2006 – Settlement Behaviour of A Major Dam

Peter J Burgess, Delfa Sarabia, John Small, H. G. Poulos and Jayanta Sinha

The assessment of settlement behaviour of clay core rock fill dams has always been a challenge for dam designers and geotechnical engineers. The method of construction and the material properties of the clay and rock fill materials used in the dam construction have a significant influence on the inter-zonal interaction and the load transfer that occurs within the dam. At times this load transfer can lead to excessive differential and total settlements. The paper presents a case study of a major dam that experienced large settlements during and after construction. An elaborate analysis has been carried out by modelling the sequences of construction by using a finite element program (PLAXIS).

The paper describes the influence of the degree of compaction and moisture control on non-linear deformation characteristics of clay core. High vertical strains in the wet placed region of the core and low strains in the dry placed regions were analysed for possible shear development between the core and shell. The rock fill for the dam embankment consists of quartzite, metasiltstone and phyllite material. These materials have apparently undergone deformation with increasing height of the dam due to softening and crushing as saturation of the embankment took place. The effect of soil consolidation and strength gains have been considered in the analysis and are discussed. The settlement behaviour of the dam including these effects has been analysed, and compared with the historical post-construction settlements.

This paper is intended to provide valuable information for dam engineers handling clay core rock fill dams – especially where there is excessive settlement of the core.

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