(at or in) the foundation of embankment dams


Senior Member
Hello everyone,
I cannot decide which one to choose, in or at? The sentence is:

"Monitoring seepage (at/in) the foundation of embankment dams is very important"

I appreciate to know which one sounds more natural to you guys. And a little bit of explanation
on why the other one cannot be correct is also appreciated.

Thank you
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    To be honest, I don't know, diminished7th. I don't know what "embankment dams" are. And this looks like jargon to me....

    Can you give us some context?


    Senior Member
    Sure. Dams made from soil material are embankment dams. We can also have concrete dams. So basically think of it as a huge amount of soil compacted in layers. Or think of a dam as a thick wall that keeps water at one side for some purposes. Now if you prevent the water from moving on the surface of the ground by constructing this wall, it tries to find its way from underneath where we call "the foundation of dam" and we refer to this penetration of water as "seepage" so if this seepage is not controlled it kind of wipes out the particles on its way and causes instability of that wall (dam) and it can collapse.


    Senior Member
    I was thinking that you're correct. I'm looking for seepage outside the dam but am looking for seepage IN the foundation (of dam). So just to make sure, do you still believe it should be "at the foundation"?

    PS. I'm preparing this text for someone else. That's why I'm obsessed with the grammar ... Thank you


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know anything about the topic, but here are some thoughts.

    You might measure seepage "at" the foundation of an embankment dam if this phrase defines a point where you could measure something.
    I don't think you could measure seepage "in" the foundation.
    You might be concerned about seepage "through" the foundation of an embankment dam, even if measuring it would be very difficult.

    You may need to consult a subject expert.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    Well, as it happens, I have such a dam, called here an "earthen" dam. (You can go to Google Maps and look for "Kay Reservoir.")

    When we speak of "foundations" in the U.S., however, we generally refer to something of different construction than the rest of whatever is built. We build wooden houses, for example, on poured concrete foundations. I don't think we build earthen dams with "foundations."

    The terminology I've heard in connection with the whole dam business, is "base" of the dam.

    Thus, I would talk about seepage at the base of the dam.

    If that doesn't work, we need information on the construction techniques.


    Senior Member
    Thanks Panjandrum.
    sdgraham: I understand your point but I guess we refer to that "thing with different construction" as "footing" which is placed naturally on the foundation. I also know that some people do not differentiate between footings and foundations.
    But if I accept your definition of foundation, then you're right. We don't build any dam with such "foundation". But in the way I use it, foundation is technically consisted of "soil material" which is already there but we might need to
    "improve" it by "soil improvement techniques".

    It's all Google's fault :( I feel like you guys are right but googling this "seepage in the foundation of * dam" leads to 67 results but "seepage at the foundation of * dam" gives 7 results (do not forget "s). But I have this strong feeling that I want to listen to you guys.

    But one last question Panjandrum: When you said "I don't think you could measure seepage "in" the foundation.", was you thinking like somebody or something being "in" the foundation measuring the seepage? (Like me being in my room posting threats?) If so, you were right. There are points in the foundation where we have piezometers installed and as the water passes through the foundation, the piezometer shows the height of water in the piezometer going up which is a measure of seepage (or if not exactly like this, it's conceptually kind of like that :D)