Dam Safety In The Digital Age: How IoT Is Transforming Dam Safety
December 12, 2018 0
All over the world, dams are constructed and operated to serve multiple purposes – including flood suppression, clean power generation, water supply, and recreational activities. However, because of the nature of these installations, at times safety can be a major concern. Today we’re going to look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be applied to extend the effectiveness of dam safety programs implemented by owners and operators to combat these risks.
In recent years, sensing technologies have made constant advancement – becoming increasingly effective tools for monitoring many characteristics of a dam’s health. Effective ways to connect and automate these sensors, however, have been prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement – severely limiting adoption. IoT solves many of these technological limitations and makes it much easier for an owner to implement targeted instrumentation as a foundational component of their risk management program.
Why Dam Safety Matters
It’s easy to think of dams as structurally sound installations that aren’t prone to failure, but history shows the deadly impact of dams that don’t address problems before they get too severe.
When you look at the data, it can be more than a little troubling. The Association of State Dam Safety keeps records on all of the dams in the country, which illustrate the importance of having high-quality safety protocols.
Over 15,000 dams in the US are considered “high-hazard,” meaning that a failure is likely to cause loss of life.
A large portion of communities in the United States are in close proximity to at least one high-hazard dam.
69% of dams in the US are privately owned, and frequently those owners don’t have the financial resources necessary for adequate dam maintenance.
The impact of a dam failure event can be catastrophic: In 1889, the Johnstown Dam failed, causing over 2,000 deaths. It’s still the worst dam incident in US history. More recently in 2017, heavy rainfall caused considerable damage to the Oroville Dam Spillway resulting in 188,000 people being evacuated from the downstream community.