As dam failures and incidents occur both nationally and internationally, there is a pressing need to understand the underlying causes for failure to help minimize such occurrences in the future.  Current information on historical dam incidents is scattered, incomplete, missing, and sometimes misleading – making it difficult for owners and practitioners to easily access meaningful information that could assist them with critical design and operational decisions.  If lessons learned and best practices are not effectively communicated, there is a possibility that poor practices will be repeated and preventable incidents will not be averted.

Presented within DamFailures.org are links to individual case studies as well as lessons learned pages that summarize historical dam incidents and failures and the valuable information gleaned from them.  Each page contains a background and description, photographs, videos, best practices, and other resources related to the case study or lessons learned being addressed.  The contents of this webpage encompass a range of failure modes, dam types, and dam safety topics including best practices regarding engineering and design practices, human factors, emergency planning and response, operation and maintenance, and regulatory issues. 

The first new studies of 2020 have been uploaded with more currently being researched. The site now has more than 30 case studies and more than 20 lessons learned, as well as 5 ASDSO webinars that can be viewed free of charge as part of a Cooperating Technical Partnership between FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program and ASDSO.


 

June 2020

Lesson Learned: Dozens of dams can fail or be in danger of failing during a single event (i.e. swarming failures). Dam owners and regulators need to prepare for these types of events.

Researcher: Mark Baker, P.E.
Reviewers: Mike Hand, P.E., Ken Smith, P.E., John Moyle, P.E., Greg Richards, P.E., CFM, and Lee Mauney, P.E., CFM

Dam owners and regulators need to prepare for multiple dam failure “swarms.” Since 2006, 145 dams have failed in the United States during multiple dam failure (“swarm”) events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and major storms. Technical papers written after these events show that state dam safety programs and dam owners are stretched thin responding to these events and there are valuable lessons to be learned. 


 

May 2020

Case Study:  Kinugawa Levee at Joso (Japan, 2015)

Researcher: Paul Risher, P.E.
Reviewer: Bill Johnstone, P.E.

Beginning around September 6, 2015, Tropical Storm Etau (Typhoon No. 18) together with Tropical Depression Kilo (Typhoon No. 17) began dropping excessive rainfall across northeast Japan. The interaction of the two systems caused them to stall and concentrate rainfall in a narrow band over the Kinugawa watershed. Some places accumulated over 2 feet of rain in a few days. The steep terrain let loose in mudslides, landslides, and flash floods. Four upstream flood control reservoirs in the watershed all had spillway flows sending a significant flood down the Kinugawa River.

The Kinugawa River is a major tributary of Japan’s most important river, the Tone River. They confluence about 20 miles northeast of Tokyo. On September 10th, the Kinugawa River began to overtop its natural banks in a few places and then around mid-day breached the east bank levee in Joso-shi, Ibaraki Prefecture.  The levee is roughly 12 feet high and breached by overtopping of less than 2 feet. It had also been experiencing some sand boils on the same reach. The breach flow and other out of bank flows combined to inundate an area of over 15 square miles.


 

March 2020

Lesson Learned: Dam failure sites offer an important opportunity for education and memorialization.

Researcher: Lee Mauney, P.E., CFM
Reviewers: Mark Baker, P.E.,  Mike Hand, P.E., and Wayne Graham

Dam failure sites are important opportunities to honor victims, educate dam safety professionals, and raise awareness of both the risk posed by dams, as well as the numerous benefits dams provide while highlighting the need for continued public funding of the Nation’s infrastructure. Challenges may exist related to funding, safety, and legal concerns, but a range of options are available to commemorate locations where significant dams have failed, and many successful examples can be toured across the United States. At the same time, there are seminal dam failures sites that have been forgotten or are difficult to locate and visit. When a dam fails, there is often pressure to remove the remains or rebuild the dam in order to expeditiously move beyond the incident. However, in certain cases, memorializing a fai led dam is an opportunity worth pursuing. This lesson learned covers benefits, examples and recommended best practices for commemorating dam failure sites.

 

Thumbnail Photo:Dam failure sites are important opportunities to honor victims, educate dam safety professionals, and raise awareness of both the risk posed by dams, as well as the numerous benefits dams provide while highlighting the need for continued public funding of the Nation’s infrastructure. Challenges may exist related to funding, safety, and legal concerns, but a range of options are available to commemorate locations where significant dams have failed, and many successful examples can be toured across the United States. At the same time, there are seminal dam failures sites that have been forgotten or are difficult to locate and visit. When a dam fails, there is often pressure to remove the remains or rebuild the dam in order to expeditiously move beyond the incident. However, in certain cases, memorializing a fai led dam is an opportunity worth pursuing. This lesson learned covers benefits, examples and recommended best practices for commemorating dam failure sites.