Field Measurements of Irrigation Reservoir Levee Erosion

Author(s): Wren, D.; Ozeren, Y.; Reba, M.; Bowie, C.

The use of surface water resources for irrigation has increased due to groundwater depletion. In order to reduce dependence on groundwater, irrigation reservoirs and tailwater recovery systems can be used to capture and store water for irrigation. Irrigation reservoir levees are typically constructed from local soils with low cohesion, resulting in levees that are susceptible to erosion by wind-driven waves, necessitating frequent repairs that are an added expense for producers. Motivated by the amount of erosion observed on the levees, a survey was conducted in 2013-2015 to assess the current condition of the levees and attempt to identify common factors for highly eroded sections. It was found that 79% of the 584 homogeneous levee segments contained within 148 surveyed reservoirs had block failures and near-vertical slopes. Despite regional winds with preferential southerly and northerly directions, levees of all orientations were damaged by waves. For the surveyed irrigation reservoir levees, soil type, vegetation, inner slope, and berm presence were found to be poor predictors of the state of impairment. The most important variable associated with levee failure was maximum effective fetch length; levee segments with longer fetches were more likely to have block failures and greater losses of top-width.

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