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The engineering of large dams


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Thomas, HH 1978 , 'The engineering of large dams', Other Degree thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Dam building is a challenge. It was a challenge 4000 years ago when 'The,
Sadd-el-Kafara' was built near Cairo; it was a challenge 2000 years ago when
the Romans built what we believe to be the first arch dam; it is still a challenge
today! The twentieth century has brought sophistication: the computer to
make possible our present designs, and modern machines to translate these
designs into structures. However, the overall harnessing of the forces of
Nature is still an Art; the final decision will be a personal one for someone. It
will be his responsibility, and it will live with him and after him.

It is fundamental for the Engineer to realise that no matter how strong he
may build a dam there will always remain some risk-however small-that
unforeseen forces may cause it to fail. He must recognize the various undesirable
events that may occur, and assess the probability of their
simultaneous occurrence. To accept the possibility of some damage under the
worst combination of adverse conditions may be both acceptable and
economical, but the Engineer must understand the risk that he takes.

It is obligatory for an Engineer to know his subject; it is a legal responsibility
that his work should at all times conform to the 'present state of the
Art', a state that is continually changing and always advancing. Safety is of
paramount importance, and to ensure safety the Engineer must combine the
latest techniques of investigation and design with the best available methods of
construction. He must investigate every detail but never become so involved in
the intricacies of design that he fails to visualize the project as a whole. The
effects of a new reservoir on the lives and habits of people, fauna and flora
deserve the same attention that is given to the mathematical analysis.

The materials to be used must be understood. If our objective is to store
water, then we must follow through to the effects of such storage-pore
pressures, uplift, piping, corrosion and perhaps induced seismicity. if we are to
build on a foundation, we must look beyond the rock itself to the properties in
situ, particularly when saturated and loaded. If we are to use concrete, then we
must comprehend its properties. What will be its strength in the particular
dam? It is certainly not the stress at failure of a small, laboratory prepared,
uniaxially loaded cylinder. If we are to minimize settlement and creep in rockfill,
then we must satisfy ourselves on the properties of the rock, the voids ratio
and modulus required in the embankment, and the construction procedure
necessary to obtain the required consolidation.

A dam must be understood in its three dimensions. What is the true
significance of an isolated tensile stress? It will probably be relaxed by creep,
by the opening of joints or even a crack that can be acceptable in certain circumstances.
On the other hand, a zone of tension will usually be a matter of
grave concern that may warrant a complete redesign.

Weather modification by Man may well change the whole subject of
Hydrology, impact on the environment will certainly be a major factor in project
planning, and the possibility of seismic activity being induce.d by the filling
of large reservoirs may be vital in some localities. Modern methods of
analysis will make it mandatory to consider the dam and its foundation as a
three-dimensional problem, even including the dynamic behaviour of the
water in the reservoir during an earthquake. It is clear that the engineering of
a dam is a complex undertaking.

The International Commission on Large Dams has recently published a
report on accidents to dams. Some of these are discussed in Chapter 3. It is disturbing
that so many failures have occurred in countries that are credited with
wide experience. Errors of omission rather than of commission have led to
many of these disasters. The failure of a dam is usually a catastrophe-the
responsibility of the Engineer is therefore great.

The world is at present seeing a proliferation of technical papers and the
subject of dams is no exception-certainly more than 1000 articles appearing
each year. Improved systems of information retrieval may provide the
Engineer with thousands of references but most Engineers will not have time
to read so many articles even if they were available to them.

Based upon a career in dam engineering and supported by many good
friends throughout the world, I have therefore endeavoured to gather together
in one book many of the facets of this subject. Some unique structures are
reported, some novel designs are described, some warnings issued and some innovations
suggested. My purpose is to guide Engineers along safe paths but at
the same time to provide stimulation so that they will treat each problem as a
special one to be solved with initiative and ingenuity.

It has been my aim to present the subject matter in simple language. Adequate
references have been provided so that each topic may be studied to the
depth desired for the specific project in hand, or beyond into the realms of
research. My purpose will have been served if I have encouraged Engineers to
use initiative, to think creatively, and above all to apply common sense to all
their work. It has been said that the Universities may give degrees but it is
God who gives us common sense. Let us never neglect that gift.

Item Type: Thesis - Other Degree
Authors/Creators:Thomas, HH
Keywords: Dams
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1977 the author

Additional Information:

Volumes 1 and 2 are the published book of the same name and as such cannot be communicated.

Volume 3 consists of published papers which also cannot be made available. We have created a file for the contents of volume three as an aid to sourcing the papers contained in it.

Thesis (D. Eng.)--University of Tasmania, 1978. Pt. 3. entitled "Published papers, 1936-1972.". Includes bibliographies

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