Gravity dam

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A gravity dam is an engineering structure that by its own weight resists the forces imposed with a desired factor of safety. Gravity dams are designed so that every dam section is stable, independent of any other dam section.12

The most common classification of gravity dams is by the materials composing the structure:

  • Composite dams are a combination of concrete and embankment dams. Construction materials of composite dams are the same used for concrete and embankment dams. Folsom Dam is a composite dam.

Gravity dams can be classified by plan (shape):

Gravity dams can be classified with respect to their structural height:

  • Low, up to 100 feet.
  • Medium high, between 100 and 300 feet.
  • High, over 300 feet.



  • Kollgaardand, E.B.; Chadwick, W.L. (1988). Development of Dam Engineering in the United States. US Committee of the International Commission on Large


  • Dams of the United States - Pictorial display of Landmark Dams. Denver, Colorado: US Society on Dams. 2013. 

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