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There are various responsibilities that a professional civil engineer will be tasked to handle and oversee. One such important function is for the implementation of projects involving the construction of dams and water reservoirs. Water is a unique resource with diverse uses and efforts for efficient utilization and conservation should not be ignored.

In this light, certain factors must be taken into consideration by the construction team including the engineer when handling such projects. When a team is tasked with duty of developing any reservoir for surface water project, it is imperative to consider the structural stability of the holding reservoir. A thorough structural analysis must be conducted to determine if it will hold safely the projected levels of water throughout the anticipated life span. When using Nominal Volumetric Mixes the proportions of cement; sand and coarse aggregate shall be in the order in which the mix is specified. Such proportions can be l:4:8, l:3:6, l:2:4, l:l l/2:3, l:l:2 etc.

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In order to achieve this we need to look into the issues of rim stability to begin with. There is a direct correlation between the rim stability and the holding capacity of any reservoir. Rim failure may be caused by effects of erosion or sliding of the reservoirs rim. When this occurs, the holding capacity will be reduced considerably whereas in other instances effects of snow avalanches can trigger generation of waves which in turn over-tops the dam.

The engineer can recommend limitation of filling and draw-down rates or consequently impose a ceiling for the maximum allowable water holding surface which can be determined at a level slightly lower than the optimum normal holding capacity. Another alternative applicable is to install drains alongside the slip surfaces, pinning the unstable mass of its parent formation by rock bolting. Stabilization of such masses can also be achieved by grouting.

An experienced engineer will plan in advance mitigation steps that can be taken in the occurrence of slides. Let it be known that it is normal for water to be lost either to the atmosphere via evaporation or through the ground by seepage. In order to minimize this we should try to be selective of the sites suitable for construction of a reservoir.

Normally for a flood control dam, water loss will be of great concern if it has effect on the general safety of the entire project. The lining of the surface will be made as one of the preventive mechanisms to reduce seepage whereas special materials can be used extended on the heel of the dam to prevent water loss to the ground. We understand that loss of water by evaporation can be influenced by the general climate of the site of the dam, shape and size of the dam, strength of winds in the region, humidity and temperature levels. The figure below shows how the designers should locate a flood control dam for the general safety of the entire project.

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Taking this into consideration, the engineer may recommend building a dam having a smaller surface area to volume ratio rather than a saucer shaped one. On the other hand recommendation to use evaporation retardant chemical may be suggested. When choosing a site location for such projects, it is important to consider factors like earthquake occurrences. Even though the relationship between seismic activity and reservoir impoundment is not fully understood, recommending detailed geologic, geodetic and seismic feasibility is crucial.

Another factor to consider when deciding the site for a reservoir is the potential of sedimentation accruing. The stream flowing in to the reservoir bring with it sediments which gets deposited due to reduce stream velocity. When this happened gradually the holding capacity will reduce. Usually the life of the reservoir is predicted basing on the anticipated amounts of sediments depositing, the holding size as well as its ability to retain the sediments. Sedimentation initially can be a natural way of creating a carpet to reduce seepage loses.

By examining the construction of dams or other structures, there are instances where we witness different failures of masonry. Masonry works are relatively high in compression but weak in resisting bending and shear thus resulting to collapse. For example, diagonal cracks in walls occur when the tensile stresses developed in the walls by virtue of vertical and horizontals loads exceed the tensile strength of the masonry material.

Sliding shear failure affecting the structures foundation or any of its horizontal mortar joints is caused by low vertical load and poor mortar. Normally when a structure is properly anchored to its foundation, the engineer will then be concerned with making it adequately resistant to sliding in the form of some combination of horizontal sliding frictions and lateral pressure. Whereas the structural elements of a building should also be sensitive to earthquake resistance.

A good building that has suspended ceiling, window frames or such fixtures must be secure against movements during times of seismic activity. If there are failures here it may be costly for repairs even though it might not lead to the collapse of the entire structure. These are professionally referred to as non-structural failures. The most common damage witnessed is breaking of window panes and internal wall cracks.

To prevent such failures, we can isolate the window frames from surrounding walls by introducing flexible joints. At the same time use of reinforced plaster or pre cracked walls that are grooved as control joints may be handy. Last but not the least, a wall that is too tall or too long in contrast with relative thickness is particularly vulnerable to shaking in its weak direction. Therefore limiting the height-t-thickness and length-to-thickness ratio could do the trick to improve stability.

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