Resources by Topic

Resources by Topic: Seismic


Seismic considerations for dam safety include estimation of seismic hazards, analysis of expected performance during possible earthquake shaking, and design and construction to provide for safe performance during earthquakes. Potential seismic hazards include ground shaking (often represented by predicted levels of ground acceleration), fault rupture, and seiche waves. Hazards can be evaluated using either deterministic or probabilistic methods.

Earthquake analysis and earthquake-resistant design differs for embankment and concrete dams. For embankment dams evaluations need to be completed to estimate engineering properties (strengths and deformation characteristics) applicable for earthquake loading, with due consideration to possible strength reductions, particularly strength reductions which might occur because of the phenomenon of liquefaction. Potential earthquake-induced instability or excessive deformation must be evaluated. If unacceptable earthquake performance is predicted, some methods that have been used to improve expected performance for embankment dams include in situ soil improvement, removal and replacement of weak soils, embankment buttressing and combinations of these methods.

For concrete dams, analyses need to consider the potential for earthquake loading to cause sliding, overturning, or overstressing. If unacceptable earthquake performance is predicted, some methods that have been used to improve expected performance of concrete dams include anchoring and buttressing.


To be proficient in this area one needs to understand and/or have experience in the following areas:

  • Earthquake Engineering for Dams
  • Dynamic Seismic Analyses for Dams

Classroom And Web-Based Training

ASDSO Technical Seminars
  • Earthquake Engineering for Dams (basic)

Additional Training: Search the ASDSO Training Directory.

Highly Recommended Resources and References

Some of the most highly recommended resources in this area are listed below. (See also: TADS materials, listed above under "Self-paced Courses.") For additional resources, search the ASDSO Bibliography. Suggested search terms: earthquakes, seismic, geotechnical, liquefaction

U.S. Interagency Committee on Dam Safety

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  • Engineering Guidelines for the Evaluation of Hydropower Projects: Chapter 13 - Evaluation of Seismic Hazards (Draft) [Evaluation of earthquake ground motions]. Prepared by I.M. Idriss and Ralph J. Archuleta.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • Earthquake Design and Evaluation of Concrete Hydraulic Structures [EM 1110-2-6053], 2007, 247 pp.
  • Ebeling, Robert M.; Nuss, Larry K.; Tracy, Fred T. and Brand, Bruce. Evaluation and Comparison of Stability Analysis and Uplift Criteria for Concrete Gravity Dams by Three Federal Agencies. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2000, 187 pp.
  • Hynes-Griffin, Mary and Franklin, Arley. Rationalizing the Seismic Coefficient Method, USACE Misc. Paper GL-84 13, 1984.
  • Safety of Dams - Policy and Procedure [ER 1110-2-1156], 2003, 168 pp.
  • Seismic Design Provisions for Roller Compacted Concrete Dams [EP 1110-2-12], 1995, 50 pp.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

  • Design Standards - Embankment Dams No.13 - Chapter 13 - Seismic Design and Analysis [Draft Update, 2001]. Not yet approved for release; direct inquiries to USBR Library.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

U.S. Geological Survey


  • Cedergren, Harry R. Seepage, Drainage and Flownets, 3rd Ed.. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Earthquake Engineering Research Center

  • Makdisi, F. I. and Seed, H. I. A Simplified Procedure for Estimating Earthquake Induced Deformations in Dams and Embankments, EERC 77/19 August 1977.
  • Seed, H. Bolton; Makdisi, Faiz I. and De Alba, Pedro. Performance of Embankment Dams during Earthquakes, 1977, Report No. UCB/EERC-77/20, Earthquake Engineering Research Center College of Engineering University of California – Berkeley.

National Research Council

  • National Research Council. Liquefaction of Soils During Earthquakes, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1985, 240 pp.
  • National Research Council. Safety of Dams Flood and Earthquake Criteria, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1985, 292 pp.

Research Projects

Research Institutions
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