ASDSO Dam Safety Toolbox

Types of Dams

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Learn more about the basics of dams from this video

(Image Source: ASDSO, 2022).

A dam is an artificial barrier constructed on natural terrain in order to control, store, or divert water. Dams come in many shapes and sizes. Dams are classified according to their size, type of construction materials used, structure, function, ownership, and the consequences of their failure. The most common types of dams in the United States are low hazard, privately owned, earth embankment dams.

Differences between dams can range from their intended purposes to variable site conditions. Site topography and available materials, with their associated costs, also play major roles in the selection of the type of dam that is to be designed and constructed in a given location. Each dam must be specifically and uniquely designed to safely serve its intended purpose. Common types of dams include the following:

Best Practices Resources

Pocket Safety Guide for Dams and Impoundments (FEMA P-911), FEMA

Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety: Glossary of Terms (FEMA P-148), FEMA

Trainings

ASDSO Dam Owner Academy: Dams 101


Revision ID: 7276
Revision Date: 07/18/2023