New NRCS tool helps monitor safety of watershed dams

New NRCS tool helps monitor safety of watershed dams

DamWatch helps NRCS workers monitor threats like rainfall, snowmelt, stream flow and seismic events

Nothing worries those responsible for the management of watershed dam projects more than day after day of rain until rivers and streams overflow.

Now, there is another tool to help them keep track of what rainfall, snowmelt, stream flow and seismic events might produce in the way of threats to the security of dams.

DamWatch is a new web-based application from USDA. It provides real-time monitoring of events that could produce problems.

NEW TOOL: DamWatch from USDA is a new application that helps monitor events that may threaten dam safety in real time.

"With tools like this, USDA is using the newest technologies to meet our mission," 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. By monitoring these structures, project sponsors can better prevent and protect against 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.

For more information visit or a local USDA service center.

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