2017 – Tullaroop Dam: Ongoing Cracking and Unusual Pore Water Pressure Response in a 60 Year Old Earth Embankment

Gavan Hunter, David Jeffery and Stephen Chia

The Main Embankment at Tullaroop Dam in central Victoria is a 43 m high earthfill embankment with a very broad earthfill zone and rockfill zones at the outer toe regions. There has been an extensive history of cracking within the Main Embankment since formalisation of visual inspections in 1987.Widespread cracking has been observed on the crest and downstream shoulder. Cracking on the crest has mainly been longitudinal, but transverse cracks have also been observed. Cracking on the downstream shoulder has comprised longitudinal, diagonal and transverse cracking. In April 2004, a 60 mm wide diagonal crack opened on the downstream shoulder of the left abutment (from crest to toe) and Goulburn-Murray Water constructed a local filter buttress in 2005/06 on the left abutment. In 2011/12 a longitudinal crack opened up on the upper downstream berm toward the right abutment. The crack was initially 15m long and 10 to 215 mm wide, then propagated several months later to 70 m in length, 40 to 50 mm width and greater than 3 m in depth.In May 2011 three piezometers within the earth fill core recorded a very rapid rise in pore water pressure equivalent to 12 to 13 m pressure head above their previous readings. The piezometers were located on the same alignment (upstream to downstream) and were located below the crest and downstream shoulder, and the rise was to levels close to and above the embankment surface. The piezometers then showed a steady fall with time returning to the pre rise levels after 4 to 6 weeks.In 2015/16 Goulburn-Murray Water undertook dam safety upgrade works to reduce the risk of piping through the Main Embankment by extension of the filter buttress across the full width of the embankment. During these upgrade works, very deep (greater than 5 m) and extensive transverse cracks were observed in the embankment over relatively subtle slope changes on the right abutment.Thecracking and pore water pressure behaviour in the Main Embankment at Tullaroop Reservoir present an important case study. The paper provides details on the cracking and postulated crack mechanisms, and the rapid pore water pressure rise and postulated mechanisms. A summary of the upgrade works is also provided.

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