The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched DamWatch, a new web-based application that provides real-time monitoring of rainfall, snowmelt, stream flow and seismic events that could pose potential threats to dam safety.
"With tools like this, USDA is using the newest technologies to meet our mission," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "This tool provides a 'one-stop' source for accessing critical documents, databases, onsite electronic monitoring devices and geospatial information. The intent is to help keep the public safe and protect infrastructure."
Through a secure interactive web interface, DamWatch will help watershed project sponsors monitor and manage dams that were built with assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). By monitoring these structures, project sponsors can better prevent and protect against hazardous, costly and potentially catastrophic events. For example, during recent rainfall events in Oklahoma, NRCS worked with project sponsors to prioritize field reconnaissance of structure sites.
DamWatch offers project sponsors an effective way to manage watershed projects. It alerts personnel via email, fax or text message when dams experience one or more potentially hazardous conditions, resulting in the coordinated deployment of personnel and resources at the right time and place. Although NRCS personnel may elect to receive DamWatch alerts, the project sponsor is responsible for monitoring the dams and notifying authorities during an emergency. NRCS may be available to assist the project sponsor at the sponsor's request.
During record rainfalls last month in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and other parts of the central plains, nearly 1,000 DamWatch alerts helped NRCS personnel focus their response efforts. NRCS personnel assisted project sponsors in reviewing the condition of hundreds of dams throughout the region.
NRCS watershed projects provide an estimated $2.2 billion each year to local communities. Nearly 12,000 dams in 47 states and Puerto Rico help to prevent flooding and erosion damage, provide recreational opportunities, improve water supply and create habitat for wildlife.
DamWatch, which was developed for NRCS by USEngineering Solutions Corporation, is currently monitoring nearly 12,000 dams across the country.