Overview of the Taum Sauk Pumped Storage Power Plant Upper Reservoir Failure, Reynolds County, MO


The Taum Sauk Pumped Storage Powerplant was constructed between 1960-63 to store water for generation during peak daytime power demands. The plant consists of a lower reservoir, which is sited along the East Fork of the Black River, and an upper reservoir, formed by a kidney-shaped rockfill dike approximately 70 to 90 ft high, capped by a 10 ft concrete parapet wall. The upper reservoir held 1.5 billion gallons (~4,600 acre-feet) when filled. A variety of design/construction flaws, instrumentation error, and human errors contributed to a catastrophic failure of the upper reservoir on Dec 14, 2005. Malfunctioning and improperly programmed/placed sensors failed to indicate that the reservoir was full and didn't shut down the facility's pumps until water had been overflowing for 5-6 minutes. This overflow undermined the parapet wall and scoured the underlying embankment, leading to a complete failure within ~5-6 minutes. The peak flow from this event is estimated at 289,000 cfs.

Meeting Name

Association of State Dam Safety Officials Annual Conference, Dam Safety (2010: Sep. 19-23, Seattle, WA)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Geographic Coverage

Reynolds County, Missouri

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2010 Association of State Dam Safety Officials ( ASDSO ), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Sep 2010

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