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Icon for: Kerri Stone


Colorado School of Mines


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IMAGINE: Intelligent Monitoring and Geophysical INspection of Embankment dams

Earthen dams are critical components in our nation’s water resource infrastructure, but many are at or near their intended design life. As these structures age, the development of seepage, settlement, and internal erosion impact their safety and effective operation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that there are over 15,000 high-hazard dams in the U.S. that require annual inspections; the actual frequency and extent of such inspections varies significantly. To effectively monitor our nation’s dam inventory, regulation agencies are faced with the challenge of increasing both the spatial density and temporal frequency of monitoring. To improve safety margins and ensure water availability, advanced monitoring techniques are required.

We have developed a wireless geophysical hardware platform and accompanying network protocols to enable continuous, long-term wireless dam inspection using geophysical monitoring techniques such as self-potential, resistivity, and seismic. The sensor data autonomously collected by our platform can be used to quickly indentify seepage within the dam subsurface. One challenge to enable accurate detection is determining the geospatial location of collected geophysical sensor data. Since using a GPS chip for location is undesirable due to high costs (both hardware and energy costs), we have developed a three-dimensional in-network localization protocol that uses wireless measurements to produce sensor location estimates. In this poster, we present our hardware design, our wireless sensor network localization protocol, and the results of our initial field site deployment. Our work enables turnkey, continuous, and non-invasive dam inspection, improving subsurface knowledge and decreasing the probability of catastrophic failure.