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Published Resources Details Conference Paper

Author
Hartwell, David J.
Title
Chowilla Dam, a case study of how we studied groundwater problems before computers
In
19th Australasian engineering heritage conference: putting water to work: steam power, river navigation and water supply
Editors
Engineers Australia and Engineering Heritage Australia
Imprint
Engineering Heritage Australia, Barton, A.C.T., 2017, pp. 197-203
ISBN/ISSN
9781922107923
Url
https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=384651816689743;res=IELENG
Subject
Chronological Classification 1901- Applied Sciences Engineering and Technology
Abstract

Over 50 years ago the South Australian Government decided it wanted to build a major dam on the Murray River; unfortunately this would have resulted in flooding in the neighbouring states. The subsequent political wranglings was one issue that older attendees may recall. Another issue that came to light was the risk to downstream agriculture from saline groundwater below the dam.

Studies were undertaken including investigations by Soil Mechanics Ltd (SML) of London. The author shortly after joined SML to work on groundwater problems and clearly remembers watching the film of the modelling studies and being very impressed by the science and engineering applied to the problem. The old films have been located and digitised; it is proposed to show a shortened version of the video of the Hele-Shaw model. The models included conductive paper models, two and three dimensional electrical resistance models and the parallel plate Hele-Shaw model. This last being a sophisticated two fluid model that uses a thin section through the dam where the path of fluid particles can be traced with injected dye. The science of simulating the two fluids, fresh and denser saline water, with different properties and the downstream interceptor wells is complex but reading the original reports was clearly rigorously studied.

The film provides a fascinating insight into what was achieved without the use of electronic computers. There is a danger of this period of engineering heritage / history being lost forever and the author hopes to document some aspects of this.

Source
cohn 2018

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  • Engineers Australia and Engineering Heritage Australia (eds), 19th Australasian engineering heritage conference: putting water to work: steam power, river navigation and water supply, Engineers Australia, Barton, A.C.T., 2017, 536 pp. Details