Alan K Parkin
There is a widespread perception among dam engineers that tree root invasion occasions a very serious threat to embankment dams by virtue of its potential to initiate piping failure, with appropriate action invariably recommended. Remedial works can, on occasions, be extensive.
While the principle is ostensibly plausible and scarcely challenged, there has never been, to the Author’s knowledge, a satisfactory investigation to establish any credible scientific basis for it. One case that has attracted some attention in literature (by virtue of the extent of the investigation undertaken), viz a piping accident at Yan Yean Dam, is critically reviewed to show that the accepted view on the role of tree roots in this incident is less than satisfactory. In the course of this review, two physical Laws of Piping are proposed, and applied both to this case and to another nearby Melbourne Water dam that also has a history of piping.
Whilst the consequences of piping in a major dam are such that risk from this source must be kept to a very low level, it is concluded here that piping risk arising from tree root invasion has been considerably overstated and that a more balanced assessment is necessary before determining what, if any, action is required.
A. Swindon, T. Griggs, R. Herweyne and R. Fell
Cairn Curran Dam is a 44m high zoned earthfill embankment located near Bendigo in central
Victoria. The dam is owned and operated by Goulburn-Murray Water.
A risk assessment had identified that the junction between the embankment and spillway wall was a
weakness in regard to the potential for piping. Initial geotechnical investigations indicated a softened
zone adjacent to the foundation.
The conceptual upgrade design was to excavate the downstream slope and place filter material and a rockfill weighting berm. A 2-D slope stability analysis gave unacceptably low factors of safety for this excavation. The three dimensional nature of the embankment/spillway interface and excavation
geometry was identified as an important factor in the upgrade design.
A detailed geotechnical assessment was undertaken and a geotechnical model developed that
accounted for potential softened zones adjacent to the spillway wall, along the foundation, and within
A 3-D limit equilibrium slope stability program was utilised to analyse the 3-D factors of safety. The
program employed an extension of Bishop’s method of slices to a 3-D ‘method of columns’. A 3-D
finite element analysis was also undertaken to estimate likely deformations of the embankment and cut slope during construction.
The development of the geotechnical model and subsequent analysis allowed the upgrade works to be undertaken with confidence.
Assessment of dam safety requires estimates of extreme rainfall together with the temporal and spatial distributions of extreme rainfall. In order to satisfy dam safety requirements for dams in the west coast of Tasmania, the Bureau of Meteorology has developed the method of storm transposition and maximisation for application in this region.
Daily, as well as continuously recorded rainfall data for all Bureau of Meteorology and Hydro Tasmania sites in western Tasmania have been analysed and the most outstanding rainfall events over one, two and three-day durations in the region have been identified. Meteorological analysis of these events reveals that the most significant rainfall events in the west coast of Tasmania are caused by the passage of fronts, which are sometimes associated with an intense extratropical cyclone, with a westerly or southwesterly airstream.
A database of isohyetal analyses of the most significant rainfall events in western Tasmania has been established. These can be used either ‘in situ’ or transposed to estimate mean catchment rainfall. Storm dewpoint temperatures for the purpose of moisture maximisation have been determined.
Cumulative and incremental three-hourly temporal distributions for sites having continuous rainfall data or three-hourly meteorological observations have been constructed and design temporal distributions of extreme rainfall have been derived.
An objective method for adjusting for differences in the topography between the storm and target locations is proposed
Dam safety emergency plans (DSEPs) are typically produced for individual dams. For owners of a large portfolio of dams, this approach creates document control difficulties, requires excessive time and effort and can lead to confusion when a single emergency affects multiple dams having individual DSEPs. Hydro Tasmania has developed a single DSEP which is applicable to its portfolio of 54 referable dams. The DSEP contains generic emergency response procedures, is applicable to a whole range of generic dam safety incidents, uses a simple colour-coded flowchart-action list format, has a two-stage emergency response, retains all necessary dam-specific information and can be easily adapted to any organisational structure. This approach was found to have benefits in document control, flexibility in the management of the emergency response and short lead time in terms of having DSEPs which cover an entire portfolio of dams.
Hydro Tasmania uses an electronic inclinometer to monitor the face deflections of nine of its CFRDs. The inclinometer is lowered down a steel pipe attached to the upstream face of each dam. The inclinometer was designed and constructed by the University of Tasmania and was first used on Cethana Dam when it was completed in 1972.
The success of its use on Cethana Dam lead to its use for the long term monitoring of eight subsequent CFRDs constructed by Hydro Tasmania.
After 25 years of successful operation some irregular readings of face deflection became apparent. This paper describes the investigation of the irregular readings that had been obtained, the assessment of other methods of observing concrete face deflection, and the refurbishment of the inclinometer using modern electronic components.