Towards an International Levee Performance Database (ILPD) and Its Use for Macro-Scale Analysis of Levee Breaches and Failures
|Database/Reference||Field of Application||Number of Cases||Failures Included||Data Type a||Accessibility||Active (Y/N)|
|Peng and Zhang ||Landslide dams||1044 cases||Yes||General information||Open access||No|
|Utah State University database ||Dam failures||174 cases||Yes||General information with a particular focus on loss of life data for dam safety risk assessments||Open access||No|
|Flood Protection Standards (FLOPROS) database ||Flood protection standards||179 cases for design layer|
68 cases for policy layer
|No||Detailed information on design and policy standards (not on the actual flood defences or their failures)||Open access||No|
|Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) database ||Dam failures||14 detailed case studies||Yes||Detailed information such as photos, videos, general information and lesson learned, reports, failure mechanisms||Open access||No|
|United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) database ||Dam failures focused on loss of life||60 cases||Yes||General information with a particular focus on loss of life||Open access||Yes|
|National Performance of Dams Program (NPDP) database ||Dam||>10,000 cases but few failure cases||Yes||General information including emergency plan, population at risk, storage capacity, failure mech., consequences, lessons learned||Open access||Yes|
|Dam Accident Database ||Dam failures||900 cases||Yes||General information, including some detailed data (hydrographs, reports, photos, etc.)||Not publicly available||No|
|Dartmouth Flood Observatory of Large Floods ||Remote sensing-based flood information||4700 flooding events||Yes||General information including duration of the event, loss of life, damage, severity, effected area, magnitude of the flood, etc.||Open access||Yes|
|The International Disaster Database (EM–DAT) ||Disaster, including flooding||>10,000 cases||No||Detailed information on the disaster related data||Open access||Yes|
|Froehlich ||Dam failures||43||Yes||General information on the breach formation||Not publicly available||No|
|Foster et al. ||Large dam failures||136||Yes||General information||Not publicly available||No|
|Xu ||Dam failures||1443 cases||Yes||Detailed information||Not publicly available||No|
|ERINOH database ||Internal erosion of dams and levees||120 failure cases||Yes||General information, also including some detailed data (hydrographs, breach info., reports, photos, maps, etc.)||Not publicly available||No|
|Van Baars and van Kempen ||Levee failures||337||Yes||General information||Not publicly available||No|
|Italian Levee Database (INLED) ||Levee information||Currently, a few cases||Yes||General information||Not publicly available||Yes|
|Danka ||Levee failures||1004 cases||Yes||General information||Open access||No|
|Department of Water Resources (DWR) levee database ||Urban and non-urban levee failures in California||215 cases||Yes||General information||Open access||No|
|U.S. Army Corps of Engineers database ||National levee information of USA||>10,000 cases (no separation for failures)||Yes||Detailed information on levee system evaluation and inspection, flood risk communication, flood plain management and risk assessment||Open access||Yes|
2. Towards an International Levee Performance Database (ILPD)
2.1. Purpose of the ILPD
- Actual failures during extreme catastrophic events, such as levee failures in New Orleans, LA, USA  and failures during the levee construction phase;
- Failures in small- and full-scale experiments, such as levee breach experiments in the Netherlands ;
- Detailed information on some earthen dam failures, as these show similarities with levee failures;
- Information on the consequences (e.g., damage, loss of life, flooded area, etc.) per extreme event.
2.2. The Design and the Structure
2.3. Categorization of Levee Failure Mechanisms
- Overtopping and Overflow—Overflow occurs when still water level is higher than the crest level of the levee. Whereas, overtopping is observed when still water level remains below the crest level but waves run-up and pass the crest level.
- External erosion—External erosion occurs when the slope of the levee is not sufficiently resistant to the hydraulic loads, that is, when the shear stress induced by flows exceeds the critical value associated with the nature of the materials of the levee . Currents and waves are the main aggravating factors of external erosion which can occur on the landside or waterside slope of the levee. Overtopping/overflow of a levee can induce major damages linked to external erosion, especially on the landside slope.
- Internal erosion—Internal erosion, which refers to a generic event, is initiated by hydrodynamic forces acting on soil particles within a levee foundation which are carried downstream by seepage flow . In this process, migration of material particles induced by pore pressure and flow forms channels within the foundation soils. These pipes undermine the structure of the levee and lead to failure. Internal erosion related failure mechanisms consist of—concentrated leaks, backward erosion, contact erosion and suffusion . Backward erosion, known as piping, is typically most relevant for levees. It occurs if uplift, seepage, heave and piping occur respectively. Seepage also increase the likelihood of instability because of changes to pore pressure distribution within the levee. Uplift pressure in foundation soils can generate major instability.
- Slope instability (i.e., instability)—Instability occurs when the forces (i.e., excess pore pressure) on a levee are higher than the shear resistance which is determined by the soil’s shear strength. Landside slope instability occurs due to the infiltration of water into the levee body and its foundation, leading to forcing of the levee body and decreasing shear strength of the soil. Whereas, waterside slope instability occurs due to sudden drawdown of the outside water level after heavy saturation of the levee body. In this situation, the pore pressures at the base of the potential slide plane stay high, while the horizontal pressure or support from the river water is reduced.
- Micro instability—Micro instability occurs when the seepage water causes the phreatic surface to rise and reach the waterside slope of a levee. The term “micro-” is used to distinguish the stability problems related to this phenomenon from the slope instability which essentially concern the whole levee body directly.
- Settlement—Settlement is a deformation mechanism in vertical direction that can mainly lead to insufficient crest height to prevent failure mechanisms like overtopping/overflow.
- Horizontal sliding—Similar to instability of the landside slope, sliding occurs along the base of the levee body. In this case, the main driving force is the horizontal force of the water exerted on the waterside slope. This mechanism is typically an issue for levees which are made of relatively light material such as peat, where the effective stresses at the base are very low.
3. Macro-Scale Analysis of Levee Failures
3.1. General Database Statistics
3.2. Investigation of the 2002 and 2013 Failures in the Elbe Region, Germany
3.2.1. Overview of the 2002 and 2013 Flood Events
3.2.2. Analysis of the Failures
3.3. Levee Breach Analysis
3.3.1. Analysis of the Failures
3.3.2. Breach Density Analysis
4.2. Using Event-Level Analysis for Risk Assessments
Conflicts of Interest
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|Main Failure Mechanisms||Number of Cases|
|2002 Event||2013 Event||Total|
|External Erosion||59 (53.2%)||5 (29.4%)||64 (50%)|
|Instability||26 (23.4%)||6 (35.3%)||32 (25%)|
|Internal Erosion||14 (12.6%)||5 (29.4%)||19 (14.8%)|
|Overflow/Overtopping||9 (8.1%)||1 (5.9%)||10 (7.8%)|
|Unknown||3 (2.7%)||0 (0%)||3 (2.4%)|
|Damage Type||Num. of Cases||Total Breach Width||Avg. Breach Width per Failure|
|Partial Failure||14||466 m||33 m|
|Total Failure||33||1740 m||53 m|
|Total Failure w/scour||52||3901 m||75 m|
|Breach Density Parameter||Regression Function||R2 Values|
|Failure intensity (km−1)||0.921|
|Breach width ratio (-)||0.938|
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Özer, I.E.; van Damme, M.; Jonkman, S.N. Towards an International Levee Performance Database (ILPD) and Its Use for Macro-Scale Analysis of Levee Breaches and Failures. Water 2020, 12, 119. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010119
Özer IE, van Damme M, Jonkman SN. Towards an International Levee Performance Database (ILPD) and Its Use for Macro-Scale Analysis of Levee Breaches and Failures. Water. 2020; 12(1):119. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010119Chicago/Turabian Style
Özer, Işil Ece, Myron van Damme, and Sebastiaan N. Jonkman. 2020. "Towards an International Levee Performance Database (ILPD) and Its Use for Macro-Scale Analysis of Levee Breaches and Failures" Water 12, no. 1: 119. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010119