Workshop on: Geological and engineering problems of the most dangerous dam in the world (Mosul Dam)
Please note that the Geotechnical Group at Lulea University of Technology, Sweden together with the Iraqi Forum of intellectuals and Academics (IFIA) will hold an International workshop on “Geological and engineering problems of the most dangerous dam in the world” (Mosul Dam)
May 24-25, 2016 at the Stockholm City Conference Centre, Norra Latin, Drottninggatan 71B, Stockholm.
The aim of this workshop is to discuss:
1. The existing geological and engineering problems of Mosul Dam.
2. Potential failure of the dam and the consequences.
3. Possible solutions of the problem.
The problems related to Mosul dam are very serious. Researchers and news media estimated that about 500,000 to 1,000,000 people might die due to a failure of the dam. In addition to that, the infrastructure of all the cities and villages downstream the dam along river Tigris up to Bagdad will be destroyed.
In view of this critical problem, President Obama has emphasized during a call on 6th January, 2016 with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the need for emergency repairs for Mosul Dam. We have the pleasure to invite you to attend this very important workshop. Please find attached a simple overview report of the problems of Mosul Dam and the workshop program.
IIn case you require further information, please contact:
Professor Sven Knutsson, Sven.Knutsson@ltu.se
or Professor Nadhir Al-Ansari
The workshop is free of charge but you should confirm your participation.
Sven Knutsson Nadhir Al-Ansari
Professor Professor, LTU
Coordinator of Iraqi affairs at LTU. Program coordinator
Mosul Dam Workshop
24-25 May, 2016
Stockholm City Conference Centre, Norra Latin, Drottninggatan 71B, Stockholm
Day Time Activity Speaker Chairperson
24 May 2016 09:00- 10:00 Registration
10:00:1100 Welcome Speeches
-PAFI Mr. Jamal Al Dhari
-IAFA Dr. Hassan F. Jumaa
- LTU Prof Jan laue
Dr. Khazal Aljanabi and Prof. Sven Knutsson
-Prof. Nadhir Al-Ansari
11:00-11:30 Coffee Break
11:30-12:30 -Geological problems - Faroojan Khajeek Siakian Prof. Nadhir Al-Ansari
12:30:- 13:30 Lunch Break
Engineering Problems of Mosul Dam Eng.Nasrat Adamo Prof. Sven Knutsson
15.00-15:30 Coffee Break
15:30-16:30 Session 2
Safety Reviews of Mosul Dam Eng.Nasrat Adamo Prof. Jan Laue
16::30-17:30 Session 3
-Monitoring of settlements on the Mosul dam utilizing Sentinel-1 satellite measurements
-Dam failure: Flood Wave and Consequences
-Dr. Frano Cetinic
-Prof. Nadhir Al-Ansari Prof. Sven Knutsson
25 May 2016 08:30-10:00 Session 4 Dams Experts Opinions and Discussions
Prof. Sven Knutsson
10:00-10:30 Coffee Break
10:30-11:30 Session 5
Suggested Action Plan
-Dr Khazal Al-Janabi
-Prof Nadhir Al-Ansari
-Eng. Nasrat Adamo
-Eng. Faroojan Khaeek
-Eng. Ismail Al-Janabi
-Eng. Rasool Swadi
-Eng. Malik Ajeeli
-Eng. Natiq Ali
-Eng. Kifah Abdullrahman
Dr. Hassan F. Jumaa
12:30-14:00 Session 6 Recommendations of Experts
Concluding Remark Reporters
Prof. Nadhir Al-Ansari
Prof. Sven Knutsson
14:00-14:30 Media Technical questions and Answers
Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering
Lulea University of Technology
SE-971 87 Lulea, Sweden
Telephone +46 920491858
Mosul Dam History, problems and failure consequences
The rivers Tigris and Euphrates form the main water resources of Iraq. Most of the water
from these rivers comes from Turkey (71%) followed by Iran (6.9%) and Syria (4%). The
remainder, only 8%, is from internal sources (Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, 2014; Al-
Ansari et al., 2014 and 2015, Al-Ansari, 2013, Al-Ansari and Knutsson, 2011). The average
annual flow of the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris is estimated to be about 30 km3 (which might
fluctuate from 10 to 40 km3) for the former and 21.2 km3 for the latter when they enter Iraq.
Tigris River tributaries in Iraq contribute 24.78 km3 of water and there is about 7 km3 of water
brought by small wadies from Iran, which drain directly towards the marsh area. Euphrates
River doesn’t have tributaries inside Iraq. Groundwater resources are estimated about 1.2
BCM and form about 2% of the total water resources of Iraq (World Bank, 2006).
Iraq started controlling its water resources since 1939 when the first barrage was
constructed at Kut on Tigris River. The idea of building dams in Iraq started in the first half of
the twentieth century. Primarily it was to protect Baghdad the capital and other major cities
from flooding (Fig. 1). The first big dam (Dokan) was constructed on the Lesser Zab River.
They started its construction in 1956. Later, dams and regulators were constructed for
irrigation and power generation purposes (Wikiwand, 2015; Iraqi Parliament, 2009). The
natural depressions are included within the hydrological scheme as flooding escapes such as
The Iraqi Government realized the process of building dams should be speeded up due the
huge increase of water demand and the threat of halting water of the rivers by Turkey and
Syria. The process was stopped in the 1990s due to the second Gulf War and UN sanctions.
None of these dams was filled to its maximum storage capacity during the twenty first
century. This is attributed to the depletion of flow in the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers due to
the Turkish and Syrian dams. It is noteworthy to mention that Haditha Dam is almost of no
use now due to the severe depletion of the Euphrates flow (Al-Ansari, 2013; Al-Ansari and
Knutsson 2011; Al-Ansari et al., 2014 and 2015).
The idea of building of Mosul Dam project started in 1950 and it was referred to as Aski
Mosul Dam (Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, 2014). The location of the dam was
suggested by two British companies Alxeander Ghbbs and partners and Munsell Bassford and
Bafery in 1953 to be at a village called “Dhaw Al-kamar” which is located 12 km north of
Aski Mosul. The dam was designed so that its capacity reaches 8.7 km3 at 320 m (a.s.l.) while
the maximum elevation of the dam reaches 324 m (a.s.l.).
Later in 1956, the Iraqi Development Council asked an American company (Koljian) to
carry out a new site investigation for the dam to use it for irrigation purposes. This company
handed its report in 1957 suggesting that the dam should irrigate about 2500 km2 distributed
at North, South and East Aljazera. In the same year, the Iraqi Government asked Harza
Company to perform a new site survey and design for the dam. In 1960, Harza Company
suggested two sites for the dam different from those suggested earlier by other companies.
This is attributed to the fact that, earlier locations are not suitable because the dam will be
built on highly soluble gypsum and very thin clay beds. The first suggested site was to build a
dam with a storage capacity of 7.8 km3 at 320 m (a.s.l.) and the other site was at 335 m (a.s.l.)
with a storage capacity of 13.5 km3. In 1962, the Iraqi Government asked Technoprom Export
(Soviet company) to perform another investigation for the site of Mosul Dam and to suggest a
new design as well. The company suggested a new site that is 600 m south of the site
suggested by Harza Company. The dam was designed with a storage capacity of 7.7 km3 at
312.4 m (a.s.l.) and the maximum height of the dam was supposed to be 83.7 m.
All the above companies suggested that the dam should be of rock-fill type with
compressed clay core but there were different views about the exact location of the dam,
spillway and electricity generating station. Grouting was suggested to be performed under the
dam, spillway and the electricity generating station. In addition, they suggested that detailed
geological investigation should be performed before any construction activities. In view of
these reports, the Iraqi Government asked a Finish company “Imatran Voima” in 1965 to
carry out new investigations. The dam at that time was supposed to irrigate 7500 km2 at
Mosul, Baghdad, Kut, Nasiriyah, Amarah and Basra Governorates. The company suggested a
site which is located 60km northwest Mosul city. It was pointed out the geology of the area is
so complex and requires further investigations. Another Yugoslav company (Geotcnica)
worked on the geology of the suggested site in 1972 according to the advice of the
International board of dams (IBD) and the report submitted by the Russian Technoprom
Export Company. Imatran Voima Company carried out another investigation in
1973.According to these reports, IBD recommended in 1974 extra geological investigations.
The Iraqi Directorate General for Dams asked a French company (Soletanch previously
known Soleseif) to perform more geological investigation on the suggested site. This was
done during 1974-1978. Later in 1978, the Swiss Consultants Consortium was asked to be the
consultants for Mosul Dam project. The consultants suggested that the operational water level
at the dam to be 330 m (a.s.l.) while the flood and normal water levels to be 338 and 335 m
(a.s.l.), respectively. The work started on 25th January, 1981 and finished 24th July, 1986. The
total cost of the development was estimated at 2.6 billion US$ at the prices level of 1985.
Mosul Dam is located on the Tigris River in north western part of Iraq; approximately 60
km northwest of Mosul city and 80 Km from Syrian and Turkish borders (Figure 2). It is a
multipurpose project for irrigation, flood control and hydropower generation. It is 113 m in
height, 3.4 km in length, 10 m wide in its crest and has a storage capacity of 11.11 billion
cubic meters. The water surface area of the reservoir at the beginning of the dam operation
was 380 km2 with a storage capacity of 11.11 km3 at the maximum operation level 330 m
(a.s.l.) including 8.16 km3 live storage and 2.95 km3 dead storage. It is an earth fill dam,
constructed on bedrocks of the Fatha Formation, which consists of gypsum beds alternated
with marl and limestone, in cyclic nature. The thickness of the gypsum beds attains 18 m;
they are intensely karstified even in foundation rocks. This has created number of problems
during construction, impounding and operation of the dam.
Construction work in Mosul Dam started on January 25th, 1981. Swiss Consultants
Consortium was asked to be the consultants for Mosul Dam project. A consortium of German
and Italian companies (GIMOD) was asked to execute the civil and steel work of the project
in 1980. While electromechanical plant of the power station was given to the Japanese
company (Toshiba) on the condition that the capacity of the plant will be 750 MW. The
electromechanical plant contract for the regulation dam was awarded to (Elin Union) from
Austria, while the electromechanical plant for the pump storage scheme was given to (G.I.E)
from Italy. The total cost of the development was estimated at 2.6 billion US$ at the prices
level of 1985and the dam started operating on 24th July, 1986. After impounding in 1986, new
seepage locations were recognized. Grouting operations continued and various studies were
conducted to find suitable grout or technique to overcome this problem. The seepage due to
the dissolution of gypsum and anhydrite beds raised a big concern about the safety of the dam
and its possible failure. This problem was kept in a small closed circle within the Iraqi
Ministry of Water Resources (previously Ministry of Irrigation) till the US Army Corps of
Engineers conducted a study on Mosul Dam for the period June, 2004 to July, 2006 and
highlighted the possibility of the dam failure (Wakeley et al., 2007). News media had
highlighted this concern in 2014 when ISIS occupied the dam site area. It was reported that
about 500,000 will lose their lives in case of Mosul Dam failure. Loses of property and
destruction of the infrastructure of the main cities downstream the dam will be enormous and
it will reach the capital city Baghdad.
Consequences of Mosul Dam Failure
The seepage problem during the construction and operation periods in Mosul Dam due to
the dissolution of gypsum and anhydrite beds raised high concern about the safety of the dam.
In view of the situation, the Iraqi Government asked the Swiss Consultants to perform a study
about this matter (Swiss Consultants, 1984). This study was checked again by BV in 2004
(Wheeler, et al., 2004). Despite the fact that the above studies used different mathematical
models, they got the same results. To overcome the problem, grouting operations were the
main solution. Later in 2007, the US Corps of Engineers raised high concerns about the safety
of the dam and it was reported that in case of the dam failure, it could wipe out whole cities,
and was considered to be "the most dangerous dam in the world (Wakeley et al., 2007; RT,
2014). When ISIS occupied the dam site in 2014, there were fears that they might use
explosives to destroy the dam. Numbers of articles were written in this context (RT, 2014;
Roulo, 2014; The Independent, 2014; Bender, 2014; Tomkiw, 2014). As an example, RT
(2014) wrote “the dam has been suffering a critical lack of maintenance and repair work. And
under Islamic State management, a similar situation has been happening to other major dams
located on the Euphrates (which still haven’t been freed).
The problem is that when it was built in the mid - 80's, little thought was given to the
location. David Petraeus, the former commanding general of the US Army in Iraq, wrote a
letter to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in 2007, indicating the dangers of the soluble soil
located underneath the dam, which warrant constant attention and repair work.
“Extraordinary engineering measures” to fill soil gaps and “maintain structural integrity
and operating capability of the dam” are a must, according to the US Army Corps of
Engineers (USACE) report sent out in the same year. Another report by USACE in 2011
indicated that a failure of the Mosul Dam could cost 500,000 civilian lives in the immediate
Swiss Consultant (1984) report had traced the wave caused by the dam failure. They
calculated the discharges and water levels from the dam site downstream to Baghdad (Table 1
and figure 3). The highest discharges and wave heights are expected to be noticed in the first
122 km downstream the dam. The discharge is expected to be 551000 m3.sec-1 at the start and
attenuates to 320 000 m3.sec-1 at the confluence of Tigris- Greater Zab Rivers, which will be
reached after 7 hours. The wave height is expected to be 55 m and decreases to 45 m the first
20 km. Mosul city will be affected by the flood after 4 hours of the dam breaching where the
maximum water level is expected to be 243 m (a.s.l.) (see Fig. 4). The wave height will be 24
m and it will inundate 74.044 km2 of the area of Mosul city (Fig. 4). Downstream the
confluence with Greater Zab River the discharge of the Tigris River will be reduced to 310
000 m3.sec-1. The water wave will reach Fatha after 16 hours and the discharge of the Tigris
River after its confluence with the Lesser Zab River will be 210000 m3.sec-1. The wave height
is expected to be 25 m at Fatha and since the water has to pass through the narrow gap
between Hemrin and Makhul Mountains, backwater effect will be noticed and the water
velocity at the gap will reach 10 m/s.
Downstream Fatha, the Tigris River valley widens from 1 km to 5 km and the discharge
will decrease to 185000 m3.sec-1. At 422 km downstream the dam, the river passes a major
city called Tikrit. At that city the discharges will be 185000 m3.sec-1. The wave height will
arrive after 22 hours and its height will be 15 m. It will inundate 68.985 km2 (Table 1, Figures
3 and 4). Then the wave will reach another major city called Samara which is 479 km
downstream the dam. The wave time of arrival at this city is 25 hours and height of the wave
reaches 10m. The river discharge will be reduced to162000 m3.sec-1. It will inundate 30.100
km2of the city (Table 1, Figures 3 and 4). Further downstream, at a distance of 638 km from
the dam, the wave reaches north Baghdad with a height of 4m. The time expected for the
wave to reach Bagdad is 38hours. The discharge of the river at this point will be about 46, 000
m3.sec-1. It will take the wave about 10 hours to pass Baghdad and it will inundate an area of
about 216.934 km2 (
Table 1: Discharges, time of arrival and wave height of the wave generated due to Mosul
Dam failure (modified after Swiss Consultants, 1984).
Location Dischargem 3.sec-1 Time ofArrival hr. WaveHeight Distance km Flood area Km2
Dam site 551,000 54 0
Regulating Dam 545,000 1.3 48 9
Eski Mosul 481.000 1.6 45 17
Mosul City 405,000 4 24 69 74.044
Hamam Ali 370,000 5 18 97
Tikrit 185,000 22 15 422 68.985
Sammara 162,000 25 10 479 30.100
Balad 115,000 28 9 516
Khalis 81,000 31 6 566
Tarmiya 72,000 33 4 597
Baghdad (North) 46,000 38 4 638
Baghdad (Center) 35,000 44 4 653 216.934
Baghdad (South ) 34,000 48 3.5 674
Diyala Confluence 34,000 >48 3 685
Salman Pak 31,000 >48 3 708
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