Dams project continues to grow...
Last year we heard from Geotechnical Water Resource Engineer Kaley Crawford-Flett, who joined the Quake Centre team on secondment from Riley Consultants Ltd. Kaley’s research has seen her focusing on earth structures, and particularly the seismic performance of soils in earth dams. Since catching up with Kaley, progress on the project has really ramped up, with a number of developments well underway.
While Kaley was originally based in Auckland, and dividing her time between the North and South Island, the opportunities of the project meant that it was a logical time to make the move to Christchurch, which she did two months ago.
With the growth and development of the project, the team has also expanded. As well as Kaley’s colleague Jennifer Haskell (Lecturer, Civil and Natural Resources Engineering (CNRE) Department), who has been central to the project, two post-graduate interns, Andrew Welsh and Marcus Rodger, have recently joined the team as part of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) internship program (GISC415).
Kaley says it was a chance ‘hallway’ conversation that led to bringing the interns on board.
“It was mentioned that there was an opportunity to take on two GIS interns and - ‘do you have a project?’ I said ‘do I ever!’ and we went from there.”
And the benefits of bringing additional capability to the team will be huge.
“Our draft inventory contains over 1,200 dams with spatial coordinates and a lot of attributes concerning dam size, type, age, and purpose. By overlaying geographical and geospatial information, we can learn a lot about the evolution of our national dam portfolio and how dams fit in the context of New Zealand society. We are working closely with Wayne Tyson of the Geo-Spatial Research Institute (GRI), who has generously provided technical support and GIS mentorship for our interns, and so instead of saying ‘let’s not think about this now, we’re too busy’ - we were able to utilize that new resource.”
Providing decision support tools to industry continues to be a major focus of the project. One such tool that the project team have been helping to develop is the New Zealand Inventory of Dams (NZID), a resource to outline what assets we have in terms of dams here in New Zealand.
“It looks at how many dams we have, how big they are, and what they look like. There’s presently a lack of quantitative understanding about the dam portfolio in New Zealand. Along with informing our research, this study is helping to provide industry and regulatory bodies with more up-to-date information.” Initial findings will be presented and published in October 2016 within the proceedings of the joint Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) and New Zealand Society on Large dams (NZSOLD) Symposium.
The dams project is also seeing progress on the experimental and analytical front. Following a successful Summer Scholarship Project concerning cracking potential in filter soils, three final-year undergraduate groups are involved in dams-related research projects as part of the ENCN493 Project course.
The three projects are closely supervised by Dr. Haskell and involve the geotechnical characterization of dams, a pilot study on embankment cracking using international centrifuge technology, and an experimental study on erosion of sandy materials subject to vibration.
At the technical research level, the UCQC dams team is also working closely with other researchers in the CNRE Department to refine specifications for a new and novel experimental device that will permit seepage and stress testing of gravelly New Zealand soils, under both static and simulated ‘seismic’ conditions. Scoping trips to the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) and Tongji University (Shanghai, China) have been undertaken in the past six months. Having returned to New Zealand with a better understanding of state-of-art international devices, the final specifications for the New Zealand device are presently under development.
With the project team growing in size, so too has the number of partners supporting the research being undertaken.
“We’ve had a lot of interest and a lot of input from various groups within the dam industry. In addition to our initial partners Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power and Meridian Energy, Trustpower formally signed up to support the project, and join our steering committee in October 2015. It is great to see these companies around the table, discussing ideas and research needs of mutual relevance.”
Kaley is quick to acknowledge the support of the various industry partners with the project, both in terms of financial backing but also real world expertise.
“We always really appreciate the amount of industry support we’re getting. We get a lot of input from Peter Amos, the Managing Director of Damwatch and he’s just an amazing resource.”
“It sounds like a cliche, but the industry input really does make such a difference to the direction of the research. It makes it so much more real.”
As the scope of the project has continued to extend, additional project timelines have now developed, largely due to the demand from industry to further the research. “One example is the dam characterization study involving the NZID. While we have largely fulfilled our initial scope, the initial study identified a number of gaps and more detailed questions that required answers. The recent addition of GIS capability within the UCQC team is allowing further, more complete, analysis to inform both research and industry needs. We’ve had a lot of interest from regulatory authorities and various other groups on how they can use the information we’re collecting, so that’s been really positive.”
In addition to all the work being undertaken by the expanded team, Kaley is gearing up to present papers co-authored by Dr. Haskell at two upcoming international conferences; the International Conference on Scour and Erosion (ICSE16) at Oxford in the UK in September, and the joint Australian National Committee on Large Dams and New Zealand Society on Large Dams Symposium, in Adelaide in October.