2023 – Exploring the Broader Economic Consequences of Dam Failure

Russell Beatty, Hench Wang

Dams are critical resources because of the services and economic benefits that they provide. The potential failure of a dam can represent a sudden interruption to those services. In evaluating the costs and benefits of dam safety mitigation options, the broader economic and social impacts are often not assessed beyond the immediate losses associated with infrastructure, property and life. In exploring these impacts, it is necessary to look beyond the impacts associated with flooding to the broader impacts on the functioning of the community and the economy.

This paper explores approaches to building a better knowledge base on the broader consequences of dam failure and in enhancing the understanding of the benefits (avoided costs) of water restriction and mitigation options in undertaking cost-benefit analysis. The approach to be suggested maps out a series of scenarios for the functioning of communities following surface water supply loss or constraint scenarios and the testing of the costs and benefits for bringing emergency water supply options on line. These include the feasibility of the emergency distribution of water and the fast-tracking of emergency supply infrastructure.

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