2006 – Place And Role Of Risk In Dam Safety Management

D.N.D. Hartford and P. A. Zielinski

With the notable exceptions of dyke safety in the Netherlands and dam safety in Australia, explicit consideration of the equity versus efficiency dilemma associated with dam safety decision-making has been virtually ignored in the past debates related to safety of dams thus leading to inconsistent judgments in the development of dam safety policies. The equity-efficiency dilemma is now being debated in Canada as part of the process of revising the Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines. This paper explains how the argument in favour of formulating the new Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines within the formal risk assessment and risk management framework is being presented. The paper then focuses on the difficulties involved in aligning the well tried and tested and generally successful traditional approach to dam safety with the relatively untried and untested risk assessment approach. While the paper does not provide a significantly different perspective (a made in Canada approach) to the role of risk assessment in dam safety management as established in Australia and as presented in ICOLD Bulletin 130 (ICOLD, 2005), it does challenge some aspects of the ways dams are classified in the emerging risk assessment frameworks for dam safety management.

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