Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/58

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
50
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

escapes the enormous increase of pressure due to the sudden absorption of great quantities of water, and consequently is less in danger of leaving its fastenings.

One of the most difficult of the problems that these torrents give rise to is that of their control where they suddenly enter a valley, and where the slope is consequently greatly decreased. The decrease of current entailed causes the deposit of stones and material at the mouth of the gorge, and the water then spreads itself over the valley. This occurs more or less regularly with certain torrents that are usually dry and where it is impracticable to prevent the erosions above. It then becomes necessary to build a stone canal from the mouth of the gorge to the principal water course of the valley. As this must be built on the alluvion (which presents the surface of a cone), it is often higher than the rest of the valley, and one may find other small canals for the draining of the valley passing under the larger one and meeting the principal stream below. A similar action to that of the torrent on entering the valley is that of a stream with a rapid current emptying into one whose current is slower. Here the deposits will at times force the smaller stream to seek another channel, and it frequently occurs that the correction moves the mouth of the stream a considerable distance.

The manner in which the streams in the valleys are made to aid in their own correction is most interesting. Whereas in the mountains it is usually desirable to decrease the erosive action of the water, in the valleys the contrary is the case, as the deposits in the lowlands are as dangerous to life and property as was their abstraction above. The great desideratum to be attained is to have the mountain streams arrive in the valleys in a purely liquid condition, and to give the valley streams the power to carry to the lakes any material they may be so unfortunate as to have taken in charge. To accomplish this latter purpose, the sinuosities of the streams are often reduced to straight lines, an increase of slope being thus secured. The new channels are made of a cross-section to enable the water to carry on its alluvion and silt. Where great freshets occur it is necessary to guarantee the artificial beds against the enormous increase of the water's destructive action.

The usual plan is that of having the cross-section of the stream with a deep depression in the center. This depression is of dimensions to insure a proper flow under ordinary conditions. When the stream becomes swollen it overflows the borders of this depression and spreads over a much larger area until the banks proper are encountered. This sudden increase of cross-section reduces the velocity of the water and consequently its destructive power. When