Dam Safety

Dam Safety

Dover Dam, Tuscarawas County, Ohio

There are 84,000 dams in the U.S. and many of them are aging. The annual Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) collectively gave them a D grade this year.

A team of Carnegie Mellon University Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) faculty and students is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help assess the risk of dam failures nationwide.

"We are working to develop tools that will give engineers greater integration of the different sources of information they use to determine this risk," said CMU's Burcu Akinci, a professor of CEE.

Akinci along with James H. Garrett, Jr., the Thomas Lord Professor and dean of CMU's College of Engineering are leading the research team.

The team consists of several professors, including CEE Assistant Professor Mario Berges and CEE Assistant Research Professor Semiha Ergan, who also are working on research in the IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab. The lab is part of the Pennsylvania Smart Infrastructure Incubator that supports computational modeling and visualization aspects of this project.

"This research is extremely important as we work to maintain and monitor an aging infrastructure and as we work to test the important tools CMU researchers are developing for us," said Christopher J. Kelly, a civil engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "The Corps owns 694 dams nationwide, over half of which have exceeded their 50-year service life."

Kelly said he hoped the research would help improve efficiency and cost.

"Ultimately, we would like to have a virtual model that all our engineers can access and update over time," Kelly said.

Berges said, "It's all about risk and we are looking to develop tools that will help assess how a dam behaves and identify any anomalies that may indicate future problems. The models and data analysis techniques we are developing will ultimately allow the Army Corps of Engineers to monitor multiple dams at once."

Ergan reports that this is the first time that this advanced systems infrastructure research has been applied to a dam.

"We are working in developing integrated data models that enable advanced data visualization and analytics," Ergan said.

The CMU team is scheduled to present a series of proof-of-concept models later this summer to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.

Related Links: College of Engineering | Civil and Environmental Engineering | U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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