Introduction to Physical Modeling of Spillways for Dams
Recorded on August 14, 2012 (120 minutes)

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Physical models have been used as part of the design process for spillways and other hydraulic structures for centuries. Their use has proven to be extremely effective for validating hydraulic design schemes for new and rehabilitated spillways, for the discovery of hydraulic design problems that previously had not been expected, and in reducing construction costs.  Physical modeling is also important for public relations, for reducing risk and improving public safety. In recent years, the integrated use of physical modeling performed in conjunction with numerical modeling has become commonplace (aka composite modeling).  Webinar examples will illustrate hydraulic problems that were successfully solved using a physical model that may have been missed if a physical model was not utilized.

This webinar will cover the following topics:

  1. The “how” and “why” of physical modeling
  2. Model similitude
  3. Physical modeling measurements
  4. Model validation
  5. The downside to physical modeling
  6. Specific benefits of physical modeling

Steven L. Barfuss, P.E., Utah State University, Utah Water Research Laboratory

Steve has been performing physical model studies at the Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL) in Logan, Utah since 1985. The UWRL at Utah State University is well known for its modeling expertise as well as its ability to construct and test large-size physical models. Since 1985, Steve has been either a principal investigator or team member on more than 100 physical model studies and has been instrumental in helping countless engineers from consulting firms, government agencies and municipalities to appreciate the monetary and hydraulic efficiency-based value of the physical modeling process. Currently as a professional engineer and research professor at USU, he performs physical model studies, while mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in physical modeling and flow measurement techniques, providing for them a one-of-a-kind, hands-on experience in hydraulic structure design and laboratory experience.  He was recently awarded both the undergraduate research mentor award and the outstanding researcher award from the Civil and Environmental Department at USU. Steve currently serves as the Spillways Subcommittee chair within the USSD Hydraulics of Dams committee.

  1. Introduction to physical modeling
    • Brief history of Physical Modeling
    • Where are physical model studies performed?
    • How much do physical models typically cost?
    • How are physical models normally constructed?
    • How much time is required to complete a physical model study?
    • Why are physical models necessary?  Are they worth the time and the investment?
  2. Dam and spillway problems that can be solved through physical modeling.
  3. Basic similitude concerns
  4. Selection of the model scale
  5. Physical modeling boundary conditions
  6. Physical model construction
  7. Instrumentation and equipment used during physical model studies.
  8. Quality control (What are the methods used to ensure that the physical modeling results are accurate?)
  9. Qualitative versus quantitative measurements.
  10. Advantages and Disadvantages of physical modeling
  11. Composite modeling (combination of numerical and physical modeling)
  12. Specific dam and spillway case studies