State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2011UT154B
Title: Reducing the Dangers of Low Head Dams in Utah
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2011
End Date: 2/29/2012
Congressional District: UT1
Focus Categories: Surface Water, Recreation, Methods
Keywords: Drowning hazards, Water resources, Open channel hydraulics, Low-head dams
Principal Investigators: Johnson, Michael C.; Barfuss, Steven L.
Federal Funds: $ 42,064
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 44,905
Abstract: Each year, hundreds of drowning deaths occur when people in canoes, kayaks, and rafts try to float over low-head dams and become captured in the “hydraulic”, which is a sort of turbulent, submerged hydraulic jump that often forms downstream of such structures. Many deaths have occurred in Utah, with approximately 50 reported on the Jordan River, alone, including two in 2010. Efforts to warn the recreating public who use these surface water resources have proved to be ineffective. Very little research has been conducted on this problem. The proposed work will survey and summarize the extent of the problem in the US and identify the most common types of structures and conditions that lead to hazardous conditions. For those most common types of hazard, the research will identify and evaluate potential structural solutions to the hazards using physical models and modeling approaches from computational fluid dynamics. The results of this work will yield potential solutions that are effective and relatively inexpensive.

Progress/Completion Report, 2011, PDF

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