Dam break

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Historical illustration of a dike breach in 1661

With a dam failure or dike breach a dam or a dyke by water or mudslides, such as sedimentation , damaged or destroyed. It is characteristic that a small leak increases rapidly, more and more water or mud flows over the dam or dike and further destroys it. A chain reaction occurs .


Rupture of the Elbe Side Canal near Lüneburg in July 1976

It is the failure of a dam or a dike . This is a problem in hydraulic engineering . The imprecise name does not mean that something will break. Rather, a dam break is usually initiated by the soil being softened either by excessive hydrostatic pressure or by internal damage to such an extent that it can no longer transmit the shear stresses and is pushed away horizontally. A dam can also break in an earthquake due to soil liquefaction .

Protective measures

If a dam threatens to break, attempts are made to reinforce it with stone slabs or textile material. In acute cases, the land side is reinforced with sandbags . Another measure is weighting down by adding soil.


Some animals like the muskrat , but also beavers and rabbits , endanger dams by hollowing them out when building caves.

Known dam breaks

Historical control of a dike breach by fascine engineering (1813)

Forecast and calculation of dam breaks

Since the failure of dams can never be absolutely ruled out despite high safety devices, the dam break forecast for large storage facilities in Europe is required by the authorities. Various models are currently available for this. The complicated process of erosion fracture is represented most precisely with numerical models. One example of this is the 2dMb model from ETH Zurich . This program can record both the outflow (hydraulics) and the erosion of dam material (erosion). The aim of such simulations is the outflow hydrograph of the dam breach. This allows the further course of the tidal wave to be calculated and the destructive force of a dam breach to be estimated.


Dam break is also often used metaphorically . A dam is said to have broken if something that has been strictly adhered to for a long time is not followed once. The concern is that after this one injury, many more injuries can follow, as if the first injury had broken a small piece of the dam, destroying the entire dam.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Dambruch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Dam breach simulation