Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. in Engineering Science

First Advisor

Craig J. Hickey

Second Advisor

Elizabeth K. Ervin

Relational Format



According to the National Inventory of Dams (NID), the number of dams across the United States is approximately 85,000. Many of these dams are more than 50 years old and need vast attention to ensure their safety. It is difficult to obtain a full assessment of the dam just by visual inspections alone. This is because many problems associated with dam failure occur internally, which makes it difficult to be observed by the dam inspectors. Examples of these flaws are piping and seepage (flow of water through or around dam walls). It is in this area where geophysical methods can aid in obtaining a more confident evaluation of a dam's integrity. Electrical resistivity is one geophysical technique that would be useful in detecting internal flaws associated with seepage and piping because it is sensitive to moisture changes. A study is being conducted to examine the feasibility of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) to map and monitor internal compromised zones within earthen embankment dams. Two quarter-scaled earthen embankment dams were built at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) Hydraulics and Engineering Research Unit (HERU) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. These two dams were constructed with known internal compromised zones that are susceptible to seepage and piping. Electrical resistivity surveys were conducted on the completed dams using a 56 electrode dipole-dipole array. The collected data was then processed using electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) imaging software and evidence of these two compromised zones was easily visible. Also, additional surveys were conducted in order to monitor the changes in electrical signatures associated with changes in these zones due to filling of the reservoir and environmental/climate changes.


Civil Engineering



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