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Embankment dam

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San Luis Dam - Embankment dam

Tarbela Dam, the world's largest embankment dam, in Pakistan

An embankment dam is a massive artificial water barrier. It is typically created by the


emplacement and compaction of a complex semi-plastic mound of various compositions
of soil, sand, clay and/or rock. It has a semi-permanent waterproof natural covering for its
surface, and a dense, waterproof core. This makes such a dam impervious to surface or
seepage erosion.[1] The force of the impoundment creates a downward thrust upon the
mass of the dam, greatly increasing the weight of the dam on its foundation. This added
force effectively seals and makes waterproof the underlying foundation of the dam, at the
interface between the dam and its stream bed.[2] Such a dam is composed of fragmented
independent material particles. The friction and interaction of particles binds the particles
together into a stable mass rather than the use of a cementing substance.[3]

Contents
[hide]

• 1 Types
• 2 Safety
• 3 See also
• 4 Notes

• 5 External links

[edit] Types

Pothundi Dam, India

Embankment dams come in two types: the earth-filled dam (also called an earthen dam or
terrain dam) made of compacted earth, and the rock-filled dam. A cross-sectio of an
embankment dam shows a shape like a bank, or hill. Most have a central section or core
composed of an impermeable material to stop water from seeping through the dam. The
core can be of clay, concrete or asphalt concrete. This dam type is a good choice for sites
with wide valleys. Since they exert little pressure on their foundations, they can be built
on hard rock or softer soils. For a rock-fill dam, rock-fill is blasted using explosives to
break the rock. Additionally, the rock pieces may need to be crushed into smaller chunks
to get the right range of size for use in an embankment dam.[4]

[edit] Safety
The building of a dam and the filling of the reservoir behind it places a new weight on the
floor and sides of a valley. The stress of the water increases linearly with its depth. Water
also pushes against the upstream face of the dam, a nonrigid structure that under stress
behaves semiplastically, and causes greater need for adjustment (flexibility) near the base
of the dam than at shallower water levels. Thus the stress level of the dam must be
calculated in advance of building to ensure that its break level threshold is not exceeded.
[5]

Overtopping or overflow of an embankment dam outside of its spillways will cause


disastrous flooding through the eventual failure of the dam. In the failure process the
sustained hydraulic force and pressure caused by an overtopping surface runoff;
immediately erodes the dam's material structure as it flows over the top of the dam. Even
a small sustained overtopping surface flow can remove thousands of tons of overburden
soil from the mass of the dam within hours. The removal of this mass unbalances the
forces that stabilize the dam against its impoundment. The mass of water still impounded
behind the dam presses against the lighter mass of the embankment, (made lighter by
surface erosion). As the mass of the dam gets lighter, the impoundment begins to move
the whole structure. The embankment, having almost no elastic strength, begins to break
into separate pieces, naturally allowing the impounded water to flow between them
eroding and removing more material as it goes. In the final stages of failure the remaining
pieces of the embankment offer almost no resistance to the flow of the water; as they
continue to fracture into smaller and smaller sections of earth and/or rock. The
overtopped earth embankment dam literally dissolves into a thick mud soup of earth,
rocks and water.

Therefore safety requirements for the spillway are high, requiring the spillway to be
capable of containing a maximum flood stage. Specifying a spillway able to contain a
five hundred year flood is common.[6] Recently a number of embankment dam
overtopping protection systems were developed.[7] These techniques include the concrete
overtopping protection systems, timber cribs, sheet-piles, riprap and gabions, reinforced
earth, Minimum Energy Loss weirs, embankment overflow stepped spillways and the
precast concrete block protection systems developed in Russia.