1999 – Empirical and Mathematical Methods of Designing Dam Filters

Buddhima Indraratna, Mark Locke and Gamini Adikari

The main objectives of the filter are to prevent erosion of the dam core, permit controlled passage of seepage flow through the dam and facilitate dissipation of excess pore pressures in the core. In most designs of dam filters, empirical methods based on particle size ratios have been used. These empirical rules are developed through extensive laboratory tests. Although the empirical rules benefit from directly or indirectly incorporating most factors affecting filtration, they cannot be extrapolated for distinctly different soils and do not describe the time dependent changes that occur within the filter medium.

Mathematical models can be formulated to explain the fundamental physics of particle interaction and migration, within a framework of well defined geohydraulic constraints. Considering the mass flow and momentum conservation principles; time dependent changes in particle size distributions, mass flow rates, retention capacity and base soil erosion rates can be simulated.

This paper reviews various empirical and mathematical models, based on the authors experience. A novel approach to large scale filtration is highlighted based on testing actual soil and filter materials from an Australian dam, in a new 500mm diameter apparatus.

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