Under Pressure: The Journey of Monitoring Dams From Within


Dams, those formidable engineering marvels, stand as silent sentinels on our landscape. For many, they are merely concrete and steel structures, but in the realm of water resource management, flood control, and hydroelectric power generation, they play an indispensable role. Yet, these towering structures are not without their vulnerabilities. Any failure in a dam can lead to catastrophic consequences, affecting not only the environment but also the communities residing downstream.


Enter the unsung hero of dam monitoring: the pressure cell. These unassuming devices, embedded within the very heart of dams, silently measure the total pressure in various structures, from earth fills to embankments. In this article, we'll explore the understated yet crucial role of pressure cells in dam monitoring and the multitude of benefits they offer.


The Role of Pressure Cells in Dam Monitoring: 


Pressure cells, in their essence, are designed to do one thing – measure total pressure. They consist of a simple diaphragm that responds to changes in pressure. As this diaphragm flexes, it affects the tension in a stretched wire, which is measured by a vibrating wire sensor. The frequency of vibration in the wire is directly proportional to the tension, allowing for precise pressure readings. To ensure their longevity, it is recommended to use electron beam welded pressure cells, which are robust and durable.


  1. Measuring Total Pressure and Stress Distribution: Pressure cells serve as the eyes and ears within the dam. They meticulously measure the orientation and magnitude of total pressure and stress distribution within the dam embankments and at the interface of soil and concrete. By strategically placing these cells at different elevations and cross-sections of the dam, engineers gain invaluable insights into the internal forces at play. This data is vital for assessing the stability and integrity of the dam structure.
  2. Evaluating Foundation Bearing Pressures: The foundation of a dam is its silent anchor. Pressure cells come into play here as well. They diligently evaluate the foundation-bearing pressures, ensuring that the load is evenly distributed and within the safe limits of the soil. By watching these pressures, engineers can promptly identify areas of concern and take necessary actions to mitigate potential risks.
  3. Monitoring Pressure Within the Lining of Underground Cavities: Dams often entail the creation of underground cavities, such as powerhouses. To safeguard against overburden pressure, shotcrete pressure cells continuously monitor the lining's pressure. Any deviation from the norm can be a sign of trouble, and engineers can swiftly respond to maintain structural integrity.
  4. Determining Contact Pressure on Supporting Structures: Pressure cells also serve as vigilant sentinels for retaining walls, diaphragm walls, piers, and abutments. Their task is to measure the pressure applied to these structures, ensuring they bear the load safely and without excessive strain. This information is indispensable for both the design and maintenance of these vital supporting elements.
  5. Measuring Stresses in Tunnel Linings: Tunnels are the unsung heroes beneath the dam. Pressure cells measure the radial and tangential stresses in tunnel linings, be it shotcrete or pre-cast segments. This data is akin to a health check-up, helping engineers assess the structural integrity of the linings and pinpoint areas that may need reinforcement or maintenance.

Read more: Pressure Cells: Types, Working Principle, & Applications

Pressure Cells: The Guardians of Dam Safety


In summary, pressure cells provide real-time data on the internal forces and pressures acting on various dam components. They measure total pressure, stress distribution, and contact pressure, along with evaluating foundation-bearing pressures. This wealth of information is indispensable for assessing a dam's stability, identifying potential risks, and making informed decisions regarding maintenance and reinforcement. Engineers bolster the safety and durability of these critical structures by harnessing the power of pressure cells.


Encardio Rite's Contribution to Dam Safety


In the realm of dam safety, equipment quality is paramount. Encardio Rite, a global leader in dam monitoring, has developed hermetically sealed, long-lasting pressure cells. These cells are tailored for specific applications:

  • Concrete Pressure Cell: This variant measures total pressure and stresses in a concrete mass, ensuring proper curing conditions and structural durability.
  • Earth Pressure Cell: Designed to measure total pressure in the dam embankment and contact pressure against surrounding soil.
  • Soil-Rock Interface Pressure Cell: For studying the interaction between soil and rock/concrete, aiding in foundation design and evaluation.
  • Jack-Out Pressure Cell: Monitors stress changes at the face of structural elements, particularly in cast-in-place structures.

In the world of dam safety, pressure cells stand as silent guardians, ensuring the stability and longevity of these colossal structures.


For Daily Updates on the Geotechnical World Follow us on Linkedin 

Also, Read more: Click here

Got unanswered questions? Ask

Direct To Your Inbox !

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get access to the latest industry trends, insights & updates.