Detecting the Movement of Soils Within Earthen Dams, Canals, Levees, and their Foundations

  • Image of erosion of canal.

    Launch: March 31, 2016
    Awarded: September 18, 2017

    The quality of life for many people around the globe depends on water storage behind earthen dams, water movement within earthen canals, and flood-protection behind levees. However, earthen dams, canals and levees are prone to internal erosion of soils caused by seepage, either through or under the structures. The internal erosion process is largely invisible as it occurs below the ground surface. By the time visible signs are present, damage has likely occurred to the structure that will require mitigation or repair. Earlier detection is required to increase the time available to intervene, and to decrease the extent and cost of repairs.

    While there are a number of specific erosion mechanisms, they all share a common feature: the erosion results in the movement of soils from an initiation point to an exit point. The distance from the initiation point to the exit point can be as small as a few meters, or as large as hundreds of meters. If soil movement can be detected earlier, problems can be corrected and damage avoided.

    The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is seeking new methods for detecting the movement (erosion) of soils in earthen structures and foundations. These methods may detect internal erosion either directly or indirectly (detecting properties that typically indicate internal erosion is taking place). The goal is to detect soil movement earlier than occurs by current visual inspection and instrumentation methods.

Last Updated: 6/15/20