2012 – The Victorian Floods Review: a hydrologist’s perspective for dam owners

David Stephens, Kristen Sih, Peter Hill, Rory Nathan, David Dole

The spring and summer of 2010-11 were characterised by severe flooding affecting much of Victoria. In a number of cases, communities downstream of large dams developed to supply water for irrigation and critical human and stock needs were significantly impacted. Following the floods, the Victorian Government commissioned the Victorian Floods Review (VFR) to consider the total warning and response to these floods. Whilst dam operations were not specifically included in the terms of reference, overwhelming community interest lead to the VFR commissioning a high level review of the way a number of key dams were operated during the floods. This review identified some of the inherent tensions in the legislative framework for water harvesting, storage and dam safety in Victoria. These tensions were often matched by the conflicting expectations of the public living immediately downstream of the dams versus those dependent on the water resource stored in the dams. The final report of the VFR was handed down in December 2011 and contained a number of recommendations specifically for dam owners. These recommendations are reviewed and discussed in light of both the legal and public relations ramifications for owners and operators of large water supply dams. An overview is also given of the operational constraints to downstream flood mitigation facing many dam owners. Such constraints are typically imposed by the type of dam (i.e. fixed crest), relatively small storage and outlet capacities when compared to flood volumes and limitations on the reliability of forecast rainfall information. Some possible ways of overcoming these constraints are identified and discussed.
Keywords: Flood, mitigation, Victorian Floods Review

Buy this resource