A new web-based tool will help watershed managers keep a closer eye on dams in times of heavy rainfall, snowmelt or stream flow and seismic events, USDA said Tuesday.
The tool, "DamWatch" was developed for the Natural Resources Conservation Service by USEngineering Solutions Corporation to provide real-time monitoring for potential threats to dam safety.
"This tool provides a 'one-stop' source for accessing critical documents, databases, onsite electronic monitoring devices and geospatial information," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack explained in an agency statement Tuesday. "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 to help prevent and protect against hazardous, costly and potentially catastrophic events.
DamWatch 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.