SOCOTEC Monitoring Installs PRIME™ for Severn Trent Water at Bartley Reservoir

Severn Trent Water has contracted SOCOTEC Monitoring to install PRIME™ – the innovative new earthworks monitoring technology – at Bartley Reservoir to detect and measure leakage paths. Whilst the PRIME™ system has been tested on many sites to demonstrate the benefits of the technology in real world environments, the monitoring programme at Bartley Reservoir marks the first installation of the system on an impounding dam.

Having been built on fractured sandstone, manual monitoring instrumentation has been in place at Bartley Reservoir for a number of years, measuring the extent of known leakage paths. As part of Severn Trent Water’s dam safety programme, and in accordance with The Reservoirs Act 1975, every 10 years there is an inspection of Bartley Reservoir carried out by an independent dams and reservoirs engineer. Following the most recent inspection, a recommendation was made to increase the amount of automated monitoring on the dam.  

SOCOTEC Monitoring was contracted by Severn Trent Water to automate a number of existing piezometers, which had previously been manually read, as well as install automated v-notch weirs to monitor flow and measure the reservoir’s water levels. In parallel to these conventional monitoring techniques, SOCOTEC Monitoring installed the PRIME™ system.  

Developed by The British Geological Survey (BGS) Geophysical Tomography Team, PRIME™ provides a remote condition monitoring and decision-support system for assessing the internal physical condition of safety critical geotechnical assets, such as dams, embankments and cuttings. The PRIME™ technology builds on non-invasive Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), a geophysical imaging technique that is sensitive to compositional variations in the subsurface as well as changes in groundwater saturation and the presence of contaminants.

Combining this state-of-the-art geophysical ground imaging technology with innovative data telemetry and web portal access via SOCOTEC Monitoring’s Calyx™ Online Monitoring Software, PRIME™ delivers time-lapse volumetric information directly to Severn Trent Water alongside the data from the conventional monitoring instrumentation, revealing the internal composition and moisture driven changes within the dam at Bartley Reservoir.

Commenting on the benefits of the PRIME™ technology, Jonathan Highfield, reservoir supervising engineer at Severn Trent Water, said: “We wanted to trial PRIME™ at Bartley Reservoir as the system is non-invasive and quick to install. The PRIME™ arrays were installed in two 250 metre lines at the toe of the embankment in just three days so, compared to drilling boreholes for additional piezometers, PRIME™ is more cost effective in terms of coverage of the site. There are also health and safety benefits, as there was no requirement for heavy plant machinery and there was far less time spent on site during installation. As we start to see more data coming via PRIME™, we hope to roll the system out on other assets within the Severn Trent Water portfolio.”

Nick Slater, monitoring services director at SOCOTEC Monitoring, adds: “Bartley Reservoir has the potential to be a great demonstration site for the PRIME™ technology, as it is a heavily instrumented asset and Severn Trent Water already know the location of existing leakage paths. The piezometers already installed provide points of measurement of existing water levels and pore pressure values, but PRIME™ provides a two-dimensional slice all the way through the dam, which will help ‘fill the gaps’ between the piezometer locations, reducing the need for interpolation and assumptions when assessing the full length of the dam. We hope to see any changes in water levels detected by the piezometers, and flow through the v-notch weirs, mirrored in the PRIME™ data. This would then allow calibration of one against the other, with the PRIME™ system augmenting – and possibly ultimately replacing – the piezometers. SOCOTEC Monitoring would like to thank Severn Trent Water for being early adopters of the PRIME™ system.” 

SOCOTEC Monitoring is the exclusive delivery agent of PRIME™ in Europe. If you have a project which could benefit from using PRIME™, or you would like to hear more about the features of the PRIME™ system, please call or email our central sales team on 0845 203 2112 or We’re always happy to share our expertise.

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