Spillways: 7 Different Types of Spillways

In the realm of hydraulic engineering, spillways play a pivotal role in managing surplus water from reservoirs, preventing potential disasters caused by overflowing. These hydraulic structures are diverse, each designed to cater to specific scenarios. In this detailed exploration, we will delve into the various types of spillways, unraveling their structures, applications, and the engineering principles behind them.

Types of Spillways

1. Straight Drop Spillway

A straightforward solution for managing excess water, the Straight Drop Spillway features a low weir wall with a nearly vertical downstream face. As the water level rises, the surplus water freely falls from the weir crest. This spillway is suitable for thin arch dams, earthen dams, or bunds. A downstream pool with a concrete apron is often incorporated to prevent scouring.

2. Ogee Spillway

Representing an evolved form of the straight drop spillway, the Ogee Spillway adopts a downstream face shaped like the lower nappe of a freely falling water jet. Commonly employed in gravity dams, arch dams, and buttress dams, the ogee spillway ensures a controlled overflow of surplus water.

3. Shaft Spillway

The Shaft Spillway takes a unique approach, featuring a vertical shaft followed by a horizontal conduit. This spillway is recommended when space constraints make other spillways impractical. Inlet holes are often shaped, giving rise to the intriguing “Morning Glory” or “Bell Mouth” spillway.

4. Chute Spillway

Ideal for narrow river valleys, the Chute Spillway disposes of surplus water through a steeply sloped open channel. Gravity dams, earthen dams, and rockfill dams find this spillway particularly suitable. Proper slope design ensures that the flow remains in a supercritical condition.

5. Side Channel Spillway

Similar to the chute spillway, the Side Channel Spillway features a crest located on one of its sides. This design variation is preferred when sufficient width is not available, steering water flow at a 90-degree angle to the crest.

6. Siphon Spillway

Introducing an inverted U-shaped conduit, the Siphon Spillway operates within or over the crest of the dam. Air vents at the bent portion prevent water entry below the normal pool level, ensuring efficient discharge through siphonic action when the water level rises.

7. Labyrinth Spillway

The Labyrinth Spillway employs a zigzag weir wall design to increase the effective length of the crest. This innovative approach enhances discharge capacity, facilitating the smooth conveyance of higher water flows at smaller heads.


Understanding the intricacies of spillway design is essential for hydraulic engineers and those involved in dam construction. Each type of spillway serves a unique purpose, addressing specific challenges posed by diverse topographical and structural considerations. As we navigate through the diverse world of spillways, it becomes evident that these hydraulic structures are not merely solutions but rather a testament to the ingenuity of hydraulic engineering.

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