Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Oxford, Mississippi » National Sedimentation Laboratory » Watershed Physical Processes Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #302876

Research Project: Acoustic and Geophysical Technology Development for Improving Assessment and Monitoring of Erosion and Sediment Transport in Watersheds

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research

Title: Geophysical methods for the assessment of earthen dams

Author
item Hickey, Craig - University Of Mississippi
item Romkens, Mathias
item Wells, Robert - Rob
item Wodajo, Leti - University Of Mississippi

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/8/2014
Publication Date: 2/1/2015
Citation: Hickey, C.J., Romkens, M.J., Wells, R.R., Wodajo, L. 2015. Geophysical methods for the assessment of earthen dams. pp. 297-359. In Yang, C. T. Y. and Wang, L. K. (eds.) Advances in Water Resources Engineering, Springer. 556 pp. 2015.

Interpretive Summary: Dams and levees are water retarding structures and are designed to contain water within designated areas as storage for consumptive use, irrigation, recreation, and flood control. They form an integral part of the watershed fluvial system. During early times, they were constructed for generating mechanical and electrical power for wood and grain mills. In later years their function was mostly to provide surface storage and for flood control. Most of the small and mid-size dams and levees are earthen embankments. Some 12,000 of these were constructed by the USDA-SCS in the period between 1940 and 1970 to serve as sedimentation basins, flood control, and water supplies, with an economic life of 50 years. More than 60% of these dams have exceed their lifetime. Many of these structures have not been adequately maintained, and failure is expected to occur with increasing frequency. Technologies are needed to determine the stability status and safety conditions of these dams. The technologies involved are based on geotechnical and geophysical methods in addition to visual inspections. This chapter discusses the available techniques and their principles and effectiveness. The discussions are complemented with the results of experimental case studies using some of these methods.

Technical Abstract: Dams and levees are an integral part of the fluvial system in watersheds. Their stability is of utmost concern to the Nation and to those directly impacted should failure occur. There are some 88,000 dams and 110,000 miles of levees in the USA. Many of those are earthen embankments and structures subject to failure by seepage and overtopping especially under extreme conditions of rainfall, runoff from contributing source areas and snowmelt. They require routine inspection and the availability of technologies to assess their stability and safety condition. This chapter discusses in a comprehensive manner the various geophysical and geotechnical techniques and related technologies that are capable of rapidly assessing the integrity and stability of dams and levees. This chapter also discusses the underlying principles of these techniques. Finally, it presents case studies in which these techniques were used.