Novel approach for health monitoring of earthen embankments

Stefano Utili, Riccardo Castellanza, Andrea Galli, Phillippe Sentenac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


This paper introduces a novel modular approach for the monitoring of desiccation-induced deterioration in earthen embankments (levees), which are typically used as flood-defense structures. The approach is based on the use of a combination of geotechnical and noninvasive geophysical probes for the continuous monitoring of the water content in the ground. The level of accuracy of the monitoring is adaptable to the available financial resources. The proposed methodology was used and validated on a recently built, 2-km-long river embankment in Galston (Scotland, U.K.). A suite of geotechnical probes was installed to monitor the seasonal variation of water content over a 2-year period.
Most devices were calibrated in situ. A novel procedure to extrapolate the value of water content from the geotechnical and geophysical probes at any point of the embankment is shown. Desiccation fissuring degrades the resistance of embankments against several failure mechanisms. An index of susceptibility is proposed here. The index is a useful tool to assess the health state of the structure and prioritize remedial interventions
Original languageEnglish
Article number04014111
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering
Issue number3
Early online date7 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • flood embankments
  • geotechncics
  • geophysics
  • monitoring

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