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Proceedings of the Regional Engineering Postgraduate Conference 2009

20-21 October 2009

One Dimensional Dam Breach Modelling for Proposed Hydropower Development in Ulu
Terengganu, Malaysia
Azwin Abdul Razad
TNB Research Sdn. Bhd,
No 1, Lorong Air Hitam,
Kawasan Institusi Penyelidikan Bangi
43000 Kajang
Tel:03 8922 5000
Fax: 03 8926 8829
Faizah Che Ros
College of Engineering, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN)
Dams have been built for many reasons such as irrigation, hydropower, flood mitigation, and water supply
to support the sustainability of mankind in this world. However, the huge amount of water stored behind the dam
can seriously pose adverse impacts to the downstream community should it be released due to unwanted dam
break event. Possible loss of lives and damages to properties due to dam failure are great that a proper
Emergency Response Plan and quantification of impacts become important requirement for a dam owner and
operators. A study was conducted to specifically model the dam break activity for the newly proposed Puah and
Tembat Hydro Dams in Ulu Terengganu Hydro Development via determination of the suitable dam breach
parameters to obtain the outflow hydrograph under the failure induced by PMF inflow into the Puah and Tembat
reservoirs respectively. Prediction of dam breach parameters was conducted using Froehlich and Macdonald
Langridge-Monopolis predictor equations. The modeling was done via MIKE 11 1-D Hydrodynamic Model
developed by Danish Hydraulics Institute (DHI). The peak outflow simulated due to Puah dam failure was
164,323m3/s whilst Tembat Dam Failure yielded peak outflow of 15,462 m3/s.
Key words: Dam break, dam breach, 1-D hydrodynamic model, PMF
Probable Maximum Flood (PMF), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Full Supply Level (FSL),
River (Sg.), Elevation (EL), Emergency Response Plan (ERP), MacDonald & Langdrige Monopolis (MDLM),
Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB)


volume of embankment material eroded, m3

Vw volume of water stored above breach invert

at time of failure, m3
depth of water above breach invert at a time Ko multiplier for Froehlich breach width
of failure, m
equations, 1.4 for overtopping, 1.0 for
height of breach, m
hd height of dam, m
time of failure, hour
average breach width. m
simulated peak flow, m /s


Dams have many essential benefits to serve the ever increasing demand of human population in making
world a better place for living. Dams are purposely built for irrigation, power generation, flood mitigation, water
supply and even for recreation and fishing activity. However, substantially huge amount of water body stored
behind the standing dam structure could seriously pose severe risks to many. Great level of energy stored in the
impounded reservoir will cause unbearable impacts should it be released suddenly to the downstream area. It is
therefore important to conduct a dam break study to determine the outflow resulted from such unwanted dam
break event to prepare for the necessary Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and to quantify the social, economic, and
environmental impacts downstream of the dam. Early detection system, improved warning scheme and
emergency evacuation routes can be developed hence improving the state of preparedness of the community
downstream should the signs of dam instability exists at any point. The overall impacts in terms of loss of lives
and economic damages thus will be reduced.
The art of dam break modeling lies primarily in the prediction of the outflow hydrograph as a result of
dam failure. This can be done via physical model and laboratory experiment and numerical modeling technique.
Physical model is not always financially viable hence the numerical modeling is often taken as a better
alternative. Numerical modeling techniques estimate the outflow hydrograph via four methods;
o physically based methods
o parametric models
o predictor equations
o comparative analysis
Physically based methods predict the breach outflow using an erosion model based on hydraulics
principles, sediment transport and soil mechanics. This is found to be the most difficult prediction method since
many of the dam failure cases contain high degree of uncertainty. Research and data available from sediment
transport under rapidly varying flow are limited, which results in the use of approximation of the standard
predictor equations. This method relies heavily on compilation of case study based on actual failure scenarios
hence more straightforward calculation. Various predictor equations are developed from the compiled cases to
assist in calculation of some important parameters.
Amongst the many software used for prediction of dam break outflow hydrograph includes DAMBRK,
FLDWAV, BREACH, and MIKE. Tingsanchali (Tingsanchali,1998) reported that based on Meyer-Peter &
Mueller formula, BREACH model computed the peak outflow hydrograph as a result of dam breach is 2.8 times
the observed peak. MIKE 11 model computed the breach outflow with a peak equal to 0.167 times of the
observed peak and a time to peak equal to 1.167 times of the observed value. Furthermore, animation tool
available in MIKE software offers better appreciation of the dam break event, added with enhanced graphics of
inundation maps to visualize the movement of flood wave in variation of time and space. This study had
therefore used the MIKE modeling package to simulate the dam break event and to determine the outflow
hydrograph to be routed to the downstream area and eventually to obtain the flood maps.
This paper will therefore discuss on the prediction of dam breach parameters, setting up the model using
MIKE 11 software and simulation of dam break event under PMF Failure scenarios for the newly proposed
hydropower development of Puah and Tembat Dams.


Ulu Terengganu hydro scheme is proposed to be constructed on the upper reach of Kenyir catchment to
increase the generation capacity to an estimated of 406GWh of essential peak energy per annum. Puah Dam is
proposed to be constructed at upper Sg Terengganu immediately downstream of its confluence with Sg Puah. Its
reservoir impounds 1.128 billion cubic metres of water behind its 80m tall of embankment dam structure, with a
crest level at EL 299 and of 550m in length and toe level at EL 219. This earthfill dam has Full Supply Level
(FSL) of 296m with total volume of embankment material of 1.28 x 106 cubic metres. Auxiliary structure
includes rectangular spillway of 25m in length with a crest level at EL 280.5m, located at the end of left

Tembat dam site is to be constructed on the upstream of Kenyir Reservoir at Sg Tembat. Tembat dam is of
smaller size than the proposed Puah dam, made up of roller compacted concrete (RCC) of 29m in height. Crest
level is at EL 429, with the length of 220m and full supply level (FSL) at EL 423. Its reservoir impounds 8.5
million cubic metres of water at FSL, with 7.15millions cubic metres of live storage. The total catchment area is
101km2. The dam is equipped with a broad crested weir spillway with crest level at EL 423.

Figure 1 Kenyir Hydroelectric Scheme showing proposed Puah and Tembat dam sites


The process of obtaining outflow hydrograph using MIKE 11 software requires the prediction of dam
breach parameters and setting up model that represents the actual layout on the ground. Those two processes are
detailed out in the latter.

Prediction of Dam Breach Parameters

Breaching mechanism of a dam is described by dam breach parameters and represented by breach width,
b, breach height, h, side slope, s and time of failure, tf. Dam breach can be specified by trapezoidal, rectangular,
or triangular shape. Linear breaching and erosion-based breaching are both relevant but the latter contains high
degree of uncertainty. The trapezoidal formation with linear formation mechanism is adopted for the purpose of
dam break modeling, based on the assumption that the dams breach linearly with the time.

height, h

Side Slope, s

Breach width, b

Figure 2 Trapezoidal Breach Formation

Literature review reveals Froehlich and MacDonald and Langridge-Monopolis (MDLM) are the most
suitable predictor equations (Wahl, 1998). The parameters used are shown in Table 1 below:
Table 1: Dam Breach Parameters
Predictor Equations
Breach Parameters

Breach formation time, tf (hour)

Average breach width,

MacDonald and Langridge-Monopolis

(MDLM) (1984)

Froehlich (1995b)

0.0179(Ver )0.364

0.00254 (Vw)0.53 hb-0.9



1.4 for overtopping failure

0.9 for other failure modes Average
1.0 (63 cases)

13.4 ( hd) 1.89



Breach side slope, s

Simulated peak flow, Qp (m3/s)

The process of determining the breach parameters is in the form of loop. It starts off with the assumption
that a dam will breach under an overtopping condition due to Probable Maximum Flow (PMF), whereby the
water level was set at the maximum crest level of the dam. Simulation predicted that Puah Dam will not fail
under overtopping condition, indicating the maximum water level of 298.5m, which was less than the dam crest.
Taking into account the original cross section profile of the dam, the breach formation will take place within the
body of the embankment, and limited by the foundation grout apron at the foundation at EL 219m (G&P et al,
2008). Hence the breach will start approximately at EL 298.5 giving the full breach height of 50m for Puah dam.
The average breach width was calculated using Froehlich is 458.43m, but the adopted breach width was taken as
450m to fit the trapezoidal geometry. The side slope, s for Puah dam was taken as 1V:1H for an earthfill dam
(Froehlich, 1995b and G&P et al, 2008). Failure time, tf for Puah dam was calculated as 2.99 hours (MDLM) and
5.48 hours (Froehlich).
Simulation for Tembat Dam predicted that the dam would be overtopped under PMF inflow. Hence,
breach activity would take place from EL 429m until the full breach height of 29m. This was according to the
assumption that the whole section of the dam would break in a shorter duration as a result of possible seepage in
between the foundation and concrete dam as compared to the typical progressive erosion-based failure of earth
fill dams (G&P et al, 2008). Breach invert level was taken at EL 400 to fit the sectional details of the dam.
Breach width was calculated as 101.27 m (Froehlich) but 120 m was used in simulation to match the design of
the dam. Failure time calculated was 0.73 hours (MDLM) and 0.87 hours (Froehlich). Hence, 0.7 hours was
adopted as the failure time for a more conservative simulation. Steeper side slope is expected due to the strong
nature of concrete hence 1V:0.5H was used.
Table 2: Properties of Puah and Tembat Dam
Properties Required for Breach Parameters


Volume of water stored above breach invert, Vw, (m )

Height of breach, hb, (m)


Volume of embankment material, Ver , (m )

Height of dam, hd (m)






Table 3: Breach Parameters Calculated

Breach Parameter
Time of failure, tf (hour)
Average breach width,










Dam Break Model Set Up

A set of four sub-files was created to complete the dam break model set up, added with two time series file
namely dam breach parameters and PMF inflow. The four sub-files required were network, cross section,
boundary conditions and hydrodynamic conditions. Network file describe the river channel with the associated
dam structure to replicate the actual scenario. For Puah Dam Break Model, two channels were specified; Sg
Terengganu and Spillway. The first point represented the Puah Reservoir whilst last point indicated downstream
of Sg Terengganu. For Tembat Dam Break Model, two channels namely Sg Tembat and Tembat Spillway were
created. Dam structures were described the based on dam height, crest length, and crest height whilst Spillway
structure was described using the spillway coefficient, height, width and level. Points were inserted along the
channels and defined as chainage, by assigning specific cross section which was described in the cross section
file. Storage curve was used to define the reservoir whilst the specific geometry of the spillway described the
cross sections of spillway chainages.

Figure 3 Network File for Puah Dam

Figure 4 Network File for Tembat Dam

Table 4: Input Data for Puah and Tembat Dam


Puah Dam

Tembat Dam

Chainage for the dam

Chainage for the reservoir
Crest Level
Crest Length
Invert level






In the boundary file, three boundary conditions were specified for each of Puah and Tembat Dam Break
model to model the dam failure under PMF condition. The time series file of PMF Inflow (SMEC, 1997) for Sg
Puah and Sg Tembat were inserted at chainage 0 for both Sg Tembat and Sg Terengganu respectively and
defined as Inflow boundary type. The second boundary condition was defined as Dambreak and described by
inserting the time series file of Dam Breach Parameters. This would instruct the programme to compute the
progress of breach with regards to width, height and side slope. The third boundary was Q-h or stage level
curve and inserted at the final chainage of both Sg Tembat and Sg Terengganu respectively. For hydrodynamic
file, initial water level need was defined at Full Supply Level (FSL) to allow a smooth hydrodynamic
computation. The river beds were assumed to be of packed clay with the recommended Mannings (M) equals to
30 (MASMA, 2000).

Figure 5 PMF Inflow Time Series for Puah Dam

Figure 6 PMF Inflow Time Series for Tembat Dam


Results and Discussion

To determine the possibility for Puah Dam to be overtopped under PMF inflow, an initial simulation was
conducted by setting the initial reservoir level to be at the crest level. Puah Dam would not be overtopped hence
the simulation for dam break was conducted for failure under PMF condition by setting the initial reservoir level
at EL 298.5m. The breach would develop linearly following a trapezoidal formation with the side slope of 1V:
1H over a derived failure time of 2.99 hours. The final breach width was 450m as discussed earlier. After 16.6
hours of PMF on-set, the outflow hydrograph reached the peak value of 164,323m3/s. The maximum outflow
discharge at Puah Spillway is 3468 m3/s. The outflow hydrograph showing peak discharge at the dam is
illustrated in Figure 7.

Figure 7 Outflow Hydrograph of Puah Dam Under PMF Failure

Tembat Dam was predicted to breach by overtopping under a PMF condition based on the computed
maximum water level of EL 429m at the dam structure when the initial reservoir level was set at EL 429m.
Following a linear breach development over a derived failure time of 0.7 hours, the peak outflow discharge was
15,462m3/s after 10.87 hours of PMF on-set. The maximum outflow discharge for Tembat Spillway was
1628m3/s. The outflow hydrograph showing peak discharge at the dam is illustrated in Figure 8.

Figure 8 Outflow Hydrograph Due to Overtopping of Tembat Dam

Table 5: Summary of Results

Prediction of Peak Flow, Qp
Based on MIKE 11 simulation
Based on predictor equations

Puah Dam

Tembat Dam





Both MDLM and Froehlich predictor equations are best applicable to earthfill dams. The peak outflow
predicted for Puah dam was much lower than the simulated despite the dam is an earthfill dam. However,
comparing the size of Puah Dam and its reservoir with the Kenyir Main Dam and its reservoir, the results
simulated was considered reliable. Simulated peak outflow of Kenyir Dam of 412,962m3/s is 2.5 times higher
than that of Puah Dam (Che Ros, 2009). Also, the predictor equations might be insufficient to predict accurately
the peak outflow for concrete dam since its applications is best and limited to earthfill dams. Hence the
simulated peak outflow for Tembat Dam was expected to differ much from the prediction. Comparing with the
previous cases of dam failure of similar height and capacity, the simulated peak outflow for both cases lied
within the acceptable range. With regards to the routing of hydrograph to the downstream area, the use of more
conservative values as yielded by the simulation would generate higher flood depth maps allowing for more
contingency in the preparation of Emergency Action Plan.


Dam could fail due to various causes such piping, overtopping, foundation and many others. In the case of
dam break modelling, it is important to predict the breach parameters accurately. Prediction is limited by the
number of reported and analysed cases whilst the physical model was not cost effective to support the prediction
of these parameters. Literature review revealed that Macdonald and Langridge-Monopolis (MDLM) and
Froehlich were the best predictor equations. The peak outflow discharge due to failure of Puah and Tembat dam
were considered small as compared to the peak outflow discharge of Kenyir dam (Che Ros, 2009). These
additional discharges could be absorbed by the huge storage of Kenyir reservoir (13.6 billion cubic meters)
without causing extreme rise of water level near the main Kenyir dam face (G&P et al, 2008). This analysis
would help the formulation of EAP for Kenyir Dam and to assist the relevant authority to react in any unlikely
event of dam failure. Consequently, it will improve the community state of preparedness and resilience in
reacting towards a disaster hence improving the authority disaster management policy and procedure.

The author acknowledges TNB Research Sdn Bhd for the research fund to carry out this project which has
resulted this article. Author also wishes to acknowledge Civil Engineering Department of UNITEN, Asset
Development Department of Generation Division TNB and G&P Water Sdn Bhd for collaboration and
consultation given throughout the study duration.

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