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Methods of constructing Earthen Dams

There are two methods of constructing earthen dams: (1) Hydraulic-fill Method; and (2) Rolled-fill Method.

Methods of Construction


There are two methods of constructing earthen dams:


(1) Hydraulic-fill Method; and

(2) Rolled-fill Method.



(1)   Hydraulic-fill Method. In this method of construction, the dam body is constructed by excavating and transporting soils by using water. Pipes called flumes, are laid along the outer edge of the embankment. The soil materials are mixed with water and pumped into these flumes. The slush is discharged through the outlets in the flumes at suitable intervals along their lengths.

The slush, flowing towards the centre of the bank, tends to settle down. The coarser particles get deposited soon after the discharge near the outer edge, while the fines get carried and settle at the centre, forming a zoned embankment having a relatively impervious central core.



Since the fill is saturated when placed, high pore pressures develop in the core material, and the stability of the dam must be checked for these pressures. This type of embankment is susceptible to settlement over long periods, because of slow drainage from the core.



Hydraulic-fill method is, therefore, seldom adopted these days. Rolled-fill method for constructing earthen dams is, therefore, generally and universally adopted in these modern days.



(2) Rolled-fill Method. The embankment is constructed by placing suitable soil materials in thin layers (15 to 30 cm) and compacting them with rollers. The soil is brought to the site from burrow pits and spread by bulldozers, ect. In layers. These layers are thoroughly compacted by rollers of designed weights. Ordinary road rollers can be used fro low embankments (such as for levees or bunds); while power-operated rollers are to be used for dams. The moisture content of the soil fill must be properly controlled. The best compaction can be obtained at a moisture content somewhere near the optimum moisture content. (The optimum moisture content is the moisture required for obtaining optimum density in the fill). Compaction of coarse gravels cannot be properly done by rolling and is best done by vibrating equipment. Detail of rolling and


compacting different types of soils are available i by the same author.

Shearing Strength of Soils



Before we describe the causes of failure of earthen dams and the criteria for their safe design; we shall review a few important conceptions of soil-mechanics and their importance in the design of earth dams.


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