Dams have played a pivotal role in utilizing water resources to improve quality of life for thousands of years. They can serve as a flood control structure as well as provide water for irrigation, drinking water, or to produce hydro-electric power, among other things.The United States currently has more than 80,000 dams in service regulated through various dam safety programs by many groups like the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Many of these dams are more than 50-years old and in need of major rehabilitation.
While major large dam construction in the country has slowed, there are still many areas where dams can be employed to provide a reliable water source both for irrigation and human consumption as well as provide critical flood control protection. Climate change predictions suggest that longer drought periods and larger flood events may be on the horizon, providing a very strong argument towards the building of new dams and repairing or upgrading existing dams to accommodate these harsher conditions.
In addition to conventional concrete the use of roller compacted concrete (RCC) is becoming a common method of building new dams and rehabilitating existing dams. RCC acts like armor plating to protect earthen dams from washing out or failing when overtopped by floodwaters. When used to build new dams, RCC offers strength, economy and rapid construction.
Cement can even be introduced to other dam applications to provide strength and durability. Concrete and cement-bentonite slurry walls provide an effective seepage barrier through earthen dams and foundations. Deep soil mixing and jet grouting provide stability and seepage control. Soil-cement can be used for slope protection on embankment dams in lieu of rock riprap.