Site Characterization for Dam Foundations

December 10, 2020

Site characterization of dam foundations is essential for the safe design of dams. In 2014, as an outcome of the investigation into the failure of the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam in British Columbia, Canada, it became apparent that there was not guidance on what constitutes a good site characterization program. While there is a lot of information available on the methods to be used to undertake a site characterization program, there is not guidance on the appropriate scale or scope of a site characterization program. In response to this deficiency, the APEGBC have issued a Practice Guideline on Site Characterization for Dam Foundations in British Columbia, and this presentation will provide an overview of the guidance document. The guidance was developed for all types of dams and describes the design stages of a dam and the site characterization requirements for each, with an emphasis on the site characterization program for the feasibility level phase. The guidance document is not prescriptive and focuses on the process that should be undertaken to develop a comprehensive program that can provide confidence for dam design. It describes the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved and the quality controls and experience requirements. McLeod, H., A. Small and P. Mitchell. 2017. “Site Characterization for Dam Foundations,” in Proceedings of the 85th Annual Meeting of International Commission on Large Dams, July 3-7, 2017. Prague, Czech Republic: Czech National Committee on Large Dams.