The purpose of the Mosul dam in North-Western Iraq is to generate hydroelectricity and provide water for downstream irrigation. At full capacity, the structure holds around 12.5 million cubic metres of water and provides electricity to the 1.7 million residents of Mosul.
The dam is well known for its instability as the riverbed is made of unstable soft soil and gypsum, a mineral that dissolves as water runs through it. The structure has to be cemented daily in order to keep water from seeping through.
To monitor the structure’s stability, the U.S. installed sensors as an early warning system, as there are serious concerns that the dam could collapse and the consequences would be fatal: between 500,000 and 1.5 Million people would be at serious risk. A wall of water - up to 14m height - would be unleashed. Mosul would be devastated and even Bagdad, some 275 miles away, would be reached.
Airbus Defence and Space has helped to identify the risks in order to monitor the dam since April 2015.