2011 – How SunWater, as a commercial dam owner makes investment decisions for dam safety upgrades

Robert Keogh RPEQ, CE Civil (Hon), Mal Halwala, Peter Boettcher, Renee Butterfield

SunWater is a Government Owned Corporation (GOC), operating in a competitive market on an equal commercial footing with the private sector. SunWater owns 23 referable dams. Over the last fifty years there has been significant development of the methodologies used to estimate extreme rainfall events. These have resulted in substantial increases in probable maximum flood (PMF) estimates for most of SunWater’s dams.

SunWater has undertaken a Comprehensive Risk Assessment program across its portfolio. SunWater now has a good understanding of the deficiencies and available risk reduction options for each dam under all load conditions. The total cost to rectify all deficiencies is several hundred million dollars and well beyond the financial capacity of the organisation in the short term.

ANCOLD and Regulators have different published opinions on decision making criteria for dam safety upgrades. Once the conditions for the tolerability of Societal and Individual Risk are satisfied the onus remains with the dam owner to meet the ALARP principle. The decision making process is complicated by uncertainties in inputs to risk assessments. The authors have considered these uncertainties as well as the legal implications, differing ANCOLD and Regulator requirements, and business and economic loss, in formulating the decision making process. The methodology is simplified but effective. If the process is followed the dam owner’s investments will meet ANCOLD, Regulatory, legal and business requirements.

This Paper details a logical decision making process designed to allow a non technical Board to balance social, legal and financial objectives. The process considers overall risk, tolerability, the ALARP principle, and project prioritisation. The process is being used by SunWater to determine the Acceptable Flood Capacity of each dam, which dams will be upgraded, priorities and scheduling of each upgrade.

How SunWater, as a commercial dam owner makes investment decisions for dam safety upgrades

Buy this resource