The sky’s the limit for DAMSAT at NCE Techfest Awards

We’re over the moon that our DAMSAT team has won two prizes at the New Civil Engineer’s Techfest Awards: Technology Provider Trailblazer and Technology Leader Trailblazer.

DAMSAT harnesses satellite technology to remotely monitor water and tailings dams. The system helps to reduce the risk of failure of these structures and protect people and ecosystems downstream of dams.

New Civil Engineer’s TechFest, supported by Construction News, is a unique forum to discover innovative ideas from across the industry. Following a year where technology has been more important than ever, the TechFest awards celebrate the industry’s achievements in embracing change.

Craig Goff, technical director at HR Wallingford said: “At HR Wallingford, we believe that the sky’s the limit when it comes to using space technology to solve the world’s most pressing problems. These awards are a wonderful platform to showcase how the latest innovation in space data can be applied to dam monitoring to safeguard communities and livelihoods around the world.”

Developed by HR Wallingford, DAMSAT 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.

The technology can monitor and predict a host of safety indicators including: dam movement; leakage and pollution; and water level changes. Extensively piloted on over 30 tailings and water dams in Peru, DAMSAT is designed with the user in mind, offering a suite of individual modules that can be selected to best suit the particular dam and users’ needs.

Opportunities to employ the leading-edge monitoring are considerable. Globally, nearly 60,000 dams are registered with the International Commission for large Dams (ICOLD), which are estimated to hold 16,201 km3 of water – the same volume as around 6.5 billion Olympic-sized swimming pools.

DAMSAT’s development was funded by the UK Space Agency.

Image caption: HR Wallingford’s Marta Roca and Craig Goff (far right) collect the TechFest Award alongside the NCE’s Rob Horgan

New paper: Satellite data for dam safety monitoring

A journal paper on satellite data for dam safety monitoring, written by a team from HR Wallingford, has been published in the ICE’s Dams & Reservoirs journal. 

The paper – written by Craig Goff, Eleanor Aindsco, Ye Liu and Marta Roca – gives an overview of the different types of satellite datasets and infrastructure relevant to dam safety that are currently available, explains the complex processes of converting raw satellite data into useable information and summarises the advantages and disadvantages of each data type.

The information presented by the authors is based on experience gained undertaking a three-year, £4 m research project to investigate and combine many types of space data to improve the monitoring of dams.

Further information:

Satellite imagery data comparison tool showing a dam site in Peru monitored by a regulator.


DAMSAT shortlisted for two NCE TechFest awards

Our pioneering DAMSAT technology has been shortlisted in two categories of the NCE TechFest Awards 2021: Technology Leader Trailblazer, and Technology Provider Trailblazer.

Craig Goff, who leads HR Wallingford’s Dams and Reservoirs team and Emerging Technologies sector, said: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted for these prestigious awards. We believe that DAMSAT has the potential to save thousands of lives. It’s an extremely powerful tool that uses satellite technology to bring together data about the current state of water and tailings dams, so owners and regulators can see from one simple dashboard if there is a problem that needs attention.”

The award winners will be announced at the one-day NCE Tech Festival on 2 December. The organisers say that the awards will recognise and reward those projects, teams and companies doing most to harness technologies that drive the construction and civil engineering industry forward.

The list of all the awards and finalists at:

New independent review of reservoir safety in the UK published

A new report published by the UK Government last week has the potential to change the way we think about dam and reservoir safety in the UK.

Prof David Balmforth’s independent review of reservoir safety was commissioned by Defra after the serious ‘near miss’ at Toddbrook reservoir in 2019 (pictured). The report makes a series of recommendations that aim to strengthen and modernise the industry. The report gives us an opportunity to explore developing a new risk-based approach to dam safety, and emphasises the need for owners, engineers, the regulator and Government to work together. It calls for owners to take their responsibilities seriously, and ensure their reservoirs are proactively managed and maintained to minimise the risk of failure. We were delighted to see DAMSAT cited as a remote monitoring solution that can help dam owners to comply with the report’s recommendations.

The full Independent Reservoir Safety Review Report by Professor David Balmforth is available from the website.


Although the failure of a tailings dam can have disastrous consequences, up to this date it had not been possible to accurately simulate them. EMBREA-MUD is a model developed by HR Wallingford with the aim of filling the gap that arose during the development of DAMSAT when the team was analysing the potential impacts associated to the failure of tailings dams.

The model is a two component breach modelling tool that simultaneously takes into account outflows of both water and mud (i.e. tailings). The model can also represent erosion of dam material by both water and tailings, erosion of tailings by water as well as the dynamic forces between water and tailings layer.

Dr. Mohamed Hassan of HR Wallingford presented a paper about EMBREA-MUD in INCOLD 2021. The paper aims to describe the details of the EMBREA-MUD model and its application to a number of test cases including the well-known case of Mount Polley.

The paper can be downloaded from our Resources page.