2017 – Detailed Seismic Hazard Assessment of Mt Bold Area: Comprehensive Site-Specific Investigations on Willunga Fault

Zivko R. Terzic, Mark C. Quigley, Francisco Lopez

The Mt Bold Dam, located in the Mt Lofty Ranges in South Australia, is a 54m high concrete arch-gravity dam that impounds Adelaide’s largest reservoir. The dam site is located less than 500m from a suspected surface rupture trace of the Willunga fault.Preliminary assessments indicate that Mt Bold Dam is likely to be the dam with the highest seismic hazard in Australia, with the Flinders Ranges-Mt Lofty region experiencing earthquakes of sufficient magnitude to generate shaking damage every 8-10 years on average. Prior evidence suggests that the Willunga Fault is likely capable of generating M 7-7.2 earthquakes.As part of the South Australia Water Corporation (SA Water) portfolio of dams, Mt Bold Dam is regularly reviewed against the up-to-date dam safety guidelines and standards. SA Water commissioned GHD to undertake detailed site-specific geophysics, geotechnical and geomorphological investigations, and a detailed site-specific Seismic Hazard Assessment (SHA) of the Mt Bold Dam area. The results of this investigation will be used to inform decisions related to planned upgrade works of the dam.Geomorphological mapping of Willunga Fault, detailed geological mapping, analysis of airborne lidar data, geophysical seismic refraction tomography and seismic reflection surveys,and paleoseismic trenching and luminescence dating of faulted sediments was conducted to obtain input parameters for the site-specific SHA.Discrete single-event surface rupture displacements were estimated at ~60 cm at dam-proximal sites. The mean long-term recurrence interval (~37,000 yrs) is exceeded by the quiescent period since the most recent earthquake (~71,000 yrs ago) suggesting long-term variations in rupture frequency and slip rates and/or that the fault is in the late stage of a seismic cycle. The length-averaged slip rate for the entire Willunga Fault is estimated at 38 ± 13 m / Myr. Shear wave velocity (Vs30) of the dam foundations was estimated based on geotechnical data and geological models developed from geophysical surveys and boreholes drilled through the dam and into the foundation rock. The nearest seismic refraction tomography (SRT) lines were correlated with the boreholes and those velocity values used in the Vs30 parameter determination. All relevant input parameters were included into seismic hazard analysis with comprehensive treatment of epistemic uncertainties using logic trees for all inputs.Deterministic Seismic Hazard Analysis (DSHA) confirmed that the controlling fault source for the Mt Bold Dam site is Willunga Fault, which is located very close to main dam site (420m to the West).For more frequent seismic events (1 in 150, 1 in 500 and 1 in 1,000 AEP), the probabilistic analysis indicates that the main seismic hazard on the dam originates from the area seismic sources (background seismicity).Based on deaggregation analysis from the site specific Probabilistic Seismic Hazard (PSHA), the earthquakes capable of generating level of ground motion for the 1 in 10,000 AEP event can be expected to occur at mean distances of approximately 22km from the dam site(with the mean expected magnitude atMt Bold Damsite estimated at Mw >6).For less frequent (larger) seismic events, the contribution of the Willunga Fault to the seismic hazard of Mt Bold Dam can be clearly noted with Mode distance in the 0-5 km range, which indicates that most of the seismic hazard events larger than the 1 in 10,000 AEP comes from the Willunga Fault. The Mode magnitudes of the events are expected to be Mode Magnitude at Mw= 6.6 for a segmented Willunga Fault scenario, and Mw= 7.2 for a non-segmented fault scenario.Consideration was also given to the upcoming update of the ANCOLD Guidelines for Earthquake, which calls for the determination of the Maximum Credible Earthquake (MCE) on known faults for the Safety Evaluation Earthquake (SEE) of “Extreme” consequence category dams. The MCE for Mt Bold Dam was estimated from the DSHA; in terms of acceleration amplitude, the MCE event approximately equals the 1 in 50,000AEP seismic events.

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