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Bristol Water to use space satellites to monitor dam safety

by Liam Turner
A satellite looking down on Earth from space

Bristol Water has adopted satellite technology to monitor the structural safety of its dams.

The water company is using DAMSAT technology, which can monitor and predict a host of safety indicators including dam movement, leakage and pollution, and water-level changes.

DAMSAT was developed by HR Wallingford, which was the government’s Hydraulics Research Station, until it was privatised in 1982.

The technology uses satellite earth observation techniques – including the analysis of spectral responses from satellite images and signals from navigation satellite systems – combined with real-time in-situ monitoring devices.

Dam safety has moved up the political agenda since the failure of the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir in 2019, necessitating the evacuation of 1,500 residents of the nearby town of Whaley Bridge.

In the review commissioned in the wake of the Toddbrook failure, DAMSAT was cited as a way to help dam owners comply with recommendations.

‘Immense’ benefits

Commenting on the move, Frank van der Kleij, head of Asset Risk and Planning at Bristol Water, said: “Bristol Water is a proactive, innovative water company, and dam safety is one of our highest priorities.

“DAMSAT will allow us to improve our surveillance and monitoring of these critical assets.”

Craig Goff, supervising panel engineer for Bristol Water’s reservoirs and technical director at HR Wallingford, added: “The benefits of this system are immense.

“Having continual surveillance and early analysis of behavioural changes between visits, allows me to focus my attention on the right area of the right site at the right time.

“Bristol Water’s reservoir portfolio is safer as a result.”

Image credit: @nasa/Unsplash

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