Dams and hydropower

Cerro de l’Aguila dam monitoring in Perù. Sisgeo supplied vibrating wire piezometers, MPBX borehole extensometers, vibrating wire piezometers, vented pressure transducers, thermometers, pendulums, telependulums, 3-D crackmeters, vibrating wire crack meters, V-notch weirs, MIND multipurpose readouts and Omnialog data acquisition system.


Dam monitoring is fundamental because dams play a critical role in managing water resources, providing drinking water, generating hydropower, and protecting communities from floods. Dams are large, complex structures that require regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure they operate safely and effectively. Without proper monitoring, dams can become compromised, leading to catastrophic failures that can cause loss of life and significant damage to property and infrastructure. Dams geotechnical monitoring involves the surveillance of the physical and mechanical properties of the dam structure and its foundation. This includes monitoring the deformation, stability, and settlement of the dam, as well as monitoring the pore water pressure and seepage through the dam and foundation. Monitoring of hydrologic dams includes monitoring of water levels and flows inside and around the dam. This includes monitoring the inflow and outflow of water from the dam, as well as the water levels in the reservoir and downstream of the dam. The purpose of geotechnical and hydrological dam monitoring is to detect any changes in the dam structure or the surrounding environment that could potentially compromise the safety and stability of the dam. By detecting these changes early, measures can be taken to prevent catastrophic failures and ensure the safety of downstream communities and infrastructure.


The challenges of geotechnical, structural, and hydrological dams monitoring programs are to assess and manage risks related to the physical stability, safety, and efficient operation of the dam. This can include:

  • Deformation: monitoring of deformation is crucial for detecting movements or changes in the dam structure that may indicate instability or damage. Such monitoring includes measurement of vertical and horizontal movements, tilts, and rotations of the dam and its components.
  • Seepage: monitoring of seepage is essential to detect any leakage or water flow through the dam’s foundation, embankment, or abutments. The monitoring includes measuring water levels, flow rates, and groundwater pressure, among others.
  • Internal erosion: monitoring for internal erosion involves detecting voids or cavities formed due to the internal runoff of soil or rock within the dam. Such monitoring includes measurements of piezometric pressures, settlement, and deformations.
  • Foundation stability: monitoring of the foundation stability involves measuring the movements of the foundation, assessing its strength, stiffness and deformation capacity. Such monitoring helps to detect the potential for foundation instability that could lead to the dam’s failure.
  • Structural integrity: monitoring of the dam’s structural integrity involves regular inspections and non-destructive testing to detect any tilt, cracks, or other damage to the dam’s components. Such monitoring helps operators to identify and remediate issues before they become significant threats to the dam’s stability.