The International Commission on Large Dams presented the San Diego County Water Authority this week with a prestigious international engineering award for its innovative construction technology used to raise the historic San Vicente Dam. The project helps ensure regional water security for generations to come.
Commission leaders made the presentation to the Water Authority at its annual conference in Guangzhou, China. It cited a special type of construction called roller compacted concrete, or RCC. Applying this method to the San Vincente Dam project simplified construction, saving both time and money. The completed dam structure is capable of withstanding a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
“This award is a reminder that the San Diego region has a long history of strategic investments to
protect our most important natural resource,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz. “The
San Vicente Dam Raise was a landmark project and one that inspires us as we seek solutions to
current and future challenges.”
The Water Authority sent a video message to the conference. View it below.
San Vicente Dam Project Increases Water Storage Capacity
Completed in 2014, the dam raise project increased the height of San Vicente Dam by 117 feet, the equivalent of adding a 12-story building atop the original structure. It more than doubled the capacity of the San Vicente Reservoir by adding 152,000-acre feet of water storage capacity, enough to serve more than 450,000 households for a year.
San Vicente Dam has been owned and operated by the City of San Diego since it was built in 1943. Capacity in the enlarged reservoir is shared by the city and the Water Authority, which also share the cost of operating the reservoir.
“Raising the San Vicente Dam was a massive feat of engineering and it’s recognized as the world’s tallest dam extension using roller compacted concrete,” said Water Authority Engineering Director Neena Kuzmich. “More importantly, it was the final major element of the Water Authority’s $1.5 billion Emergency Storage Project, a system of reservoirs, pipelines and pumping stations designed to secure a six-month supply of drinking water for the San Diego region in case a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a prolonged drought interrupts imported water deliveries.”
State-Of-The-Art Method Shortens Construction Time
Work to prepare the original dam and foundation for the expansion began in 2009. Using RCC for the expansion was a key design element. Unlike conventional wet concrete, which is poured, RCC uses less cement and water to create a cookie dough or clay-like texture. Equally as strong as wet concrete, RCC is placed in layers one on top of the other and compacted. The placement process resembles road construction.
This state-of-the art application method significantly shortens construction time while meeting
all technical requirements. Expansion was completed in 2014. The San Vicente Reservoir is located just outside of Lakeside and now stands 337 feet tall.