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Dam Nuisance

The BBC reports that an Iraqi dam ‘at risk of collapse’

The largest dam in Iraq is at risk of an imminent collapse that could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave of water on Mosul, a city of 1.7m people, the US has warned.

In May, the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority, as a catastrophic failure would result in a “significant loss of life”.

However, a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project to help shore up the dam has made little or no progress.

SIGIR [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction] found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.

Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made.

The dam was built on water-soluble gypsum, so it is going to fail. You can pump all the hydraulic cement in the world at the base of the dam, but it is built in the wrong place on the wrong foundation and will fail. The best you can do is limit the size of the disaster.

4 comments

1 hipparchia { 10.31.07 at 1:02 am }

or you could just call attention to it in the news and wait for the insurgents to blow it up.

2 Bryan { 10.31.07 at 1:08 pm }

The insurgents should save their explosives – it is going to fail and there is nothing that can be done to stop it except drain the water in a controlled release.

3 Steve Bates { 11.01.07 at 12:21 am }

Texas residents near Livingston, Coldspring, etc. know about dams. When my late father bought property he intended to retire to with my mother, he obtained topographic maps and determined what would happen to various possible properties when the Trinity River Dam opened its floodgates in emergencies. Dad chose correctly: that property never flooded due to a release from the dam. (Eventually, Hurricane Rita rendered it uninhabitable, but Mom and Dad had long since passed away by that time, and the damage was not due to floodwaters.)

The Trinity River Dam appears to be properly designed and constructed, though that is a recent condition: it suffered severe damage a few years ago, and was rebuilt the way it should have been built in the first place. But there is no way I’d live in the Trinity River flood plain. Too many have lost their homes when the dam was opened as a last resort.

You are right. There is no reason to blow up a dam that is pretty well guaranteed to fail because of its design or construction… unless there is symbolic value in its deliberate destruction. Insurgents’ motives are frequently irrational. Other people’s motives are… well, they’re frequently irrational, too.

4 Bryan { 11.01.07 at 12:47 am }

We have idiots trying to dam a couple of local rivers for “water conservation”. We get our water from wells, not the river, and as far as recreation goes, we have the bloody Gulf of Mexico for fishing and boating. The rivers are used for kayaks and canoes, and a dam would reduce the available area. They also interfere with the fish and the cleaning of the bays and bayous.

If they were talking about a hydroelectric dam, I would pause a couple of minutes before rejecting it. We are probably going to see droughts on the upstream portions, so the water supply wouldn’t be consistent enough to depend on it.

You have to be an expert to blow a dam, and setting the charges takes a while. The gypsum is going to dissolve anyway, so there’s no real point in doing it. The problem is more one of the dam moving, rather than braking.