We are a not-for-profit organisation with a history of over 30 years of research and development in the field of breach modelling processes. We have worked on all types of embankments from flood levees and coastal defences to large water retaining dams.

Current research projects

The OVERCOME project
This research project comprises a series of parallel actions to establish both field and laboratory test facilities, and to then implement a flexible programme of research which will advance knowledge and understanding of soil and breach erosion processes and answer the following research questions:

  • When, why and how does the macro erosion process change (from head cut to surface erosion to slumping failure)?
  • How does soil erodibility affect the macro erosion process?
  • Is soil erodibility the right parameter to associate with macro erosion process type and change?
  • For mixed grade soils, what effect does the grading have on erodibility and hence macro erosion processes? 
  • What is the most appropriate erosion relationship to use for predicting the erosion of coarser grained materials?
  • In answering these questions, high-quality, large-scale field and / or laboratory data should be collected which may also be used to validate breach model performance.

The project is co-funded by Electricité de France (EDF) and la Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR) in cooperation with HR Wallingford and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM).

Breach profiles and results

screenshot of a breach profile from the OVERCOME research project

Breach profile and results of the two of the overcome project laboratory tests.

Screenshot of breach profile from OVERCOME research project

Breach profile and results of the two of the overcome project laboratory tests.

Internal Erosion Breach Model Review and Validation

This project is currently reviewing and validating the existing internal erosion breach models for industry application and covers the following:

  • A review of available laboratory, field and case study data is being undertaken in order to identify a number of data sets that can be used for model performance assessment and validation
  • International organisations have been invited to participate in model review, testing and validation
  • A review of existing IE models is being undertaken and the most promising few (with potential for industry application) are being selected for closer analysis
  • A programme of blind and aware model testing is being undertaken, with results shared
  • and assessed transparently by the international team
  • Conclusions as to the capabilities and potential of existing internal erosion models will be agreed.

The project is funded by Electricité de France (EDF) and coordinated by HR Wallingford with partners from Europe and USA. 

Breach of the Big Bay dam and results

Successfully completed projects

HR Wallingford participated in the most influencial research programmes in dam breach modelling:

  • CADAM - Concerted Action on dambreak analysis
    CADAM was a European Concerted Action programme looking at dam-break analysis - practice and procedures across Europe. HR Wallingford co-ordinated the project which involved over 20 participating organisations from more than 10 different member states. The project objectives included establishing the needs of industry and reviewing current best practice across Europe, leading towards establishing European guidelines for dam-break.
  • Impact - Investigation of extreme flood processes and uncertainty
    HR Wallingford was coordinator for this European-funded RTD project, commissioned under the 5th framework research programme EESD – Generic Activities. The project team comprised 11 partners from 10 countries, with research focused on extreme flood processes including embankment performance / breach formation, flood propagation, urban flooding and sediment movement in near and far fields. The uncertainty associated with the prediction and simulation of these processes was also considered within the context of flood modelling for asset management and emergency planning.

Our partners

In recent years we have collaborated with the following organisations to undertake breach related research work:


Irstea       BC Hydro       University of Oxford       Environment Agency  
Irstea, BC Hydro, University of Oxford, Environment Agency,


USACE     EDF energy      US Bureau of Reclamation

USACE, EDF Energy and US Bureau of Reclamation.

Find out more

If you would like to discuss our research, please contact us