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Reservoirs

RESERVOIRS From very ancient times in India, Ceylon and elsewhere, reservoirs of great area, but generally of small depth, have been built and used for the purposes of irrigation; and in modern times, especially in India and America, comparatively shallow reservoirs have been constructed of much greater area, and in some cases of greater capacity, than any in the United Kingdom.

4-04 Yet the hilly parts of the last-named country are rich in magnificent sites at sufficient altitudes for the supply of any parts by gravitation, and capable, if properly laid out, of affording a volume of water, throughout the driest seasons, far in excess of the probable demand for a long future. Many of the great towns had already secured such sites within moderate distances, and had constructed reservoirs of considerable size, when, in 1879, 1880 and 1892 respectively, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham obtained statutory powers to draw water from relatively great distances, viz. from Thirlmere in Cumberland, in the case of Manchester; from the river Vyrnwy, Montgomeryshire, a tributary of the Severn, in the case of Liverpool; and from the rivers Elan and Claerwen in Radnorshire, tributaries of the Wye, in the case of Birmingham. Lake Vyrnwy, completed in 1889, includes a reservoir which is still by far the largest in Europe.

This reservoir is situated in a true Glacial lake-basin, and having therefore all the appearance of a natural lake, is commonly known as Lake Vyrnwy. It is 825 ft. above the sea, has an area of 1121 acres, an available capacity exceeding 12,000 Vyrawy. m ili; on gallons, and a length of nearly 5 m. Its position in North Wales is shown in black in fig. 20, and the two views on Plate I. show respectively the portion of the valley visible from the dam before impounding began, and the same portion as a lake on the completion of the work. Before the valves in the dam were closed, the village of Llanwddyn, the parish church, and many farmsteads were demolished. The church was rebuilt outside the watershed, and the remains from the old churchyard were removed to a new cemetery adjoining it. The fact that this valley is a post-Glacial lake-basin was attested by the borings and excavations made for the foundations of the dam. The trench in which the masonry was founded covered an area 120 ft. wide at the bottom, and extending for 1172 ft. across the valley. Its site had been determined by about 190 borings, probings and shafts, which, following upon the indications afforded by the rocks above ground, proved that the rock bed crossing the valley was higher at this point than elsewhere. Here then, buried in alluvium at a depth of 50 to 60 ft. from the surface, was found the rock bar of the post-Glacial lake; at points farther up the valley, borings nearly 100 ft. deep had failed to reach the rock. The Glacial striae, and the dislocated rocks moved a few inches or feet from their places, and others, at greater distances, turned over, and beginning to assume the sub-angular form of Glacial boulders were found precisely as the glacier, receding from the bar, and giving place to the ancient lake, had left them, covered and preserved by sand and gravel washed from the terminal morain. Later came the alluvial silting-up. Slowly, but surely, the deltas of the tributary streams advanced into the lake, floods deposited their burdens of detritus in the deeper places, the lake shallowed and shrank and in its turn yielded to the winding river of an alluvial strath, covered with peat, reeds and alders, and still liable to floods. It is interesting to record that during the construction of the works the implements of Neolithic man were found, near the margin of the modern lake, below the peat, and above the alluvial clay on which it rested. Several of the reservoir sites in Wales, shown by shaded lines in fig. 20, are in all probability similar post-Glacial lake-basins, and in the course of time some of them may contain still greater reservoirs. They are provided with well-proportioned watersheds and rainfall, and being nearly all more than 500 ft. above the sea, may be made available for the supply of pure water by gravitation to any part of England. In 1892 the Corporation of Birmingham obtained powers for the construction of six reservoirs on the rivers Elan and Claerwen, also shown in fig. 20, but the sites of these reservoirs are long narrow valleys, not lake-basins. The three reservoirs on the Elan were completed in 1904. Their joint capacity is 11,320 million gallons and this will be increased to about 18,000 millions when the remaining three are built.

Of natural lakes in Great Britain raised above their ordinary levels that the upper portions may be utilized as reservoirs, Loch Katrine supplying Glasgow is well known. Whitehaven is similarly suppliec from Ennerdale, and in the year 1894 Thirlmere in Cumberland was brought into.use, as already mentioned, for the supply of Manchester The corporation have statutory power to raise the lake 50 ft., at which level it will have an available capacity of about 8000 million gallons; to secure this a masonry dam has been constructed, though the lake is at present worked at a lower level.

It is obvious that the water of a reservoir must never be allowec to rise above a certain prescribed height at which the works will b< perfectly safe. In all reservoirs impounding the natura Overflow. g ow { a stream| t h; s involves the use of an overflow Where the dam is of masonry it may be used as a weir; but where earthwork is employed, the overflow, commonly known in such a case as the " bye-wash," should be an entirely independent work consisting of a low weir of sufficient length to prevent an unsafe rise of the water level, and of a narrow channel capable of easily carryin; away any water that passes over the weir. The absence of one or botl of these conditions has led to the failure of many dams.

Reservoirs unsafe from this cause still exist in the United Kingdom. iVhere the contributory drainage area exceeds 5000 acres, the disharge, even allowing for so-called " cloud-bursts," rarely or never xceeds the rate of about 300 cub. ft. per second per 1000 acres, or 500 times the minimum dry weather flow, taken as one-fifth of a :ubic foot ; and if we provide against such an occasional discharge, with a possible maximum of 400 cub. ft. at much more distant ntervals, a proper factor of safety will be allowed. But when a eservoir is placed upon a smaller area the conditions are materially :hanged. The rainfall which produces, as the average of all the ributaries in the larger area, 300 cub. ft. per second per 1000 acres, s made up of groups of rainfall of very varying intensity, falling upon different portions of that area, so that upon any section of it the ntensity of discharge may be much greater.

The height to which the water is permitted to rise above the sill of the overflow depends upon the height of the embankment above hat level (in the United Kingdom commonly 6 or 7 ft.), and this again should be governed by the height of possible waves. In open >laces that height is seldom more than about one and a half times the iquare root of the " fetch " or greatest distance in nautical miles rom which the wave has travelled to the point in question ; but in narrow reaches or lakes it is relatively higher. In lengths not exceeding about 2 m., twice this height may be reached, giving for a 2-mile " fetch " about 3J ft., or if ft. above the mean level. Above this again, the height of the wave should be allowed for " wash," naking the embankment in such a case not less than sJ ft. above the lighest water-level. If, then, we determine that the depth of overlow shall not exceed I j ft., we arrive at 6f ft. as sufficient for the icight of the embankment above the sill of the overflow. Obviously we may shorten the sill at the cost of extra height of embankment, but it is rarely wise to do so.

The overflow sill or weir should be a masonry structure of rounded vertical section raised a foot or more above the waste-water course, in which case for a depth of ij ft. it will discharge, over every foot of length, about 6 cub. ft. per second. Thus, if the drainage area exceeds 5000 acres, and we provide for the passage of 300 cub. ft. per second per 1000 acres, such a weir will be 50 ft. long for every lopoacres. But, as smaller areas are approached, the excessive local rainfalls of short duration must be provided for, and beyond these there are extraordinarily heavy discharges generally over and gone before any exact records can be made; hence we know very little of them beyond the bare fact that from 1000 acres the discharge may rise to two or three times 300 cub. ft. per second per 1000 acres. In the writer's experience at least one case has occurred where, from a mountain area of 1300 acres, the rate per 1000 was for a short time certainly not less than 1000 cub. ft. per second. Nothing but long observation and experience can help the hydraulic engineer to judge of the configuration of the ground favourable to such phenomena. It is only necessary, however, to provide for these exceptional discharges during very short periods, so that the rise in the water-level of the reservoir may be taken into consideration ; but subject to this, provision must be made at the bye- wash for preventing such a flood, however rare, from filling the reservoir to a dangerous height.

From the overflow sill the bye-wash channel may be gradually narrowed as the crest of the embankment is passed, the water being prevented from attaining undue velocity by steps of heavy masonry, or, where the gradient is not very steep, by irregularly set masonry.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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