A Case Study on Piping as a Mechanism Causing Collapse of an Earth Dam

Altinsoy A., ÖZDEN G.

Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Environmental Geotechnology, Recycled Waste Materials and Sustainable Engineering (EGRWSE 2022), İzmir, Turkey, 15 - 17 September 2022, vol.370 LNCE, pp.409-417 identifier

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume: 370 LNCE
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/978-981-99-4041-7_36
  • City: İzmir
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.409-417
  • Keywords: Case study, Earth dam, Finite element modelling, Piping
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes


The design of dams used in drinking, utility, irrigation water supply, and energy production are a subject that needs to be studied meticulously so that the resulting product would be optimum without harming the environment as much as possible. The dam causes the formation of a new ecosystem in the region where it is built and, accordingly, the establishment of a balance between nature and the dam. The collapse of the dam in the ecosystem where the downstream region is located will cause severe damage such as loss of life, deterioration of the balance of the ecosystem, and flooding of habitats. Studies have shown that the failure rate of earth-fill dams is relatively high compared to other types of dams. The reasons for the failure of earthen dams can be listed simply as (1) overtopping, (2) piping, (3) poor management, and (4) natural disasters. The triggering of the piping mechanism, which has an important place among the possible causes of collapse, was investigated within this study’s scope of a case history. In Idaho, the USA, the zoned earth-rock fill type Teton Dam with a body height of 93 m from the river bottom is thought to be an example of piping that may have been triggered because of faulty construction and possibly design practices. This dam has been studied in detail in the literature regarding piping and the consequences of the damage. The dam’s collapse had heavy consequences: 11 people and 16,000 livestock died, three towns were evacuated, electricity production stopped, and irrigation water supply was interrupted. It has been long speculated that piping was triggered in the natural ground below the core (below the cut-off), which was not protected by a filter. In this study, Teton Dam was modeled numerically to demonstrate the gradual development of piping mechanism better.