Colombia, 05 Aug 2020

Modeling for emergencies: The race to fix Colombia’s Tallest Dam

Researchers at Utah State University and IHE Delft have been racing against time to help fix the 225 m high Ituango Dam located on the Cauca River in Colombia. It is the biggest hydroelectric power project in Colombia with the plant being projected to generate around 2,400 megawatts.

In the spring of 2018, dam construction, which began in 2011, was brought to a halt due to a series of landslides. One of the key problems since then has been the lack of control over water flows due to the natural blocking and unblocking of a river diversion tunnel. For example, soon after the first landslides, sudden changes in the volume of water passing through the tunnel, required evacuations downstream of about 25,000 people.

The long-term solution to this is to permanently seal off this partially clogged tunnel and divert water flow through the completed spillway and an alternative outlet – but there’s only one chance to get this right. This is where researchers Brian Crookston at Utah State University, and Daniel Valero from IHE Delft come in. Together with their teams, they designed and built an accurate one-fifth scale model that demonstrates how the planned solution, proposed by dam owner EPM and design engineers Integral Ingenieros, will behave on the ground. “We cannot avoid incidents altogether, but we need to be ready to respond immediately and proportionally to any upcoming complications” said Valero. Constructed in less than 40 days, the physical model has allowed engineers to test and develop their repair strategy quickly and accurately.

You can read more about the work in the University of Utah’s newsletter, The Water blog, here: https://uwrl.usu.edu/files/pdf/newsletters/waterblog-2020-jul.pdf

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