Force on a dam wall

How to use this resource

Please download the PDF of this resource using the Download PDF link in the banner above.

Below is an interactive which supports the resource. The interactive can be launched by clicking on its image, or through links in the PDF itself.

Some resources have pre-requisites; where this is the case, you'll be able to access any required resources through the Pre-requisites section.

Topic areas

Mechanical engineering

  • Forces
  • Moments
  • Pressure
  • Reaction


  • Algebra
  • Areas and volumes
  • Arithmetic
  • Integration


None for the main activity, however it may be useful to look at the resource ‘Centre of gravity, reactions
and stability
’ and ‘Friction and sliding’ for the stretch and challenge activity.

Problem statement

Dams are important engineering constructions and are found all around the world. When designing a dam, an engineer must ensure that its construction will be strong enough to hold back the weight of water that will accumulate behind it. How can an engineer determine the force exerted by the water?


Click the image to load Dam 1. 

The above interactive allows you to see pressure values and individual section forces by sliding the dam height indicator to a desired depth.

Supported by

  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Motorola Solutions Foundation