Phreatic seepage flow through an earth dam with an impeding strip

A. R. Kacimov*, N. D. Yakimov, J. Šimůnek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


New mathematical models are developed and corresponding boundary value problems are analytically and numerically solved for Darcian flows in earth (rock)–filled dams, which have a vertical impermeable barrier on the downstream slope. For saturated flow, a 2-D potential model considers a free boundary problem to Laplace’s equation with a traveling-wave phreatic line generated by a linear drawup of a water level in the dam reservoir. The barrier re-directs seepage from purely horizontal (a seepage face outlet) to purely vertical (a no-flow boundary). An alternative model is also used for a hydraulic approximation of a 3-D steady flow when the barrier is only a partial obstruction to seepage. The Poisson equation is solved with respect to Strack’s potential, which predicts the position of the phreatic surface and hydraulic gradient in the dam body. Simulations with HYDRUS, a FEM-code for solving Richards’ PDE, i.e., saturated-unsaturated flows without free boundaries, are carried out for both 2-D and 3-D regimes in rectangular and hexagonal domains. The Barenblatt and Kalashnikov closed-form analytical solutions in non-capillarity soils are compared with the HYDRUS results. Analytical and numerical solutions match well when soil capillarity is minor. The found distributions of the Darcian velocity, the pore pressure, and total hydraulic heads in the vicinity of the barrier corroborate serious concerns about a high risk to the structural stability of the dam due to seepage. The modeling results are related to a “forensic” review of the recent collapse of the spillway of the Oroville Dam, CA, USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalComputational Geosciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020


  • 2-,3-D transient seepage with a phreatic surface
  • Richards’ equation
  • analytical models
  • earth dams
  • fields of pore pressure head
  • heaving and suffusion
  • water content and velocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Phreatic seepage flow through an earth dam with an impeding strip'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this