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Types of Dams and How They Work

Types of Dams and How They Work

Types of Dams and How They Work

There are several types of dams, and each gets constructed based on usage. In the latest report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), there are over 90,000 dams in the United States. However, these dams have different structures and designs.

With over 90,000 dams in the U.S. with different designs and structures, it’s important to know how each dam design works before applying them for flood control. Click To Tweet

What are the different types of dams and how do they work?

A dam is a physical structure built to hold back flowing water and raise its level to form a reservoir. The water can then be used to generate hydroelectric power and irrigation. However, the various types of dams consist of different construction materials. Here are the various types of dams you’ll find in the United States.

  1. Diversion Dam
  2. Buttress Dam
  3. Embankment Dam
  4. Cofferdam
  5. Storage Dam
  6. Detention Dam
  7. Gravity Dam

1) Diversion Dam

As the name suggests, diversion dams are built to change the direction of flowing water. The dams divert water into canals, ditches, and other channels. Unlike many types of dams, diversion dams are lower in heights with smaller water storage capacities.

2) Buttress Dam

Buttress dams consist of sloping watertight decks supported by intervals of buttresses on the downstream side. There are three forms of buttress dams, including the deck type, multiple arch type, and massive head type. However, the dam uses less concrete since the upstream part is a relatively thin flat slab. 

3) Embankment Dam

An embankment dam is constructed using industrial waste materials or excavated natural materials, like compacted earth materials. Based on the material used during construction, there are three main embankment dams: the earth dam, hydraulic fill dam, and the rockfill dam.

4) Cofferdam

Unlike other dams, a cofferdam is a portable dam used to hold water temporarily during shoreline restoration, bridge repair, pipeline installation, and other dewatering projects. You’ll use the cofferdam to close the construction area to maintain a dry work site. It’s more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional sandbags.

Pro Tip: The robust Aqua-Barrier® Inflatable Cofferdam is made from industrial-grade vinyl-coated polyester that is ideal for usage on all terrains and conditions. 

5) Storage Dam

As the name suggests, these dams are primarily constructed to store water during rainy seasons. These dams can also keep water for local wildlife, irrigation, and hydroelectric power generation. Storage dams are the most common types in the United States.

6) Detention Dam

A detention dam is specifically built to control flooding by catching surface runoffs and stream waters. It retains water in a reservoir to regulate the flow of water downstream, reducing flash floods. The stored water can then get released gradually.

7) Gravity Dam

A gravity dam is a massive, human-made concrete dam constructed to hold large volumes of water. It relies on the internal strength and weight for stability. So, builders have to use heavy concrete to resist the horizontal thrust of the water held back.

Choosing the Right Dam to Protect Your Business

There are various types of dams in the United States, with varying construction designs and uses. Thankfully, the barriers play significant roles in controlling floods and providing water for irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, fishing, bathing, and drinking.

Connect with us to learn more types of dams, including the masonry dam.