High Sierra environmental monitoring equipment deployed at Virginia dams

High Sierra Electronics Inc., a supplier of environmental monitoring instrumentation, has been working with safety officials in Fairfax County, Va., to help monitor their high hazard dams, High Sierra reported.

In the past, residents of Fairfax County had very little warning concerning water level changes of the high hazard PL-566 dams located throughout the county. To remedy this, officials designed a real-time automatic flood warning system to monitor water levels at each of the earthen dams, report rainfall totals throughout the watershed and notify emergency personnel of the possibility of flooding or dangerous conditions, High Sierra reported.

Developed in phases over a three year period, High Sierra Electronics was awarded a contract to supply, install and maintain the system. The first phase included a total of nine packaged rain gauge stations equipped with water level sensors and one repeater station. The systems’ remote gauges report by VHF radio to the county’s base station computer, which runs a Windows-based data acquisition/database management software program.

In addition to regular timed reports, the rain gauges report each millimeter of rainfall to the base station. The water level sensors report any change in level based on a user selectable setting as small as .01 foot. Fairfax County has set alarm criteria for the new gauges including rainfall levels, water levels and the rate of water level rise at the dams. When alarm conditions are met, personnel are automatically notified via text message and e-mail.

Phases two and three include additional warning sites, as well as adding automatic monitoring capability at Piezomters for six existing lake level sites.

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