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What to do with a dam failure

Water has been on our minds lately. There’s too much of it coming from above in southern Alberta at the moment, and there’s too much of it down below, in the groundwater and in flooded areas, across much of the Prairies.
Water was also the topic of a two-day conference in Lethbridge last week that I covered for the Producer.
With all that water on the brain, a news release today caught my eye, issued by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). It’s Australia’s science organization that does all kinds of interesting and often agriculturally related research.

CSIRO scientists have a computer model that demonstrates catastrophic dam failure. Click here to see a video on how it works. From this model, they can tell how water will flow from a broken dam and what damage it is likely to do downstream.
The CSIRO chose China’s Geheyan Dam as its initial model. If breached, this dam could potentially release 3.12 billion cubic metres of water. That sounds like a whole lot of H20. And it is. To provide some perspective, Gardiner Dam on Lake Diefenbaker holds 9.4 billion cubic metres when full, according to the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority website, so it is considerably larger than Geheyan. At least, it is if I’m doing my math correctly.
Unlike Gardiner, however, Geheyan is in a region prone to earthquakes, so it is more likely to fail due to natural disaster.
Why bother with a catastrophic scenario? For disaster management planning. Wouldn’t it be interesting to use this model on Lake Dief?


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