2015 – An analysis of dam safety incidents in Victoria

Maree Dalakis, Dr Saman de Silva, Siraj Perera and Dr Gamini Adikari

This paper describes the results of a statistical and qualitative analysis on historical dam safety incidents in Victoria, the first study of its kind conducted in the State. The study investigates trends arising from qualitative dam safety incident data collected by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning since the year 1996. The reported incidents are categorised based on their severity and statistical trends are identified in relation to the types of incidents common to regulated and unregulated dams, as well as common responses to incidents, including their post-incident operation. The geographical distribution of incidents across the State is also analysed to determine the effects of seismicity on dam safety incident rates. Furthermore, the unique Victorian conditions of sustained drought and subsequent flooding and their impact on incident rates are investigated through the combined analysis of geographical incident distribution and streamflow data. The incident data is further assessed according to the frequency of visual inspection and reporting of the structures in order to gauge the relative influence of these practices, and dam regulation in general, on mitigating incident risk in dams. An understanding of dam safety incident trends and the impact of inspection and reporting practices is increasingly important given the increasing expectation for dam owners to properly operate and maintain their assets with minimal resources and finances.
Keywords: dam, safety, incident, historical, failure.

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