2010 – Emergency Release Capacity for Dams – International to Local Perspectives

C.Johnson, D.Stephens, M.Arnold and N.Vitharana

As part of Melbourne Water’s dam safety upgrade program, emergency release capacity is being investigated at a number of dams. Recent work undertaken by the Water Resources Alliance (WRA) for Melbourne Water has highlighted the lack of current Australian guidelines for appropriate emergency release capacity. With no relevant ANCOLD Guidelines, current practice still references the 1990 USBR guidelines which relate the length of time to empty a reservoir to the hazard and risk associated with dam failure. As hazard category assessment criteria has been improved since and dam design and safety standards are more stringent, the applicability of the USBR criteria in today’s environment is under consideration.
With the prevailing climatic conditions requiring the augmentation of Melbourne’s water supplies, the Tarago Reservoir was recently brought back into service. However, the dam lacked adequate emergency and environmental release capacity, with this being critical to manage construction flood risk for a pending filter raising project. Through an analysis of recorded inflow data, it was evident the existing scour facility had insufficient capacity to handle the recorded inflows, and would not be able to maintain the reservoir at an appropriate level during the proposed works. The length of time to empty the reservoir for the existing scour facility and the preferred scour upgrade option were calculated and it was found that by providing a new 1200mm scour facility, USBR emptying times were met or exceeded. The enlarged outlet capacity was also required to meet the new environmental flow requirements for the dam.
The paper will review international guidelines, share the experience of several Australian water authorities in assigning emergency release capacity for their dams, and discuss the specific work undertaken to provide suitable emergency release capacity at Tarago Reservoir for Melbourne Water.

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