Spillways on River Levees

by Gérard Degoutte (editorial coordination), Rémy Tourment (editorial coordination)
Collection: Savoir faire
october 2021
160 x 240 format 176 pages In stock
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 are built on many rivers and mountain torrents to protect populations against floods. During medium floods, a well-constructed levee offers sufficient protection without requiring additional hydraulic structures. But this same levee represents a source of danger during high floods, since there is a risk of overtopping. Water that spills over a levee may create a breach that could potentially provoke flash flooding in the area it was supposed to protect, endangering human lives and infrastructure.

It is therefore advisable to equip levee systems with spillways, which are common appurtenant structures on dams. Yet spillways on levees play a far more complex role than those on dams, from securing protected areas to flood control. These structures can function as safety spillways or diversion spillways, or both (especially the older ones).

This technical handbook, first published in French in 2012, covers different types of spillways on river levees, including their function, hydraulics, river morphology, civil engineering, and flood management. Written by a working group led by INRAE, it is intended for levee managers, control authorities, engineering firms, and hydraulics or civil engineering students. Given increasing international interest in levees and flood protection systems, particularly following ICOLD’s creation of a Technical Committee on Levees, INRAE decided to update and translate this guide into English to share the French experience.

Table of contents



1. Background, definitions, various configurations

Typology of flood protection levees on rivers

Protected areas and flood expansion areas

Typology of spillways on levees

2. The historical background of spillways in France

1584 to 1891: The first spillway constructions on the Loire and Vidourle Rivers

20th century: Several scattered constructions and major development of the Rhône River

21st century: A relative acceleration in construction

3. The hydraulic design of spillways

The spillway’s impact on the flooded river’s waterline

Impact of the spillway on the waterline in the protected area

The spillway’s flow law

Spillway location

Protection, safety, and danger floods

The principle of flood attenuation or flood hydrograph flattening

General hydraulic design principles

The required modelling

4. Spillways and river geomorphology

Overview of sediment transport

Overview of morphological changes in watercourses

Morphological changes in leveed watercourses

The spillway’s influence on sediment transport (riverbed)

Sedimentation behind spillways

The influence of bed change on spillway performance


5. Civil engineering design for levee spillways

Safety criteria for levee spillways

Principles of fuse plugs or movable devices

The plan shape of the levee spillway

Types of straight weirs and constituent materials

Fuse plugs or movable devices

Continuous maintenance tracks

Overflow erosion on earthen levees

6. Emergency management of the levee system

The benefits and limitations of spillways in emergency management

The types of emergencies to manage

Considerations before drafting an Emergency Management Plan

Emergency management and levee managers

Local Emergency Action Plan (LEAP)

Special Emergency Management Plan for Flooding

7. Economic aspects

8. Summary and Conclusion

The benefits and limits of a spillway in a protected area

Spillway features

Is a spillway always required in a protected area?

Concluding remarks

Appendix 1. Spillway types on river levees, according to their hydraulic function and their purpose in flood management

Appendix 2. A history of spillways on the Loire River

Appendix 3. Overflow levees and spillways in the CNR’s Rhône River development

General principles

Example 1: The Chautagne plain and Lac du Bourget

Example 2: The Printegarde plain in Livron-sur-Drôme


Reference List


More contents


Language(s): English

Publisher: Éditions Quae

Edition: 1st edition

Collection: Savoir faire

Published: 1 october 2021

Reference Book: 02812

Reference eBook [PDF]: 02812NUM

Reference eBook [ePub]: 02812EPB

EAN13 Book: 9782759232840

EAN13 eBook [PDF]: 9782759232857

EAN13 eBook [ePub]: 9782759232864

Interior: Colour

Format (in mm) Book: 160 x 240

Pages count Book: 176

Pages count eBook [PDF]: 176

Weight (in grammes): 420

Size: 30.9 MB (PDF), 16.2 MB (ePub)


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