2023 – What is a Reasonable Timeframe to Upgrade a Dam? Safety Assessments and New Reporting Requirements for Queensland’s Dams

Chris Nielsen, Rob Fowden, Irena Buckman

In 2021 the Queensland Government published the Guidelines on Safety Assessments for Referable Dams which provides information on the safety requirements, and timeframes for rectification of deficiencies, of dams that are subject to state regulation. The guideline reflects industry good practice, including ANCOLD’s recently published risk assessment guidelines, and emphasises documented decision making.

As of October 2022, owners of dams requiring upgrades are required to submit annual upgrade reports which describe when the upgrade deficiency was first identified, a justification for the upgrade timeframe, what interim risk reduction measures are being considered, and tracking progress to meet the timeframe.

This was a notable regulatory change; previously dams were compliant to dam safety regulations so long as they were following a risk based design approach and were committed to an upgrade by October 2035. The regulator is now asking dam owners to explain “why should a deficient dam be compliant to regulations?”.

Analysis of the reports provides insights into how dam upgrade timeframes are justified and what implications this may have on resource demands and industry capacity to deliver.
On the whole, Queensland dam owners have adapted well to the upgrade reporting requirements; they have taken ownership of the upgrade timeframe justifications and are committed to meeting their obligations to community safety.

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