Leaking Dams


A leaking dam is a big problem. Leaking can lead to erosion and eventual failure that can damage the waterways and properties downstream of them. In the worst cases, lives can be at stake. The causes usually fit into two categories: construction and/or maintenance. Dams typically have much higher standards for structural performance and permeability than many other elements of the built environment, requiring experienced professionals for their construction and maintenance. Occasionally, however, they are built improperly due to:

  • Failure to install a cut off trench in at the base of the dam core
  • Failure to properly compact soils
  • Improper soils (not enough clay)
  • Various other causes related to improper construction


Whatever the causes may be, they can typically be repaired with either polyurethane or cementitious grout. Operations can proceed in a variety of ways as well, it just depends on the nature and size of the leak.


For concrete dams with isolated, relatively small leaks, polyurethane grout crack injection can be the best bet. This is the same method that would be used for any other structure that you want watertight (including your basement).


Earthen dams can often use polyurethane permeation grouting techniques to install grout curtains to prevent water from migrating past the curtain. The same permeation grouting techniques can be used for a more isolated area of the dam, though water typically will find a way past small “patches”, making it a much better long-term decision to install a curtain the full width of the structure.


Where there are problems with the bedrock (excessive fracturing), a cementitious application can often be best. If water is migrating underneath the dam, and a grout curtain is impractical, consolidation grouting of the bedrock can be the answer. This method uses a high mobility grout to extend into fractures in the rock to significantly decrease the permeability and prevent migration.


Leaking dams are a big problem, but we can plan and execute the best solution for you. Give us a call to see how we can help!



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