2006 – Dam Safety Management in Austria

Pius Obernhuber

In Austria, special procedures for ensuring dam safety apply to dams higher than 15 m or reservoirs with a capacity of more than 500,000 m³. There are at present about 90 dams which belong to this category. The largest one is the 200 m high Kölnbrein arch dam.

In general, it is the task of the dam owner to provide for the safety of a dam. For that, he has to appoint qualified engineers, the “Dam Safety Engineers”, which are in charge of dam surveillance and maintenance. The Water Authority verifies that the owner makes the necessary provisions for dam safety. Water Authorities are the Provincial Governor and the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. The Water Authorities are supported by a governmental advisory board, the “Austrian Commission on Dams”.

Projects for new dams or for reconstruction of existing dams are examined by the Austrian Commission on Dams. Approval by the Water Authority is based on the findings of this commission. A group of a few experts of the commission accompanies the project during construction, first impounding and the final acceptance procedure. In normal operation, dam attendants carry out visual inspections and measurements. The most important instruments are measured automatically and the data are transmitted to a permanently manned control centre. The Dam Safety Engineer has to inspect the dam at least once a year. His annual report to the Water Authorities must contain an assessment of the safety of the dam. The Federal Dam Supervisory Department of the ministry checks the annual reports and carries out an in-depth inspection of the dam at least every five years.

In the case of extraordinary events, the Dam Safety Engineer has to assess the situation and he has to set appropriate measures. An Emergency Action Plan is available for all dams of the said category.

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