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Seismic Safety Assessment of Karapiro Dam, New Zealand


Located on the Waikato River in Waikato County, New Zealand, Karapiro Dam is a variable radius arch dam with a crest length of 578 ft and a maximum height of 182 ft measured at the crown cantilever. The dam was designed using the "trial load" method of arch dam analysis. It consists of an arch structure supported by a thrust block and gravity sections on the left abutment and an intake structure on the right abutment.

Three-dimensional finite-element verification analyses were performed to evaluate seismic safety of Karapiro Dam. The structural stability of the dam for the static and seismic loading conditions was assessed and factors of safety against sliding along various potential failure planes were determined. The verification analyses of the dam involved review of the previous studies, development of analysis and evaluation criteria, determination of loading conditions, and a 3D finite-element model which included the arch section and the associated thrust block and gravity section, foundation rock, and the impounded water. The foundation model for Karapiro Dam was constructed on the basis of the surface topography of the canyon. The orthotropic linear-elastic material properties were assumed for the foundation rock, which varied across several foundation rock zones.

In addition to verification analyses, Quest Structures also provided technical advisory services to Electricity Corporation of New Zealand on structural engineering, safety evaluation, and design of remediation conducted by others.




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