Dam Construction and Maintenance in Bulgaria – Sustainable Development through the Implementation of Monitoring and Solutions

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | November 9, 2018, Friday // 13:41
Bulgaria: Dam Construction and Maintenance in Bulgaria – Sustainable Development through the Implementation of Monitoring and Solutions

Recently, the Bulgarian Government appointed an interdepartmental commission to determine criteria in order to classify dams according to their degree of potential danger. The Commission has 14 days to create a classification of water reservoirs according to how much they threaten the population – a decision that stems from the Bulgarian Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday, 31.10.2018.

According to the latest amendments to the Water Act, dams must be divided into three groups of potential danger: high level of potential danger, significant degree of potential danger or low level of potential danger.

The development of strategic infrastructure, including energy and water infrastructures, is an extremely important issue for Bulgaria. It is a global practice to build multipurpose water reservoirs, creating conditions for a comprehensive and rational use of water resources, enabling populations to have the social and economic benefit from investments made.


In this context, we contacted Renel Dobre, representative of the company SIXENSE in our country.



SIXENSE is an international company, with technical and
digital expertise; a partner in both industry and
construction. Its areas of expertise are focused on
knowledge of the soil, the environment and structures.


SIXENSE offers digital services and solutions to support its
customers in the management of their operations and
their assets. With major industrial and construction
references, SIXENSE is committed to enabling its
customers to understand, analyse, predict and optimise
their complex projects throughout their implementation.



Mr Dobre shared his thoughts on dams and how the arrival of the SIXENSE Group in Bulgaria might be a major opportunity for the country:


When you have a dam, you have to take into consideration the inflow of the water and the hazards that are possible in the area, such as earthquakes.


For example, in Japan, one hour after a major earthquake, operators have to measure all the dams in real time, to check the state they are in. When you have such a large scale event, control systems don't always work properly; you need to have an additional system as a backup, in order to get the data you need. It is vital to have all the possible safety data, because if all of a sudden a crack is detected, you instantly face drastic decision-making: whether to release water or not. If you do have to, this means necessary evacuation of populations in the valley downstream. If the dam were to crack, the consequences of water gushing out, over inhabited areas, would be terrible.


The SIXENSE Group ensures the stability of your dam

and a reduced risk of site shutdown:



Real-time information

Structural and geotechnical instrumentation linked to a hydrostatic season time-model: our teams position and adjust our equipment on dams to provide you with real-time dam-monitoring.


Atlas - InSAR

Large-scale hotspot detection

Atlas measures vertical movements at a distance over vast areas, via satellite and with millimetre accuracy, without the need for ground-based equipment.


Geoscope - Software

Less data, more information

Real-time monitoring with alarms, all data in one single hub.


In Latvia, they transformed the existing manually-controlled facilities and turned them into state of the art, digitalised infrastructure. They have been operating these modernised facilities for two years and have thus contributed to an optimised national electricity capacity for Latvia. This is a great example of how processes can be improved, contributing towards better monitoring, not only of structures, but also of river beds and soils.


On this large scale project, everything was done according to the appropriate processes, taking into account the considerable challenges presented: to install some sensors, for example, special holes had to be bored underneath the dam structures, in order to undertake monitoring. Other particularly sensitive sensors needed specially designed protections, as drilling would destroy them.


The SIXENSE Group provides you with the opportunity to control environmental impacts on your dam.


Upstream identification of safety and environmental hazards,
by adopting preventive maintenance:



Real-time information

Hydrogeology, geotechnics: our teams position
and adjust our equipment on dams to provide
you with real-time environmental monitoring.



Detect the Invisible

Measurements, processing and interpretation of
subsurface geophysical data. Providing a subsurface
image, detecting leakages, geological faults or cavities.



Such examples have become references in the field of instrumentation and monitoring undertaken by SIXENSE and its SOLDATA division. The Group created solutions that have helped the Latvian dam system to go from “zero to hero”, at all stages, from design to implementation.


SIXENSE focuses on developing and implementing the right solutions in the right places, with the adequate approach. Bulgaria, as far as I understand the infrastructure of the dams in the country, needs to have a centralised monitoring system in order to take real-time measures. This summer, for instance, it rained heavily, and there was concern to have enough data to be informed when water levels had to be reduced. In case of a particular risk detected, there could have been consequences on the hydroelectric production.


Diagnose your dam health


Control the ageing and conformity
of your assets



Material pathologies

(alkali-aggregate reaction):

Inspections, laboratory analysis and ageing tests
to obtain a complete material diagnosis.



Reinforced concrete corrosion expertise:

We define the life-time assessment of your
reinforced concrete structures.

Pre-stressing tension measurement:

to ensure its resistance.


Scanprint - Software

Smart management of your infrastructure operation

Organise and manage your dam maintenance in good
time with one single shared tool: schedules, tasks to
undertake, task-geolocation on the asset, human
resources needed, personalised reports, funds.



If the level of water is too high, you have to release some so as not to destroy the complete structure, which is a delicate operation you have to be careful with. Some conditions and situations need special stations installed to detect wind forces.


Therefore, it is of utmost importance to be able to correctly interpret data. If you are in charge of an infrastructure such as a dam, you need to have exact knowledge of the figures and data. If you need this level of precision, you need to come up with a solution, because correct data helps take the right decisions.


We do not sell equipment: we sell solutions. Our role is to supply our client with the right solution: user-friendly digital software and the equipment that is necessary for the exact need in question.




The state of dam construction in Bulgaria


It can be reasonably argued that dam construction in our country is a legacy of the last century. In the second half of the twentieth century, Bulgarian hydro-technical engineers researched, designed, built and successfully exploited dams, hydropower plants and pumped-storage hydroelectric power plants, derivation tunnels and canals, tailings ponds and others. After that, the construction of dams stagnated.


Like all facilities, dams are getting old. Ageing signs mainly include damage to concrete structures, corrosion of metal structures, cracks and debris in the embankments, chemical suffosion of concrete under the influence of water, obstruction of drainage devices, etc. A brilliant example in this regard is the Beli Iskar dam, built more than 60 years ago.


Concrete is subjected to the aggressive effects of clean mountain water, which leads to a decrease in its strength as well as its being coated with a polymeric membrane.


After the boom in the construction of dams in the 1960s and 1970s, the pace of construction gradually declined. After 1990, over 20 dam wall constructions were suspended. One can say that the Bulgarian state did not have a strategy concerning the construction of water resources, accumulation of water volumes and the economical and rational use of water resources, over the last two or three decades.


We now have the prospect of strategic maintenance of our dams and the construction of new ones in order to absorb the country's energy potential and needs.


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