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In hydraulic engineering fields, optimization is an important means to save investment and shorten construction time, however, traditional optimization methods based on gradient often confront with such problems as non-convergence or convergence to local optimum when it is applied in large-scale complicated hydraulic engineering problems. It is necessary to develop a new optimization method that possesses more ability to seek a global optimum. In this paper, an improved PSO (particle swarm optimization) method is used to optimize body of gravity dam and select steel members for the tumble gate. Since the PSO method uses forward calculation process, and the process is performed by ANSYS calculation (calculation program compiled by APDL), the interface problem between exterior PSO program of C language and ANSYS should be solved. Two application examples are presented to demonstrate the applicability of the proposed method.