2005 – South Para Dam: Using Risk Assessment To Optimise Upgrade Costs

P Maisano, M Taylor , M Barker and A Parsons 

South Para Dam, completed in 1958, is located on the South Para River, 38 km north of Adelaide. The embankment is 45 m high and comprises compacted crushed phyllite with rockfill toes. The 13 m high rock fill toes are protected with three-stage filters but the remaining 32 m of embankment height has no downstream filter protection.

The South Australian Water Corporation (SA Water), the owner and operator of the dam, is considering modifications to the dam, to augment its flood mitigation role. The proposed works, while not affecting the full supply level, involve a modification to the spillway crest and raising of the embankment crest to accommodate increased flood levels. SA Water therefore commissioned a dam safety review to assess the need for any piping or overtopping protection that may be required. This was followed by concept designs to ensure that flood mitigation work is compatible with any required dam safety upgrade work.

The results of a detailed dam failure risk analysis using event trees showed that the Societal Risk for the existing dam needed to be reduced, and that the proposed spillway modifications increased the Societal Risk due to the increased risk of piping failure with higher flood levels.

The risk analysis showed that eliminating the overtopping modes of failure by raising the dam crest is not sufficient in itself to achieve the required reduction in risk. The provision of filter protection to reduce the risk of piping failure is required, but it was shown that it is not necessary to provide full height filters as the provision of filters only above full supply level would be sufficient to achieve the required reduction in risk.

The recommended upgrade works, in addition to the proposed spillway modification for flood mitigation purposes, consist of filter protection and a weighting fill above the top berm (4.4 m below FSL) to facilitate connection to a possible full height filter in the future, and a parapet wall to provide overtopping protection.The resulting cost saving compared with the installation of full height filters is in excess of $2 Million.

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