Concrete Dams Adapt to Terrain and Function

Dams may well be the best showcase for how versatile, strong and enduring concrete is as a building material. Depending on the purpose of the dam and the configuration of the site where it will be built, engineers can select the type of cement that has properties uniquely suitable for that use and combine it with the correct type of aggregate to create the best concrete for the situation.

The malleability and strength of concrete make it suitable for almost any kind of dam, on any kind of site. Gravity dams and buttress dams use the weight of concrete as their strength; arch dams rely on its compressive properties to stand up to the weight of water.

In addition to strength, concrete has the ability to easily accommodate other materials and components, like steel reinforcement and specialized structures. Concrete dams are used most often to produce hydroelectric power because sluices can be built into the concrete to allow controlled release of water. As necessary, concrete also accommodates steel gates and tunnel liners, rubber waterstops, plastic joint-filling compounds to seal out water, electrical controls and wiring, siphons, valves, power generators, a wide assortment of instruments, and even Teflon sheeting to line water outlet structures to prevent turbulence and damage due to swirling water.