2018 – Advanced InSAR Techniques for Remote Monitoring of Dam Stability

Jessica Morgan

Regular assessment of dam stability is essential to ensure safe and reliable operation of these structures throughout their service life. In some cases, monitoring of the surrounding environment can be as important as monitoring carried out over the dam itself. Risk management programs should therefore look at the entire site and nearby terrain to ensure any and all possible geohazards which may impact dam integrity are identified and tracked over time.

InSAR is a type of remote sensing that uses radar satellite imagery to measure surface movement occurring over time, often achieving millimetric levels of precision. This approach does not require fieldwork or the installation of equipment, measurements are instead obtained from reflections of the satellite radar signal off infrastructure, rocks and bare ground. Furthermore, as the measurements are obtained from satellite images that extend over regions thousands of kilometres squared in size, they can provide information on stability over dams, surrounding reservoirs, even entire regions.
The main advantage of InSAR technology for dam monitoring is two-fold. First, in addition to monitoring the dam itself, stability of the surrounding area (including slopes around dam reservoirs) can be tracked. Second, both long- and short-term displacement trends can be captured (including historical analyses) providing a more complete picture of dam behaviour over time.

Several examples of InSAR results obtained over different dam sites are presented.

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