
This type of spillway allows the passage of the flood wave
over its S-shaped crest.
Can be classified under controlled or uncontrolled.
Widely used on Gravity dams, Arch dams, and Buttress


Ogee spillways from

top to bottom, Fier
Dam, Pankshin; and
Takato Dam, Nagano




Chute spillways are common and basic in design as they
transfer excess water from behind the dam down a smooth
decline into the river below.
The spillways slope and its side are lined with concrete.
In case of having sufficient stiff foundation conditions at the
spillway location, a chute spillway may be used instead of
overflow spillway due to economic consideration





Chute spillway from

Mohale Dam, Africa;
Dam, Philippines

Side Channel
If a sufficient crest length is not available for an overflow or
chute spillway in narrow valleys, excess water is removed
from the reservoir through a side channel spillway.
The side channel through which water is discharged can also
be lined with concrete to prevent erosion and subsequent
sedimentation in dams on the course of the river.



It discharges excess water from a reservoir through a shaft
that is constructed near the crest of the Dam with height less
than that of the crest.
The shaft spillway is constructed when the other types of
spillways cannot be constructed due to a lack of space.
When the shaft is completely submerged, further increased in
head will not result in appreciable increase in discharge.
It is not suitable for large capacity and deep reservoirs
because of stability problems.



Monticello Dam, California

A siphon spillway is similar to a shaft spillway but instead is
incorporated into the dam
The presence of a siphon spillway weakens a dam at certain
points, so the dam has to be reinforced at these weak points
incurring extra cost.
Maintenance of this spillway is very difficult
Siphon spillways comprise usually of five components which
include an inlet, an upper leg, a throat or control section, a
lower leg and an outlet.

Conduit spillway or tunnel spillway is the one in which a closed
channel is used to convey the discharge around or under a
The closed channel may be in the form of a vertical or inclined
shaft, a horizontal tunnel through earth dam or a conduit
constructed with open cut and backfilled with earth materials.
These spillway are designed to flow partly full.
To ensure free flow in the tunnel, the ratio of flow area to the
total tunnel area is often limited to 75% and air vents are
provided at critical points along the tunnel or conduit to ensure
an adequate air supply which will avoid unsteady flow through
the spillway

Depending on the site conditions and hydraulic
particularities an overflow structure can be of various designs:
Frontal overflow,
Side-channel overflow, and
Shaft overflow.
Other types of structures such s labyrinth spillway use a
frontal overflow but with a crest consisting of successive
triangles or trapezoids in plan view.
Still another type is the orifice spillway in the arch dam.

Main Types of Overflow Structures

Frontal Overflow

Side Overflow

Shaft Overflow


frontal overflow

The frontal type of overflow is a standard overflow structure,

both due to simplicity and direct connection of reservoir to tailwater.
It can normally be used in both arch and gravity dams.
The frontal overflow can easily be extended with gates and
piers to regulate the reservoir level, and to improve the approach
flow to spillway.
Gated overflows of 20 m gate height and more have been
constructed, with a capacity of 200 m3 /s per unit width. Such
overflows are thus suited for medium and large dams, with large
floods to be conveyed to the tailwater.
Particular attention has to be paid to cavitation due to immense
heads that may generate pressure below the vapor pressure in the
crest domain.

Crest Shapes
Overflow structures of different shapes are:
1. Straight






Plan view

The labyrinth structure has an increased overflow capacity with

respect to the width of the structure.

Labyrinth spillway

When the flow over a structure involves curved streamlines with
the origin of curvature below the flow, the gravity component of
a fluid element is reduced by the centrifugal force.
If the curvature is sufficiently large, the internal pressure may
drop below the atmospheric pressure and even attain values
below the vapor pressure for large structures. Then
cavitation may occur with a potential cavitation damage. As
discussed, the overflow structure is very important for the
dam safety. Therefore, such conditions are unacceptable.
For medium and large overflow structures, the crest is shaped
so as to conform the lower surface of the nappe from a
sharp-crested weir.

The transverse section of an overflow structure may be

rectangular, trapezoidal, or triangular.
In order to have a symmetric downstream flow, and to
accommodate gates, the rectangular cross section is used
almost throughout.


The longitudinal section of the overflow can be made either;

Circular crested, or
Standard crest shape (ogee-type)

Broad Crested

Circular Crested

Ogee Crested

For heads larger than 3 m, the standard overflow shape

should be used.
Although its cost is higher than the other crest shapes,
advantages result both in capacity and safety against
cavitation damage.

Fig. 1

Crest Shape of Overflow Spillways

The lower surface of a nappe from a sharp-crested weir is a function of
1. the head on the weir,
2. the slope or inclination of the weir surface,
3. the height of the crest, which influences approach velocity.
On the crest shape based on a design head HD, when the actual
head is less than HD, the trajectory of the nappe falls below the crest
profile, creating positive pressures on the crest, thereby reducing

the discharge.
On the other hand, with a higher than design head, the nappetrajectory is higher than crest, which creates negative pressure
pockets and results in increased discharge. Accordingly, it is considered
desirable to underdesign the crest shape of a high overflow spillway for a
design head HD, less than the head on the crest corresponding to the
maximum reservoir level, He.

However, with too much negative pressure, cavitation may occur.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (1988) recommendation has been that
He/HD should not exceed 1.33. The Corps of Engineers (COE) has
accordingly recommended that a spillway crest be designed so that the
maximum expected head will result in an average pressure on the crest
no lower than (- 4.50m) of water head (U.S. Department of Army, 1986).
Pressures of (-4.50m) can be approximated by the following equations
(Reese and Maynord, 1987).
For He, HD 10 m,
HD = 0.43He1.22 (without piers)
HD = 0.39He1.22 (with piers)
For He, HD < 10 m,
HD =0.70He (without piers)
HD = 0.74He (with piers)
Another empirical equation given for the maximum head on the crest

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation described the complete shape of

the lower nappe by separating it into two quadrants, one upstream and
one downstream from the crest (apex), as shown in previous figure.
The equation for the downstream quadrant is expressed as,

Eq. 1
HD = Design head excluding the velocity approach head.
x, y = Coordinates of the crest profile, with the origin at the highest point (O)
K = Constant that depends on upstream inclination and approach velocity.
Constant K can be varied from 2.00 for a deep approach to 2.20 for a very
shallow approach

In a high-overflow section, the crest profile merges with the straight

downstream section of slope , as shown in Fig. (1) (i.e., dy/dx = ).
Differentiation of Eq. (1) and expressing that in terms of x yield the
distance to the position of downstream tangent as follows:

Eq. 2
xDT = Horizontal distance from the apex to the downstream tangent point
= Slope of the downstream face.

Fig. 2 Coordinate coefficients for spillway crest (U.S. Department of the Army, 1986)

The discharge efficiency of a spillway is highly dependent on the

curvature of the crest immediately upstream of the apex. To fit a single
equation to the upstream quadrant had proven more difficult. An ellipse, of
which both the major and minor axes vary systematically with the depth of
approach, can closely approximate the lower nappe surfaces.
With respect to origin at the apex, the equation of the elliptical shape
for upstream

quadrant is expressed as,

Eq. 3

x = Horizontal coordinate, positive to the right
y = Vertical coordinate, positive downward A, B = One-half of the ellipse
axes, as given in Fig. (2.b and c) for various values of approach depth
and design head.

For a inclined upstream face of slope FS, the point of tangency with
elliptical shape can be determined by the following equation.

Eq. 4

Design Discharge of


The lifespan of a dam is of the order of 100 years.

The design discharge may be related to the maximum flood
discharge that may occur within this period.
Probability of occurrence of a discharge that can seriously damage
the system should be minimum. As an example (depending on
project size and country regulations)
Q100 For optimum flow conditions observed.
Q1000 For some adverse flow conditions may be tolerated, but there
should be no damage.
Q10000 For minor damage may be tolerated but system
should not fail.
Another approach is based on the concept of the possible maximum
flood (PMF). Accordingly, a rainfall-runoff model with the most
extreme combination of basic parameters is chosen, and no return

Discharge Characteristics

The discharge over an ungated ogee crest is given by the formula:

Eq. 5
C=discharge coefficient,
L=effective length of crest,
He=total head on the crest, including the velocity of approach head, h a.
The discharge coefficient, C, is influenced by a number of factors:
1. The depth of approach,
2. Relation of actual crest shape to the ideal nappe shape,
3. Upstream face slope,
4. Downstream apron interface,
5. Downstream submergence.

Fig. 3

Coefficient of discharge for ogee crests with vertical faces (Roberson, Cassidy,
Chaudhry, 1998)

Fig. 4

Coefficient of discharge for ogee crests with vertical faces (Roberson, Cassidy,
Chaudhry, 1998)

Overflow Gates:
The overflow structure has a hydraulic behavior that the discharge
increases significantly with the head on the overflow crest..
The height of the overflow is usually a small portion of the dam
Further, gates may be positioned on the crest for overflow
During the floods, if the reservoir is full, the gates are completely
open to promote the overflow.
A large number of reservoirs with a relatively small design
discharges are ungated.

Currently most large dams are equipped with gates to allow

for a flexible operation.
The cost of the gates increases mainly the magnitude of the
flood, i.e.: with the overflow area.
Improper operation and malfunction of the gates is the major
concern which may lead to serious overtopping of the dam.
In order to inhibit floods in the tailwater, gates are to moved
according to gate regulation.
Gates should be checked against vibrations.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Gates

The advantages of gates at overflow structure are:
Variation of reservoir level,
Flood control,
Benefit from higher storage level.

The disadvantages are:

Potential danger of malfunction,
Additional cost, and maintenance.

Depending on the size of the dam and its location, one would
prefer the gates for:
Large dams,
Large floods, and
Easy access for gate operation.

Three types of gates are currently favored:

Hinged flap gates,
Vertical lift gates,
Radial gates.

Flap Gate

Vertical Gate

Radial Gate




The flaps are used for a small head of some meters, and
may span over a considerable length.
The vertical gate can be very high but requires
substantial slots, a heavy lifting device, and unappealing
The radial gates are most frequently used for medium
or large overflow structures because of
their simple construction,
the modest force required for operation and
absence of gate slots.
They may be up to 20m X 20m, or also 12 m high and
40 m wide. The radial gate is limited by the strength of the
trunnion bearings.

The risk of gate jamming in seismic sites is relatively

small, if setting the gate inside a stiff one-piece frame.
For safety reasons, there should be a number of
moderately sized gates rather than a few large gates.
For the overflow design, it is customary to assume
that the largest gate is out of operation.
The regulation is ensured by hoist or by hydraulic jacks
driven by electric motors.
Stand-by diesel-electric generators should be provided if
power failures are likely.





Overflow spillways frequently use undershot radial gates for

releases over the dam. The governing equation for gated
Eq. 6

C is a coefficient of discharge, and
H1 and H2 are total heads to the bottom and top of the
gate opening.
The coefficient C is a function of geometry and the ratio
d/H1, where d is the gate aperture. Fig. (7.3).

Fig. 5

Crest piers and abutments cause contraction of the flow,

reduction in the effective length of the crest, and cause
reduction in discharge.

L = Effective length of the crest for calculating discharge
L = Net length of the crest
N = number of piers
Kp = Pier contraction coefficient
Ka = Abutment contraction coefficient
He = Total head on the crest

Eq. 6.1

Pier and Abutment effects

The nose of piers and abutments should be rounded
sufficiently to minimize the hydraulic disturbance.
Piers may extend downstream on the chute as a dividing wall
in order to suppress shock waves.
Abutments are extended towards the reservoir to facilitate
gentle flow conditions at the entrance of spillway.
Piers on overflow structures are
to improve approach flow conditions
to mount overflow gates
to divide the spillway into subchannels
to aerate the chute flow at the pier


D Divide Wall


Ie Effective Flow width

Between Piers

EFFECTIVE Crest Length

Fig. 2

Eq. 1


Eq. 4

Eq. 3

Fig. 4

Submerged Discharge on Overflow Spillways

The coefficient of discharge decreases under the condition of
submergence. Submergence can result from either excessive tailwater
depth or changed crest profile. The effect of tailwater submergence on
the coefficient of discharge depends upon the degree of submergence
defined by hd/He and the downstream apron position, (hd+d)/He
shown in Fig. (6). For a value of (hd+d)/He up to approximately 2, the
reduction in the coefficient depends on the factor (hd+d)/He and is
independent of hd/He as shown in Fig. (6.a), i.e., it is subject to apron
effects only.

Submerged Discharge on Overflow Spillways

Fig. 6 Reduction of discharge coefficient for submerged spillway: a)

apron effects, when (hd+d)/He> 5

Submerged Discharge on Overflow Spillways

When (hd+d)/He is above
5, the reduction depends only
on hd/He as shown in Fig. (6.b),
i.e., tailwater effects control. For
(hd+d)/He between 2 and 5, the
reduction of the coefficient
depends on both factors, given
in Fig. (6.c). The effect on the
discharge due to crest
geometry is not well defined.
Model studies are the best way
to determine the coefficient.

Figure6. (c) Reduction of discharge coefficient for submerged

spillway when (hd+d)/He is between 2 and 5.


0.035) = 0.46

0.029) = 0.466


15.06 m

DYNAMIC FORCE on Spillways

When water flows over the curved surface of ogee spillway there is
continuous change of velocity, and hence, there is change in momentum
from section to section. According to Newton's second law of motion,
this change in momentum causes a force on the spillway structure. this
force is known as the dynamic force.
Consider an element of water between two sections A and B on a
curved surface. The resultant of the forces on the element of water is
given by
where = mass density of water = w/g
Q = discharge

DYNAMIC FORCE on Spillways

Rewriting eq. in horizontal and vertical directions separately,

we get
Eq. 7a
Eq. 7bfree
The force FH and FV are those acting on a significant
body of fluid and include gravity forces, hydrostatic pressure and
the reaction of any object in contact with water.

Fig. 7 (a) shows an ogee spillway which discharges

water with a head of 1.2 m over the crest. Taking
the coefficient of discharge as 2.2, compute the
dynamic force on the curved section AB which has a
constant radius of 3 m.

The discharge over the spillway is given by,
Q = CLH3/2
or q=Q/L = CH3/2 = 2.2 (1.2)3/2 =2.9 cumecs/m
Let d1 and d2 be the depth of sheet of water at A and B and v1 and v2
be the velocities.
Assuming that there is no loss of energy and neglecting approach
velocity, we may apply Bernoulli's theorem at u/s water surface, and at
sections A and B.
Thus we get
11.2 = 1.5 + d1 cos 60 + v12/2g = d2 + v22/2g (1)
But V1d1 = q = 2.9 = V2d2


V1 = 2.9/d1 and V2 = 2.9/d2

Substituting these in (1) and solving these by trial and error, we get,
d1 = 0.212 m and d2 = 0.197 m
Hence V1 = 13.7 m/sec and V2 = 14.7 m/sec
Fig. 6 (b) shows the free diagram of the curved element sections A and B
in which Fx and Fy represents components of force on the water by the
curved section AB. If F1 and F2 are the resultant hydrostatic forces at
section A and B, we have


weight W of the water body in the curved portion between sections A

and B is

Applying Eq. 7 (a) for 1 m length of spillway, we get

From which Fx = 2334 kg/m


from Eq. 11.14 (b) we have

From which Fy = 4155 kg/m

Resultant force

= 4760 kg per meter length

Side channels
Side channels are often considered at sites where:
a narrow gorge does not allow sufficient width for the frontal
impact forces and scour are a problem in case of arch dams,
a dam spillway is not feasible, such as in the case of an earth
when a different location at the dam site yields a simpler
connection to the stilling basin.
Side channels consist of a frontal type of overflow structure and a
spillway with axis parallel to the overflow crest.
The specific discharge of overflow structure is normally limited
to 10 m3 /s/m, but for lengths of over 100 m.
The overflow head is limited to say 3 m. Not equipped with

Morning Glory
The shaft type spillway has proved to be
economical, provided the diversion tunnel can
be used as a tailrace. The main elements are:
The intake,
The vertical shaft with a bend,
The almost horizontal spillway tunnel, and,
Energy dissipator.

Air by aeration conduits is provided in order to

prevent cavitation.
Also, to account for flood safety, only nonsubmerged flow is allowed such that free
surface flow occurs along the entire structure,
from the intake to the dissipator.
Used for dams with small to medium design

Morning Glory
Overfall is advantageous when:
seismic action is small,
the horizontal spillway may be connected to the existing
diversion channel,
floating debris is insignificant,
space for the overflow structure is limited,
geologic conditions are excellent against settlement, and
Location of the Morning Glory
The intake is prone to rotational approach flow, which should
be inhibited with a selected location of the shaft relative to the
reservoir topography and the dam axis.
The radial flow may be improved with piers positioned on
overfall crest.

Crest shape
The shape of the Morning Glory overfall is a logical extension of the
standard overfall crest. Experiments were performed on circular
sharp crested weir.

All quantities referring to the weir are over barred.

The overflow head relative to the sharp crest is and the
(coordinate system ( , ) is located at the weir crest.

The discharge over a Morning Glory overfall structure is in analogy with
the straight-crested overfall

for the range of

An initial value of H or R may be assumed for a fixed H/R ratio to start
the computations.
Shaft radius Rs can be determined from
Rs = 1 + 0.1R (in meters)








H=1.5 m


H=2 m