Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
12 Dec 2008
 | 12 Dec 2008

Influence of check dams on debris-flow run-out intensity

A. Remaître, Th. W. J. van Asch, J.-P. Malet, and O. Maquaire

Abstract. Debris flows are very dangerous phenomena claiming thousands of lives and millions of Euros each year over the world. Disaster mitigation includes non-structural (hazard mapping, insurance policies), active structural (drainage systems) and passive structural (check dams, stilling basins) countermeasures. Since over twenty years, many efforts are devoted by the scientific and engineering communities to the design of proper devices able to capture the debris-flow volume and/or break down the energy. If considerable theoretical and numerical work has been performed on the size, the shape and structure of check dams, allowing the definition of general design criteria, it is worth noting that less research has focused on the optimal location of these dams along the debris-flow pathway.

In this paper, a methodological framework is proposed to evaluate the influence of the number and the location of the check dams on the reduction of the debris-flow intensity (in term of flow thickness, flow velocity and volume). A debris-flow model is used to simulate the run-out of the debris flow. The model uses the Janbu force diagram to resolve the force equilibrium equations; a bingham fluid rheology is introduced and represents the resistance term. The model has been calibrated on two muddy debris-flow events that occurred in 1996 and 2003 at the Faucon watershed (South French Alps).

Influence of the check dams on the debris-flow intensity is quantified taking into account several check dams configurations (number and location) as input geometrical parameters. Results indicate that debris-flow intensity is decreasing with the distance between the source area and the first check dams. The study demonstrates that a small number of check dams located near the source area may decrease substantially the debris-flow intensity on the alluvial fans.