2017 – Understanding Victorian Local Government Authority Dams and Retarding Basins

Monique Eggenhuizen, Peter Buchanan, Reena Ram, Tusitha Karunaratne

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has a regulatory role for the safety of dams under the Water Act 1989 (Act) and is the control agency for dam related emergencies. Local Government in Victoria is divided up between 79 LocalGovernment Authorities (LGAs), each responsible for administering local infrastructure and community services such as roads, drainage, parks etc. Current records indicate that 42 of the 79 LGAs own or manage up to 435 dams and retarding basins.Many of these assets, which include a mix of old water supply dams, ornamental lakes and retarding basins, have been accumulated by LGAs over many years as a result of asset transfers and conversions, land development projects, flood mitigation programs and opportunistic acquisitions by the transfer of land. DELWP engaged GHD to assist and provide advice to the LGAs to significantly improve and update knowledge on LGA dams and retarding basins. The objective of this project is to ascertain where the State’s LGA dams and retarding basins are located, what risks they might pose to communities and infrastructure, what to consider during emergency management planning and response, and to provide owners with the essential management tools and procedures to effectively manage these assets, if these are not in place already.The outcome of this project was to support LGAs to improve management of their dams and retarding basins. It aimed to do this by assisting LGAs with the development of basic dam safety programs that will enable LGAs to more effectively manage their portfolios of dams and retarding basins in terms of ongoing maintenance, dam surveillance and emergency planning and response, and demonstrate due care.This project had a number of key challenges. These included the requirement to process and assess a large number of sites within a small timeframe whilst achieving good value for money,without compromising DELWP’s objectives. A number of efficient methods were adopted during this project particularly during the initial data gathering process, identifying those dams which needed to be inspected based on embankment heights, reservoir capacity and consequences, rapid preliminary assessment of consequences, the development of effective templates for the site inspections, and a method of applying qualitative risk assessments, applicable to the majority of the dams, allowing a consistent assessment of the status of each dam and damsafety documentation.The methods discussed(although developed specifically for the Victorian LGA dams portfolio)provide a sound basis for a screening tool to assess a large number of smaller dams in an efficient manner and quickly identify higher consequence category dams requiring attention. This method could easily be modified and adapted to be applied to similar portfolios of dams.

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