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Noorderzijlvest Uses Early Warning System for Levee Stability

Noorderzijlvest uses early warning system for levee stability

A SkyGeo Case Study

The Lauwersmeerdijk protects the province of Groningen in the Netherlands from flooding by the North Sea.

An erosion channel in this sea rapidly removes sand at the underwater part of the levee.

In 2010 the Lauwersmeerdijk did not pass nationwide test of Levee Safety over a distance of 25 km; the underwater slope had become too steep, endangering levee stability.

To prevent faulting in the levee, SkyGeo monitors the Lauwersmeerdijk by order of the local water board Noorderzijlvest since 2010. SkyGeo provides an effective early warning system to detect instabilities in the levee.

Advantages of early warning system

  • Subsidence patterns of a large regional structure captured in one overview
  • Detailed monitoring for changes at hundreds of measurement points
  • Cost- effective method complementary to traditional surveying techniques
  • Quick assessment of levee stability based on satellite data

A strong tidal current results in significant erosion of the toe of the Lauwersmeerdijk; a process which results in levee instability over time. The dashed lines show the original levee slope and an early stage of erosion.

Levee instability

A strong tidal current in the North Sea causes rapid erosion of the underwater part of the Lauwersmeerdijk.

The transportation of sand from the levee causes the underwater slope to become steeper over time. Eventually, this process can result in levee instability.

The underwater depths were measured at cross-sections shown in the cartoon, but there were no historical surveying data of the levee prior to 2010.

Displacement measurements of the Lauwersmeerdijk shows that potential instabilities are likely limited to a small section along the 12 km dike. The scale bar shows the average annual rate of displacement; every point has a time series underlying it.

Early warning system

SkyGeo reports displacement of the Lauwersmeerdijk on a quarterly basis. For accurate results, a large number of radar satellite images are combined that are acquired from 2004 to 2011.

By following specific locations throughout the stack of imagery over time, displacement of these locations can be measured with millimeter precision. An easy to read chart for each location shows the actual rate of displacement — important information that would be too expensive to gain by using traditional measurement techniques over the entire length of the dike and that was not available prior to 2010 anyway.

This method provides Noorderzijlvest with an effective early warning system to identify sections on the levee that are potentially unstable.