Home SCIENCE A Smart Explanation Of How Quicksand Causes Dam Failures

A Smart Explanation Of How Quicksand Causes Dam Failures

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Dams are built to withstand the incredible power of water, but there is one natural annoyance that can lead to dangerous conditions and the eventual erosion of a dam. Quicksand. This is a topic YouTuber Professional Engineering explores in his video titled, How Quicksand Causes Dam Failures.

image/text credit: Practical Engineering 

In civil engineering, quicksand is more than just a puddle of mud! The “quick condition” occurs when seepage reduces the effective stress of a soil. This can lead to some dangerous conditions, especially if the seepage causes piping erosion to occur at a dam.

image/text credit: Practical Engineering 

Water can seep its way through the soil fragments, pushing them apart and weaken the infrastructure. This can cause significant disasters such as the Teton Dam Flood which resulted from the massive collapse of the earthen Teton Dam.

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The cause of the collapse was found to be the hydraulic piping or internal erosion caused by water seeping through the soil, weakening the overall structure. Darcy’s Law at work.

So to prevent this, engineers dig walls below the surface to slow down Darcy’s Law and soil liquefaction or in layman’s terms, when soil behaves like water. This is quicksand.