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Tokyo floodgates created to protect from typhoon surges Floodgate Tokyo.jpg
Tokyo floodgates created to protect from typhoon surges

Floodgates, also called stop gates, are adjustable gates used to control water flow in flood barriers, reservoir, river, stream, or levee systems. They may be designed to set spillway crest heights in dams, to adjust flow rates in sluices and canals, or they may be designed to stop water flow entirely as part of a levee or storm surge system. Since most of these devices operate by controlling the water surface elevation being stored or routed, they are also known as crest gates. In the case of flood bypass systems, floodgates sometimes are also used to lower the water levels in a main river or canal channels by allowing more water to flow into a flood bypass or detention basin when the main river or canal is approaching a flood stage.



Bulkhead gates are vertical walls with movable, or re-movable, sections. Movable sections can be lifted to allow water to pass underneath (as in a sluice gate) and over the top of the structure. Historically, these gates used stacked timbers known as stoplogs or wooden panels known as flashboards to set the dam's crest height. Some floodgates known as coupures in large levee systems slide sideways to open for various traffic. Bulkhead gates can also be made of other materials and used as a single bulkhead unit. Miter gates are used in ship locks and usually close at an 18° angle to approximate an arch.
A sluice gate on the Harran canal Harran canal-GAP.jpg
A sluice gate on the Harran canal
A flood wall gate at Harlan, Kentucky Floodgate floodwall.jpg
A flood wall gate at Harlan, Kentucky
Hinged crest gates, are wall sections that rotate from vertical to horizontal, thereby varying the height of the dam. They are generally controlled with hydraulic power, although some are passive and are powered by the water being impounded. Variations:
  • flap gate
  • fish-belly flap gates
  • Bascule gates
  • Pelican gates
A US Army Corps of Engineers hinged bascule crest gate during installation Floodgate crest bascule.jpg
A US Army Corps of Engineers hinged bascule crest gate during installation
Fish belly flap gates at the Scrivener Dam, Canberra Scrivener Dam.jpg
Fish belly flap gates at the Scrivener Dam, Canberra
Radial gates are rotary gates consisting of cylindrical sections. They may rotate vertically or horizontally. Tainter gates are a vertical design that rotates up to allow water to pass underneath. Low friction trunnion bearings, along with a face shape that balances hydrostatic forces, allow this design to close under its own weight as a safety feature.
Tainter gate diagram LgRadialGatefigc4-6.jpg
Tainter gate diagram
Tainter gates and spillway Tainter gates.jpg
Tainter gates and spillway
Drum gates are hollow gate sections that float on water. They are pinned to rotate up or down. Water is allowed into or out of the flotation chamber to adjust the dam's crest height.
Drum gates are controlled with valves. Drumgate.png
Drum gates are controlled with valves.
Drum gates on a diversion dam Floodgate drum.JPG
Drum gates on a diversion dam
  • Roller gates are large cylinders that move in an angled slot. They are hoisted with a chain and have a cogged design that interfaces with their slot.
  • Clamshell gates have an external clamshell leaf design.
A roller gate on the Mississippi. Floodgate roller.jpg
A roller gate on the Mississippi.
Clamshell floodgates at the Arrowrock Dam. Floodgate clamshell.JPG
Clamshell floodgates at the Arrowrock Dam.
Fusegates are a mechanism designed to provide the controlled release of water in the event of exceptionally large floods. The design consists of free standing blocks (the fusegates) set side by side on a flattened spillway sill. The Fusegate blocks act as a fixed weir most of the time, but in excessive flood conditions they are designed to topple forward, allowing the controlled discharge of water. Multiple fusegates are generally set up side by side, with each fusegate designed to release under progressively extreme flooding, thus minimizing the impact of the floodwater on the river downstream. [1] The System was invented and patented by François Lempérière [2] for Hydroplus (Paris, France), subsidiary of GTM Entrepose. It has been installed on more than 50 dams around the world with sizes ranging from 1 m to more than 9 m in height. Fusegate are typically used to increase the storage capacity of existing dams or to maximize the discharge potential of undersized spillways.
Typical fusegate sketch Typical fusegate.jpg
Typical fusegate sketch
Fusegate in Terminus Dam - Lake Kaweah Terminus Hydroplus.JPG
Fusegate in Terminus Dam - Lake Kaweah
Mitre gates


[ clarification needed ]

Discharge from a Howell-Bunger valve Howell-Bunger valve.jpg
Discharge from a Howell-Bunger valve

Valves used in floodgate applications have a variety of design requirements and are usually located at the base of dams. Often, the most important requirement (besides regulating flow) is energy dissipation. Since water is very heavy, it exits the base of a dam with the enormous force of water pushing from above. Unless this energy is dissipated, the flow can erode nearby rock and soil and damage structures.

Other design requirements include taking into account pressure head operation, the flow rate, whether the valve operates above or below water, and the regulation of precision and cost.[ citation needed ]


The force on a rectangular flood gate can be calculated by the following equation:


F = force measured in newtons (N)
p = pressure measured in pascal (Pa)
A = area = rectangle : length × height measured in m2
length = the horizontal length of a rectangular floodgate measured in metres
height = the height of a non-submerged flood gate from the bottom of the water column to the water surface measured in metres

If the rectangular flood gate is submerged below the surface the same equation can be used but only the height from the water surface to the middle of the gate must be used to calculate the force on the flood gate.

See also

Related Research Articles

Levee Ridge or wall to hold back water

A levee, dike, dyke, embankment, floodbank or stopbank is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall that regulates water levels. It is usually earthen and often parallel to the course of a river in its floodplain or along low-lying coastlines.

Dam A barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface or underground streams

A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of water or underground streams. Reservoirs created by dams not only suppress floods but also provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability. Hydropower is often used in conjunction with dams to generate electricity. A dam can also be used to collect water or for storage of water which can be evenly distributed between locations. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. The earliest known dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan, dating to 3,000 BC.

Raritan River

The Raritan River is a major river of central New Jersey in the United States. Its watershed drains much of the mountainous area of the central part of the state, emptying into the Raritan Bay on the Atlantic Ocean.


A weir or low head dam is a barrier across the width of a river that alters the flow characteristics of water and usually results in a change in the height of the river level. They are also used to control the flow of water for outlets of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. There are many weir designs, but commonly water flows freely over the top of the weir crest before cascading down to a lower level.

Diversion dam

A diversion dam is a dam that diverts all or a portion of the flow of a river from its natural course. Diversion dams do not generally impound water in a reservoir; instead, the water is diverted into an artificial water course or canal, which may be used for irrigation or return to the river after passing through hydroelectric generators, flow into a different river or be itself dammed forming an onground or groundwater reservoir or a storm drain.

Siphon Device involving the flow of liquids through tubes

A siphon is any of a wide variety of devices that involve the flow of liquids through tubes. In a narrower sense, the word refers particularly to a tube in an inverted "U" shape, which causes a liquid to flow upward, above the surface of a reservoir, with no pump, but powered by the fall of the liquid as it flows down the tube under the pull of gravity, then discharging at a level lower than the surface of the reservoir from which it came.

Tap (valve) Valve controlling the release of a liquid or gas

A tap is a valve controlling the release of a liquid or gas.

Hydraulic engineering Sub-discipline of civil engineering concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids

Hydraulic engineering as a sub-discipline of civil engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water and sewage. One feature of these systems is the extensive use of gravity as the motive force to cause the movement of the fluids. This area of civil engineering is intimately related to the design of bridges, dams, channels, canals, and levees, and to both sanitary and environmental engineering.

Hydrostatics Branch of fluid mechanics that studies fluids at rest

Fluid statics or hydrostatics is the branch of fluid mechanics that studies "fluids at rest and the pressure in a fluid or exerted by a fluid on an immersed body".


The Dujiangyan is an ancient irrigation system in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan, China. Originally constructed around 256 BC by the State of Qin as an irrigation and flood control project, it is still in use today. The system's infrastructure develops on the Min River (Minjiang), the longest tributary of the Yangtze. The area is in the west part of the Chengdu Plain, between the Sichuan basin and the Tibetan plateau. Originally, the Min would rush down from the Min Mountains and slow down abruptly after reaching the Chengdu Plain, filling the watercourse with silt, thus making the nearby areas extremely prone to floods. King Zhao of Qin commissioned the project, and the construction of the Dujiangyan harnessed the river using a new method of channeling and dividing the water rather than simply damming it. The water management scheme is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 km2 (2,000 sq mi) of land in the region. The Dujiangyan, the Zhengguo Canal in Shaanxi and the Lingqu Canal in Guangxi are collectively known as the "three great hydraulic engineering projects of the Qin."

Spillway Structure for controlled release of flows from a dam or levee

A spillway is a structure used to provide the controlled release of flows from a dam or levee into a downstream area, typically the riverbed of the dammed river itself. In the United Kingdom, they may be known as overflow channels. Spillways ensure that the water does not overflow and damage or destroy the dam.

Penstock Intake structure that controls water flow to turbines or sewerage systems

A penstock is a sluice or gate or intake structure that controls water flow, or an enclosed pipe that delivers water to hydro turbines and sewerage systems. The term is inherited from the earlier technology of mill ponds and watermills.

Hydraulic head Specific measurement of liquid pressure above a vertical datum

Hydraulic head or piezometric head is a specific measurement of liquid pressure above a vertical datum.

Tainter gate

The Tainter gate is a type of radial arm floodgate used in dams and canal locks to control water flow. It is named for Wisconsin structural engineer Jeremiah Burnham Tainter.

Torricellis law

Torricelli's law, also known as Torricelli's theorem, is a theorem in fluid dynamics relating the speed of fluid flowing from an orifice to the height of fluid above the opening. The law states that the speed v of efflux of a fluid through a sharp-edged hole at the bottom of a tank filled to a depth h is the same as the speed that a body would acquire in falling freely from a height h, i.e. , where g is the acceleration due to gravity. This expression comes from equating the kinetic energy gained, , with the potential energy lost, mgh, and solving for v. The law was discovered by the Italian scientist Evangelista Torricelli, in 1643. It was later shown to be a particular case of Bernoulli's principle.

Streamflow, or channel runoff, is the flow of water in streams, rivers, and other channels, and is a major element of the water cycle. It is one component of the runoff of water from the land to waterbodies, the other component being surface runoff. Water flowing in channels comes from surface runoff from adjacent hillslopes, from groundwater flow out of the ground, and from water discharged from pipes. The discharge of water flowing in a channel is measured using stream gauges or can be estimated by the Manning equation. The record of flow over time is called a hydrograph. Flooding occurs when the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the channel.


Stoplogs are hydraulic engineering control elements that are used in floodgates to adjust the water level or discharge in a river, canal, or reservoir. Stoplogs are sometimes confused with flashboards, as both elements are used in bulkhead or crest gates. Stoplogs are typically long rectangular timber beams or boards that are placed on top of each other and dropped into premade slots inside a weir, gate, or channel. Present day, the process of adding and removing stoplogs is not manual, but done with hydraulic stop log lifters and hoists. Since the height of the barrier can only be adjusted through the addition and removal of stoplogs, finding a lighter and stronger material other than wood or concrete became a more desirable choice. Other materials, including steel and composites, can be used as stoplogs as well. Stoplogs are designed to cut off or stop flow through a conduit.

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex is a part of the New Orleans Drainage System; it consists of a navigable floodgate, a pumping station, flood walls, sluice gates, foreshore protection, and an earthen levee. The complex was designed to reduce risk for residences and businesses in the project area from a storm surge associated with a tropical event, with an intensity that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. This project was operated for the first time on August 29, 2012, in response to Hurricane Isaac.

A waste weir on a navigable canal is a slatted gate on each canal level or pound, to remove excess water and to drain the canal for repairs or for the winter shutdown. This differs for a dam or reservoir, for which a waste weir is another name for a spillway, i.e. not having the boards to adjust the water height nor the paddles to drain all the water as on a canal, only to drain the excess.

Old River (California)

The Old River is a tidal distributary of the San Joaquin River that flows for about 40 miles (64 km) through the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California. The Old River was once the main channel of the San Joaquin until navigation and flood control projects in the late 19th and 20th century fixed the San Joaquin to its present course past Stockton. It diverges from the San Joaquin near Tracy, about 38 miles (61 km) upstream from Antioch, and first runs west towards Mountain House, then north to rejoin the San Joaquin 13 miles (21 km) above Antioch. The river is lined with levees that prevent flooding of the adjacent Delta islands, many of which lie below sea level. The Middle River runs east of and roughly parallel to Old River. False River diverges from Old River about a mile (1.6 km) above the Old River's mouth and runs westward to join the San Joaquin at a point closer to Antioch. Part of the Old River forms the boundary between San Joaquin County on the east and Contra Costa County to the west.


  1. "Fusegate Operation". www.Hydroplus.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  2. "Patents by Inventor Francois Lemperiere". Justia Patents.