Irrigation and Water Supply Dams

Irrigation and Water Supply Dams

Water storage

Helping ensure irrigation and water supply dams perform properly.

Water retention dams provide water for domestic, industrial and irrigation purposes. Some provide hydroelectric power production and flood control. Successful design can prevent dam failure. Thurber has a long history of involvement in major dam projects in Western Canada, ranging from the major hydroelectric projects built in British Columbia in the 1960s and 70s to present-day irrigation and water retention dams of all sizes. We are proud to have supported Vancouver Island's Capital Region District design, maintain, and upgrade water supply reservoirs since the 1970s. We are also privileged to assist with the ongoing design of two dams as part of the Alberta Irrigation Modernization (AIM) Program, which is considered the "single largest irrigation expansion in Alberta's history

We support our clients through the dam's lifecycle by providing services including site investigation, design services, seismic deformation analysis of earth embankments, dam upgrade assessments, dam safety reviews, and seepage control elements design. We play a vital role in the safety, stability, and long-term performance of dams. 

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water dam Services

  • Conduct desktop geological assessment of proposed dam sites
  • Characterize and assess foundation conditions along the proposed alignment of the dam and key appurtenant structures 
  • Assess and characterize potential variability of subsurface conditions 
  • Identify potential subsurface anomalies requiring further site investigations 
  • Identify and characterize the main factors that could critically affect the safe performance of the structures 

  • Assess availability and suitability of construction materials (e.g. types and quantity estimates) 
  • Identify borrow sources for pervious and impervious fill materials required for the construction of the structures, including assessment of potential variability of the material properties
  • Conduct field and laboratory testing to validate/refine material properties for foundation and fill materials, including strength, hydraulic conductivity and consolidation properties
  • Assess risks and plausible failure modes of the structures
  • Select material parameters required for engineering analysis and design of the structures
  • Develop design considerations to control potential seepage, excess pore water pressure development, and potential for settlement or shear deformation 
  • Complete liquefaction assessments

  • Select target design criteria considering applicable best industry practices 
  • Identify project implementation challenges from a technical perspective, including construction issues and uncertainties 
  • Conduct analyses to support the design, including: 
    • Slope stability analyses 
    • Seepage analyses 
    • Deformation analyses 
    • Stress-deformation modelling 

  • Prepare detailed designs, including the design of transitions (e.g., between embankments and abutments)
  • Develop foundation preparation requirements 
  • Prepare construction specifications 
  • Develop construction tender packages and IFC drawings 
  • Site supervision 
  • Quality control and quality assurance 

In British Columbia, dams must be designed to withstand seismic events. Our services include:

  • Downhole shear wave velocity testing
  • Selecting and scaling earthquake time-histories
  • Finite element seismic deformation analyses of earth embankments
  • Site-specific response analysis
  • Liquefaction triggering assessment
  • Limit equilibrium stability
  • Newmark deformation analysis
  • QA services during construction of seismic upgrades

We support existing dams facilities by providing independent onsite inspections and desktop reviews to evaluate the design, construction, maintenance, operation, systems, and processes that affect a dam’s safety and performance as required by the facility's consequence classifications. 

Our reviews help dam owners improve overall dam safety by analyzing failure modes and effects, reviewing seismic and static liquefaction, and helping our clients develop emergency preparedness and response plans. 

Thurber provides dam safety response on an as-needed basis.

Our geotechnical engineers and laboratory technicians characterize the behaviour of a range of soil properties including strength, permeability, consolidation characteristics, and liquefaction susceptibility. Our laboratories serve dam clients across Canada, providing critical data to support complex geotechnical and design challenges. 

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Sooke Dam

A long-standing relationship with victoria's capital region district

The Capital Region District operates the Regional Water Supply system which provides drinking water to approximately 370,000 customers. Thurber has worked with the CRD since the 70s to verify that the dams are performing properly and that upgrades can be completed safely based on the geotechnical conditions. We support them by providing seismic deformation analysis, designing dam upgrades, participating in formal dam safety reviews, and completing condition surveys of concrete structures. We also provide emergency response on an as-needed basis.