Effect of Various Levee Designs on the Ability to Withstand Water


The purpose of this experiment was to determine the effect of various levee designs on the ability of a levee to withstand water.

I became interested in this idea when I heard about the floods in New Orleans and I thought that engineers should design better levees.

The information gained from this experiment could save many lives and millions of dollars for those who live near levees.


My hypothesis was that the levee constructed with walls at a 45-degree angle would withstand the longest time against the water.

I based my hypothesis on the shape that today’s levees are constructed and what I know about dirt compaction.


The constants in this study were:

•    Material that levee was constructed on

•    Moisture in material

•    Soil used to construct levee

•    Amount of water held behind levee

•    General testing method

The manipulated variable was the shape of the levee.

The responding variable was the amount of time the levee was able to hold back the water. 

To measure the responding variable, I used a stopwatch to time how long it took for the levee to fail.


Wooden block (at least one inch long)
Plastic Tub
Cloth for drying plastic tub
Wooden block (2.54 cm Tall)
Bag of potting soil

1. Place .946 liters of potting soil in a line directly down the center of the laundry tub

2. Use three wooden blocks (approximately  1 cm X 13 cm X 5 cm) to compact potting soil into a specific cross-sectional shape. Push down firmly on soil many times with block until the shape is stable and strong.  Each levee should have a length that crosses the entire tub and meets the tub walls tightly.

    One group will have a rectangular cross-section about 5 cm tall and 7 cm wide with vertical walls.  

    One group will have a triangular cross-section also 5 cm tall and 7 cm wide at the base. 

    One group will have a trapezoidal cross-section also 5 cm tall and
7 cm wide at the base but with a flat top about 2.5 cm wide and 45° walls.

3. For the first three trials create trapezoidal levees only.

4. Pour .946 liters of water on one side of the tub and start the stopwatch

5. Observe levee

6. When levee fails (water leaks through) stop timing.

7. Record data

8. Clean tub out and dry well.

9.    Redo steps 1-8 until all three levee shapes have been tested three times each.

10.    Average results for each cross-sectional shape.


The original purpose of this experiment was to determine the effect of various levee designs on the ability of a levee to withstand water.

The results of the experiment were that the rectangular shaped levee lasted 85.3 seconds on average where as the 45° tabletop only lasted 41.67 seconds on average.


My original hypothesis was that the table top levee with walls at a 45° angle would have the ability to withstand the most force created by water.

The results indicate that this hypothesis should be rejected, because the rectangular shaped levee held back water the longest.

After thinking about the results of this experiment, I wonder if I were to conduct this experiment on a larger scale, with more materials and shapes, and different soils the data would be different.  

If I were to conduct this project again I would conduct more trials and examine more variables such as different amounts of water, and different rates of compaction.

Researched by ---- Billy H


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