1998 – Risk Assessment of Dams – Future Directions for Victoria

David Watson and John Adem

For several years risk management has been promoted by the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment – Water Agencies as the key mechanism for the effective and efficient business management of dams. As part of an extensive water reform program, the Victorian Government announced in October 1997, a financial assistance package for the water industry which included funding for dam improvements covering a majority of large dam owners in the State. One of the conditions for receipt of these improvement funds was the need for each water authority to undertake a Business Risk Assessment of all significant and high hazard dams under its responsibility.

This paper discusses the Business Risk Assessment document based on a framework developed by Water Agencies after consultation with the industry and expands on the following reasons why the document was produced:

  • To stress the importance and value of risk assessment in managing dams and the major role it plays in business planning and understanding dam performance. Risk assessment is not an alternative to the traditional engineering or deterministic approach but an enhancement,
  • To identify the minimum assessment required and examples of different approaches such as portfolio risk assessments,
  • To provide preliminary reference risk criteria to assist water authorities to determine appropriate business performance requirements. This preliminary criteria was developed from considering likely (although subject to change) outcomes of the current revision of Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) 1994 Risk Assessment Guidelines and other guidelines involving risk aspects recently or being prepared,
  • To indicate future reporting and actions expected over the five year duration of the package including project evaluations and further risk assessments,
  • To assist with inputs into ANCOLD’s continuing development and revision of guidelines, and
  • To provide a platform for development over the next 18 months of an appropriate regulatory framework for covering all referable dams in the State. Key considerations will included performance based requirements encompassing risk management concepts, appropriate drivers which promote duty of care and associated legal issues and liabilities.

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