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Thu December 07 2023

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Dam safety to be monitored from space

7 Aug 19 HR Wallingford has been given extra funding to extend the scope of its satellite-based dam monitoring system.

Ultimately the technology could be employed worldwide to reduce the risks to those living downstream of dams, said HR Wallingford.

A pilot project in Peru had monitored tailings dams used to store toxic mine waste but the UK Space Agency has now broadened the funding to include water dams in a bid to reduce the risk of failures.

Over the next two years, HR Wallingford will use the software to monitor movement at several water dams in the Cerro de Pasco region of Peru. The system uses Earth Observation (EO) techniques – including the analysis of spectral responses and iron traces from satellite images as well as data from navigation systems – combined with real-time in-situ devices.

Damsat could help to prevent the devastation caused by a dam breach by alerting authorities of problems with structures before they are at risk of failing, HR Wallingford says.

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Project manager Marta Roca Collell said: “Damsat allows authorities to monitor dams remotely, particularly useful in isolated locations or where there are concerns about dam management.”

Globally, nearly 60,000 dams are registered with the International Commission for large Dams (ICOLD).

HR Wallingford leads the research consortium alongside international partners. The group is sponsored by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP), a five-year, £152m programme designed to partner UK space expertise with overseas governments and organisations to deliver sustainable, economic or societal benefits.

Dam safety is at the front of the UK news agenda currently because 1,500 residents of the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge were evacuated from their homes last week after flooding caused damage to the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir. Emergency crews worked for days to pump water from the reservoir while helicopters airlifted sandbags to shore up the crumbling concrete structure to prevent the town from being deluged.

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