Resources by Topic

Resources by Topic: Inspections


Dam inspections prior to the Corps of Engineers (COE) Phase 1 Inspections were primarily reacting to a new or developing condition at the dam. With the exception of a few states and large federal agencies, dam inspections had little formality or frequency. All most all of the inspection activity dealt with large dams or dams that had serious deficiencies. The COE, as part of Phase 1 process, developed the first formal inspections process, dam classifications, and basic tools for evaluation and inspection procedures. The dam classification system (high, medium and low hazard) was base on the economic consequences and potential loss of live of the dam failures. Some states such as California, Colorado and Pennsylvania had regulatory authority for formal inspection programs, most did not. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission required private dam owners that produce hydro electricity perform a formal “independent” inspection of their dams every 5 years.

The Bureau of Reclamation (BUREC) developed the Safety Evaluation of Existing Dams (SEED) procedure in the 1970’s. A five day SEED training course is provided by the BUREC every year.

Most current inspections of dams are proactive with goal to determine a measure of the dam’s performance as compared to the original design. Dam Inspections today are preformed at several levels from daily informal visual inspections to robust formal inspections requiring highly skilled and experience engineers and technical staff.


To be proficient in this area one needs to understand and/or have experience in the following areas:

  • Safety Inspections for Existing Dams
  • Plant and Animal Penetrations
  • Digital Imaging and Recording Technology
  • Construction Inspections
  • Diversion and Care of Water
  • Introductory Surveying (levels, pop levels, field measurements, etc)
  • Inspection Levels
  • Specialty Inspections (confined space entry, video/ROV, rappelling, diving, etc)
  • Dam Safety Incident and Emergency Inspections

Classroom and Web-Based Training

ASDSO Technical Seminars: Classroom
  • Woody Vegetation and Wildlife Penetrations of Earthen Dams (basic)
  • Construction Inspections for Dams and Ancillary Structures (basic)
  • Inspection and Assessment of Dams (basic)
ASDSO Webinars
  • Pitfalls in Quality Control Testing for Earth Fill
Self-Paced Courses

The Training Aids for Dam Safety (TADS)* Inspection Module consists of the following 10 components. Course materials consist of workbooks for some topics and both workbooks and videos for others.

  1. Preparing to Conduct a Dam Safety Inspection (workbook)
  2. Documenting and Reporting Findings from a Dam Safety Inspection (workbook)
  3. Inspection of Embankment Dams (workbook & video)
  4. Inspection of Concrete and Masonry Dams (workbook & video)
  5. Inspection of the Foundation, Abutments, and Reservoir Rim (workbook)
  6. Inspection of Spillways and Outlet Works (workbook & video)
  7. Inspection and Testing of Gates, Valves, and Other Mechanical Systems (workbook & video)
  8. Instrumentation for Embankment and Concrete Dams (workbook & video)
  9. Identification of Material Deficiencies (workbook & video)
  10. Evaluation of Facility Emergency Preparedness (Note: This workbook is out of date and has been marked "Do not use" by the National Dam Safety Review Board Work Group on Dam Safety Training.)

Related TADS component: Identification of Visual Dam Safety Deficiencies (video & workbook)

*TADS, a program developed by the Interagency Committee on Dam Safety (ICODS), consists of 21 self-contained modules in 3 components: (1) Dam Safety Inspection; (2) Dam Safety Awareness, Organization & Implementation; and (3) Data Review, Investigation, Analysis & Remedial Actions. Course materials are workbooks and 9 videos. Order the full course from FEMA.

Other Training
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation - Safety Evaluation of Existing Dams (SEED) Short Course

For additional training opportunities, search the ASDSO Training Directory.

Guidelines and Suggested References

Some of the most highly recommended resources in this area are listed below. (See also: TADS materials, listed above under "Self-paced Courses.") For additional resources, search the ASDSO Bibliography. Suggested search terms: guidelines, inspection, vegetation, animal impacts, monitoring, instrumentation, embankment dams

Federal Guidelines

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources [Soil] Conservation Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Low Hazard Dams Standing Operating Procedures (2008)

American Concrete Institute

American Society for Testing and Materials - ASTM Book of Standards:

  • Cement; Lime; Gypsum, Vol. 4.01 (2001)
  • Road and Paving Materials; Vehicle-Pavement Systems, Vol 4.03 (2001)
  • Soil and Rock (I): D 420 to D 5779, Vol 4.08 (2001)
  • Soil and Rock (II): D5780 - latest; Geosynthetics, Vol 4.09 (2001)
  • Plastic Pipe and Building Products, Vol. 08.04 (2001)
  • Concrete and Aggregates. Vol 4.02 (2003)
  • Chemical-Resistant Nonmetallic Materials; Vitrified Clay Pipe, Concrete Pipe, Fiber-Reinforced Cement Products; Mortars and Grouts; Masonry. Vol 4.05 (2003)

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

  • Michigan DEQ and STS Consultants Ltd. Dam Safety Guidebook: Michigan Edition (1987)


  • J. L. Sherard, R. J. Woodward, S. F. Gizienski and W. A. Clevenger. Earth and Earth-Rock Dams: Engineering Problems of Design and Construction (1963). Wiley.


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