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Model Dam Fail – An Interesting Civil Engineering Project


A small model dam, made up of sand and gravel. Water poured behind it, the line of saturation seen moving through the dam. Until failure of the dam.This was constructed by school children as part of an open-day and shows them a dam burst or dam collapse.

image/text credit: John TheTechy

An interesting civil engineering project.Our modeling teams decided to model a counter-factual version of Dam breach, in which either the dam continues to disintegrate in a controlled manner or, in the worst-case scenario, it collapses.

The worst-case scenario is modeled assuming the height of the dam wall becomes ‘zero’ instantaneously – for example, as might happen if there was an explosion due to sabotage. For the controlled breach scenario, the dam wall is gradually lowered at two meters per hour to simulate what could have happened had the erosion of the dam continued.


Dams are considered “installations containing dangerous forces” under International Humanitarian Law due to the massive impact of a possible destruction on the civilian population and the environment. Dam failures are comparatively rare, but can cause immense damage and loss of life when they occur.