2010 Volume 50 Issue 2 Pages 295-307
The paper describes and interprets watertightness problems that occurred in two Italian earth dams: the Polverina Dam, a zoned earth dam with vertical clay core, and the Zoccolo Dam, a homogeneous embankment with upstream facing of bituminous conglomerate. Measurements of seepage flows, pore water pressures and displacements in different stages of the dams' lifetime were collected and suitably interpreted to detect the effectiveness of measured physical quantities in revealing watertightness problems. The paper focuses on the role of pore water pressure measurements to such a scope and enhances how the effectiveness of such measurements may be strongly affected by the particular stage reached by the consolidation process within the dam. The analysis of the two case-studies proved that pore water pressure measurements may result effective in revealing hydraulic problems only when significant re-equilibrium processes have taken place in the dam zones where the measurement points are located. Measurements result, instead, ineffective during a nearly undrained stage. The paper also discusses the effectiveness of seepage flow measurements to detect possible hydraulic problems.