There is a great demand for effective non-destructive methods to examine the interior of reservoir structures, such as dams. The present study was aimed at assessing the performance of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), a popular non-destructive testing method, to investigate leakage at an earthen dam. Several abnormal leaks appeared on the downstream face after the dam was reconstructed to raise the maximum reservoir water level. Three 2-D ERT surveys were deployed on the left abutment, dam crest, and downstream shell. Periodic measurements were also collected on the downstream shell for time-lapse measurements. To gain confidence and avoid over interpretation, the 3-D effects on 2-D ERT were examined and the results of the 2-D ERT were appraised by forward modeling and synthetic inversion. Integration of ERT results with geotechnical monitoring data revealed the likely mechanism of abnormal seepage. Relational interpretation of time-lapse measurements further supported the hypothesized mechanism. By considering possible 3-D effects, the use of time-lapse measurements, and integration with geotechnical monitoring data, this case study provided new engineering perspectives on how 2-D ERT can be effectively used for seepage investigation.

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