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Fri May 29 2020

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Burnhope Reservoir pilot proves dam monitoring tech

9 Mar A Northumbrian Water project has shown that dam movement can be monitored remotely, precisely and perpetually.

Sensors monitor structural movement
Sensors monitor structural movement

Sensor technology, used in conjunction with satellites, is being used to enhance monitoring at Burnhope Reservoir in Weardale, County Durham.

All modern dams are built to move and shift by small amounts as water levels rise and fall during the course of the year.  Monitoring of movement is checked as part of regular inspections carried out in line with the Reservoirs Act 1975. However, Northumbrian Water has shown how measurements taken in real-time can be transmitted via the cloud to a central control room, so that if movement were to exceed agreed thresholds, action can be taken.

An initial pilot project was carried out by Amey Consulting with funding from InnovateUK.

A series of 84 sensors were placed on the dam wall, transmitting triaxial tilt measurements to a cloud server to establish sub-millimetre movements in the structure. This movement was verified using open access satellite data (interferometry) to give reassurance of vertical settlement.

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Kevin Miller, Northumbrian Water’s reservoir safety manager, said: “Just like aeroplane wings move to provide stability and safety in-flight, dam walls shift to a varying degree, depending upon the size and scale of the structure. However, it is important to know how much they are moving, to make sure they are operating correctly and that there are no safety issues.

“This pilot, which ran over the course of a year, showed that this can be done by the minute. This means we have access to real time data which will inform when maintenance is required. Using the sensors, we were able to measure sub-millimetre movements, in line with what we expect to see. With the reservoir full, there was a 50mm shift and we saw that return to its original position as levels lowered again.”

Amey Consulting innovation manager Matthew Watt said: “Stepping from a more traditional monitoring approach, towards one which is essentially gathering data 24/7 significantly enhances the understanding of dam movement. People tend not to realise how much these assets can move all year round. Working with Northumbrian Water through this project, we have learnt a great deal of the behaviour of embankment dams, whilst verifying the accuracy and reliability of our hybrid data-source. Using the system installed at Northumbrian Water’s Burnhope Reservoir, we intend to tailor the outputs of this project towards the exact requirements of the UK Water sector. The appetite for innovation is clearly healthy in the water sector and that is a very encouraging message to the UK’s service provider in these fields.”

Amey Consulting is now helping Northumbrian Water assess the cost-benefit of using the technology on other reservoirs.

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