Probabilistic analysis of seepage for internal stability of earth embankments

Kang Liu, Philip J. Vardon*, Michael A. Hicks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


Internal erosion, or piping, has been attributed as a major cause of dam and embankment failures. Most prediction models for predicting piping use the hydraulic gradient between the upstream and downstream water levels as an indicator. No explicit consideration is made regarding preferential pathways, although piping usually initiates from a discrete downstream location. The local seepage velocity is investigated here through stochastic seepage analysis incorporating consideration of soil heterogeneity. The results show that when the coefficient of variation of hydraulic conductivity is small, the location of the maximum local velocity is typically near the downstream toe of the embankment, as for a deterministic analysis. In contrast, increasing the coefficient of variation scatters the possible locations of the maximum local velocity. The heterogeneity of hydraulic conductivity also leads to an increase in the average exit hydraulic gradient, as well as having a significant influence on the global kinetic energy and kinetic energy distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-306
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Geotechnics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • finite-element modelling
  • seepage
  • statistical analysis


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