Stages of Investigation

Stages of Investigation

  1. Reconnaissance 

In the reconnaissance stage, the objective of investigation is to bring out the overall geological features of the reservoir and the adjacent area to enable the designers, construction engineers and geologists to pinpoint the geotechnical and ecological problems which have to be tackled. The scale of geological mapping for this stage of work need not be very large and the available geological maps on 1:50,000 or 1: 250,000 scales may be made use of.

It is advantageous to carry out photo geological interpretation of aerial photographs of the area, if available. If a geological map of the area is not available, a traverse geological map should be prepared at this stage preferably using the aerial photos as base maps on which the engineering evaluation of the various geotechnical features exposed in the area should be depicted. 

A topographical index map on 1: 50 000 scales should be used at this stage to delineate the areas which would require detailed study, subsequently. 

To prevent an undesirable amount of leakage from the reservoir, the likely zones of  such leakage, such as major dislocations and pervious or cavernous formations running across the divide of the reservoir should be identified at this stage of investigation for further detailed investigations. 

Major unstable zones, particularly in the vicinity of the dam in tight gorges, should be identified at this stage for carrying out detailed investigations for the stability of the reservoir rim. 

The locations for suitable construction material available in the reservoir area should be pin pointed at this stage so that after detailed surveys such materials can be exploited for proper utilisation during the construction stage prior to impounding of reservoir. 

The rate of silting of the reservoir is vital for planning the height of the dam and working out the economic life of the project. Since the rate of silting, in addition to other factors, is dependent on the type of terrain in the catchment area of the reservoir, the major geological formations and the ecological set up should be recognized at this stage to enable a more accurate estimation of the rate of silting of the reservoir.

For example, it should be possible to estimate at this stage that forty percent of the catchment of a storage dam project is covered by Quaternary sediment and that this is a condition which is likely to a yield a high silt rate or that ninety percent of the catchment of another storage dam project is composed of igneous and metamorphic rocks and is likely to yield a relatively low sediment rate.

This information will also be useful in examining whether or not tributaries flowing for long distances through soft or unconsolidated formations, prior to forming the proposed reservoir, can be avoided and if not, what remedial measures can be taken to control the silt load brought by these tributaries. 

The impounding of a reservoir may submerge economic/strategic mineral deposits occurring within the reservoir area or the resultant rise in the water table around the reservoir may cause flooding, increased seepage in quarries and mines located in the area and water logging in other areas. It is, therefore, necessary that the economic mineral deposits, which are likely to be adversely affected by the reservoir area, are identified at this stage of the investigation.

For example, if an underground working is located close to a proposed storage reservoir area, it should be identified for regular systematic geo-hydrological studies subsequently. These studies would establish whether the impoundment of the water in the reservoir had adversely affected the underground working or not. References should also be made to various agencies dealing with the economic minerals likely to be affected by the impoundment in the reservoir for proper evaluation of the problem and suitable necessary action. 

A dam and its reservoir are affected by the environment in which they are located and in turn they also change the environment. Impoundment of a reservoir sometimes results in an increase of seismic activity at, or near the reservoir. The seismic activity may lead to microtremors and in some cases lead to earthquakes of high magnitude. It is, therefore, necessary to undertake the regional seismotechtonic study of the project area.  The  faults  having  active  seismic  status  should  be  delineated  at  this   stage. 

Simultaneous action to plan and install a network of seismological observatories encompassing the reservoir area should also be taken. 

  1. Preliminary Investigation 

The object of preliminary investigation of the reservoir area is to collect further details of the surface and subsurface geological conditions, with reference to the likely problems identified during the reconnaissance stage of investigation by means of surface mapping supplemented by photo geological interpretation of aerial photographs, hydro geological investigations, geophysical investigations, preliminary subsurface exploration and by conducting geoseismological studies of the area. 

On the basis of studies carried out during the reconnaissance stage it should be possible to estimate the extent of exploration that may be required during the preliminary stage of investigation including the total number of holes required to be drilled and the total number and depth of pits, trenches and drifts as also the extent of geophysical surveys which may be necessary. For exploration by pits, trenches, drifts and shafts guidelines laid down in IS 4453: 1980 Name of IS code should be followed. 

The potential zones of leakage from the reservoir and the lateral extent of various features, such as extent of aeolian sand deposits, glacial till, land slides, major dislocations or pervious and cavernous formations running across the divide, should be delineated on a scale of 1: 50000. 

The geo-hydrological conditions of the reservoir rim should be established by surface and subsurface investigation as well as inventory, as a free ground water divide rising above the proposed level of the reservoir is a favourable condition against leakage from the reservoir. The level of water in a bore hole should be determined as given in IS 6935: 1973. 

The extension of various features at depth, wherever necessary, is investigated by geophysical exploration and by means of pits, trenches, drifts and drill holes. For example, the resistivity survey should be able to identify water saturated zones. The nature of the material is investigated by means of laboratory and in situ tests, to determine permeability and assess the quantum of leakage which may take place through these zones on impoundment of the reservoir. Moreover, permeability of rocks/overburden in the reservoir area is determined from water table fluctuations and pumping tests in wells. For determining in situ permeability in overburden and rock, reference should be made to IS 5529 (Part I): 1985 and IS: 5529 (Part II): 1985 respectively.

The information about permeability would enable the designers to estimate the treatment cost for controlling leakage/seepage from the reservoir and to decide whether it would be desirable to change the location of height of the dam to avoid these zones. 

Major unstable zones along the reservoir identified during the reconnaissance stage  and which are of consequence to the storage scheme should be investigated in detail at this stage by means of surface and sub-surface exploration. 

The areas should be geologically mapped in detail on a scale of 1: 2000. The suspect planes/zones of failure should be identified and explored by means of drifts, trenches and pits. Disturbed and undisturbed samples of the plastic material should be tested for cohesion (c) and angle of internal friction () as well as for other relevant properties. The stability of slopes should also be evaluated considering the reservoirs operational conditions.

These studies should provide the designers with an idea of the magnitude of the problems that may be encountered, so that they may be able to take remedial measures to stabilize zones or to abandon the site altogether, if the situation demands. 

The areas having potential economic mineral wealth and which are likely to be  adversely affected by the impoundment of the reservoir should be explored by means of surface and subsurface investigation to establish their importance both in terms of their value as well as strategic importance.

This information would be necessary for arriving at a decision regarding the submergence, or otherwise, of the mineral deposit. The nature and amount of the existing seepage, if any, in the existing mines and quarries in the adjacent areas of the reservoir should be recorded and monitored regularly. This data is necessary, to ascertain whether or not there has been any change in the quantum of seepage in the mines and quarries due to the impoundment of water in the reservoir, directly or indirectly. 

Large scale geological mapping and terrace matching across the faults with seismically active status, delineated during the reconnaissance stage, should be carried out on a scale of 1 : 2000 and the trend, and behaviour of the fault plane should be investigated in detail by means of surface studies and sub-surface exploration by pits, trenches and drifts etc.

A network of geodetic survey points should be established on either side of  the suspected faults to study micromovements along these suspected faults, if any, both prior to and after impoundment of the reservoir. Micro earthquake studies should be carried out using portable 3-station or 4-station networks in areas with proven seismically active fault features. 

On the basis of the studies carried out during the preliminary stage it should be possible to estimate the quantum of exploration which may be required during the detailed stage of investigation including the total number of holes required to be drilled and the total number and depth of pits, trenches and drifts as also the extent of geophysical survey which may be necessary. 

Detailed surface and sub-surface investigation of all features connected with the reservoir should be carried out to provide information on leakage of water through the periphery and/or basin of the reservoir area. 

Based on these investigations and analysis of data it should be possible to decide as to whether the reservoir area in question would hold water without undue leakage. If, not, the dam site may have to be abandoned in favour of suitable alternative site. 

The zones, which on preliminary investigation are found to be potential zones of leakage/seepage from the reservoir, and which due to other considerations cannot be avoided are geologically mapped on a scale of 1 : 2 000 and investigated in detail at this stage by means of a close spaced sub-surface exploration programme. The purpose of this stage of investigation is to provide the designers sufficient data to enable them to plan the programme of remedial treatment. The subsurface explorations are carried out by means of pits and trenches, if the depth to be explored is shallow, say up to 5  meters, and by drill holes and drifts, if the depth to be explored is greater than 5 meters. 

The unstable zones around the reservoir rim, specially those close to the dam sites in tight gorges, should be explored in detail by means of drifts, pits and trenches so that the likely planes of failures are located with precision. The physical properties including angle of internal friction and cohesion of representative samples of the material along which movement is anticipated should be determined. The above information would enable the designers to work out details for preventive measures, for example, it may  be possible to unload the top of the slide area or to load the toe of the slide with well drained material, within economic limits. 

Sub-surface explorations by drill holes, drifts, pits and trenches should be carried out at possible locations of check dams and at the locations of other preventive structures proposed to restrict the flow of silt into the reservoir. These studies would enable the designers to assess the feasibility of such proposals. 

Detailed plans, regarding the economic mineral deposits within the zones of influence of the reservoir should be finalized during this stage by the concerned agencies. The seepage investigations in the quarries and mines within the zone of influence of the reservoir should be continued