Water Science and Engineering 2019, 12(3) 169-178 DOI:   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wse.2019.08.001  ISSN: 1674-2370 CN: 32-1785/TV

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Earthen dam
Piping failure
Overtopping failure
Breach flow
Numerical modeling
Sensitivity analysis

Numerical modeling of earthen dam breach due to piping failure

Sheng-shui Chen a, b, Qi-ming Zhong a, b, *, Guang-ze Shen c

a Department of Geotechnical Engineering, Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, Nanjing 210024, China
b Key Laboratory of Failure Mechanism and Safety Control Techniques of Earth-rock Dam of the Ministry of Water Resources, Nanjing 210029, China
c Department of Dam Safety Management, Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, Nanjing 210029, China


Based on model tests of earthen dam breach due to piping failure, a numerical model was developed. A key difference from previous research is the assumption that the cross-section of the pipe channel is an arch, with a rectangle at the bottom and a semicircle at the top before the collapse of the pipe roof, rather than a rectangular or circular cross-section. A shear stress-based erosion rate formula was utilized, and the arched pipe tunnel was assumed to enlarge along its length and width until the overlying soil could no longer maintain stability. Orifice flow and open channel flow were adopted to calculate the breach flow discharge for pressure and free surface flows, respectively. The collapse of the pipe roof was determined by comparing the weight of the overlying soil and the cohesion of the soil on the two sidewalls of the pipe. After the collapse, overtopping failure dominated, and the limit equilibrium method was adopted to estimate the stability of the breach slope when the water flow overtopped. In addition, incomplete and base erosion, as well as one- and two-sided breaches were taken into account. The USDA-ARS-HERU model test P1, with detailed measured data, was used as a case study, and two artificially filled earthen dam failure cases were studied to verify the model. Feedback analysis demonstrates that the proposed model can provide satisfactory results for modeling the breach flow discharge and breach development process. Sensitivity analysis shows that the soil erodibility and initial piping position significantly affect the prediction of the breach flow discharge. Furthermore, a comparison with a well-known numerical model shows that the proposed model performs better than the NWS BREACH model.

Earthen dam
   Piping failure   Overtopping failure   Breach flow   Numerical modeling   Sensitivity analysis  
Received 2018-12-20 Revised 2019-06-24 Online: 2019-09-30 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wse.2019.08.001

This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFC0404805), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants No. 51779153 and 51539006), the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund (Grant No. Y717012), and the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (Grant No. BK20161121).

Corresponding Authors: Qi-ming Zhong
Email: qmzhong@nhri.cn
About author:


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