Tech Notes

U.K. system records near-miss incidents at dams

The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is funding a system for recording “near-miss” incidents at dams in the country. Defra previously identified a need to formally record and disseminate the lessons learned from such incidents.

The system, called the Post-Incident Reporting System, was developed by the Environment Agency, working with Halcrow Group Limited and the Building Research Establishment. This establishment carries out research, consultancy, and testing for the construction and building environment sectors in the United Kingdom.

The voluntary system allows dam operators to report results on reservoir safety incidents. Operators can call an incident hotline to report initial details. For straightforward incidents, details are taken during a 10- to 15-minute telephone call. In more complex cases, the Environment Agency may commission an engineer to visit the site.

Dam operators also may submit details of an incident electronically, by filling out a form available on the Internet and e-mailing it to the Environment Agency.

In March 2008, the Environment Agency published the first of what are to be annual reports summarizing the findings of data gathered during the previous year. This information is provided to operators who report dam incidents and is available for research purposes.

Starting in 2010, the Environment Agency will submit a report every three years to Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government that identifies trends and helps determine future research and development needs.

– For more on the system, visit the Internet at:, click on Flood at left, then Managing Flood Risk, Managing Flood Water, Reservoir Safety, and Report Your Incidents.

ICOLD Forum: Weak rocks and shales in dams

A new International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD) bulletin is available to assist engineers in effectively constructing dams at sites containing shales or other weak rocks.

Traditionally, dam builders have avoided construction on these sites. Shales or other weak rocks present uncertainties and potential foundation- and fill-related construction difficulties. However, dams can be successfully constructed on these types of foundations, says Alberto Marulanda, chairman of ICOLD’s Committee on Materials for Fill Dams.

To educate dam engineers, Marulanda led an effort by his committee to develop a technical bulletin on this topic. The committee consists of 24 dam engineers from 23 countries. Rodney Bridle, a civil engineer in the United Kingdom, was the principal author of the bulletin.

Bulletin 134, Weak Rocks and Shales in Dams, covers: geological and geotechnical characteristics of weak rocks and shale fills; weak rocks and shales used as core and shoulder fill; and shales in the foundations of dams. The 189-page bulletin also contains tables offering case histories of construction practices from an international sampling of dams with fill or foundations on weak rocks and shales.

To order this bulletin for 45 euros (US$71), visit and click on Publications, then Bulletins.

– To learn more about ICOLD activities, contact Michel De Vivo, Secretary-General, ICOLD 151, Bd Haussman, Paris 75008 France; (33) 1-40426824; E-mail: secretaire.

Research center established at Itaipu hydro project

The new Centre for Advanced Studies on Dam Safety on the grounds of the 14,000-mw Itaipu project on the border between Brazil and Paraguay houses researchers and graduate students seeking master, doctoral, and post-doctoral degrees.

The purpose of the center is to provide a facility for conducting research, oriented toward the construction, maintenance, and safety of dams. Researchers at the center have access to data from more than 2,300 instruments installed at Itaipu Dam, which have been recording data for the past 26 years, since filling of the reservoir began. They also have access to the results of laboratory analyses that were conducted to control the quality of the 2.6 million cubic meters of concrete used to build the dam.

Research being performed at the center focuses on instrumentation, computer modeling, seismology, hydrogeology, geotechnology, concrete, and environment (such as sedimentation and water quality).

Itaipu Binacional, the Itaipu Corporative University, the Itaipu Technological Park Foundation, the Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná, and other institutions established the center in February 2008.

– For more information on the center, E-mail:, or visit the website:

Water engineering book translated into English

The International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research (IAHR) announces the availability of an English version of Water Engineering in Ancient Civilizations: 5,000 Years of History. The original French edition of this book, L’Hydraulique dans les Civilisations Anciennes, was written by Pierre-Louis Viollet, vice president for coordination and partnership with Electricite de France R&D.

The 220-page book provides a complete synthesis of hydraulic techniques, from the birth of agriculture in Syria-Palestine (about 9500 BC) up to the beginnings of the modern period (about 1500 AD). The book is divided into two parts. The first covers from the beginning of history up to the conquests of Alexander the Great. The second covers from Alexander’s conquests to the 15th century AD.

In the first part of the book, the primary hydraulics discussed include infrastructure for water conveyance for irrigation, flood protection, water supply, wastewater drainage, and waterborne commerce.

The second half of the book includes the hydraulic achievements of Roman engineers, the technical innovations in China, and the construction of mills in the west during the 12th and 13th centuries.

– To order this book for 68 euros (US$105), visit the Internet: Or contact (34) 91-3357919; E-mail:

Lab established to perform hydraulic testing

Litostroj Power d.o.o. and CKD Blansko Engineering, a.s. opened a hydraulic laboratory in Blansko, Czech Republic, earlier this year. The lab, called Hydraulic Research Center Blansko, features a universal test stand for performing hydraulic testing of physical models of turbines, pumps, and pump-turbines. The lab also can be used to calibrate flowmeters.

The test stand offers a maximum head of 120 meters and can accommodate a model with maximum output of 300 kw and maximum rotational speed of 2,000 revolutions per minute. The calibration tank has a capacity of 50 cubic meters of water.

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