The Water Act 2003 established a new role for the Environment Agency, that of the Enforcement Authority for the Reservoirs Act 1975 in England and Wales. The transfer of this regulatory role from 136 Local Authorities has had a significant impact on the regulated community. Further change is heralded with the forthcoming introduction of Reservoir Flood Plans, Post-Incident Reporting and a review of current regulations. The improvements sought in reservoir safety may be at risk due to a growing skills shortage and increasing financial constraints imposed by owners.
This paper highlights the issues impacting on the reservoir industry in England and Wales and in recognising developments made by ANCOLD members the author seeks to understand how they are being responded to in Australia.
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G. Hunter, R. Fell, S. McGrath
The main embankment at Tullaroop Reservoir is a 42m high zoned earth and rockfill dam that was constructed in the late 1950s. The constructed embankment has a very broad, well compacted clay earthfill zone with dumped rockfill on the mid to lower upstream and downstream shoulders.
Over a two week period in April 2004 a diagonal crack of 60mm width and greater than 2m depth developed on the downstream shoulder of the main embankment. The crack was located on the left abutment and extended from the crest to the toe of the embankment. The diagonal crack terminated at the downstream edge of the crest. A continuous longitudinal crack extended along the downstream edge of the crest from the diagonal crack almost to the left abutment. Since April 2004 no further widening of the diagonal crack has been observed.
This paper presents the findings of a series of site investigations and analysis to understand the mechanism for formation of the diagonal crack, and the risk assessment process that culminated in the eventual construction of a full height filter buttress on the left abutment of the main embankment. Factors that influenced the cracking included the change in slope in the foundation profile, the temporary diversion channel on the left abutment, residual stresses in the dam abutment due to differential settlement during construction, a complex foundation geology and presence of shear surfaces in a Tertiary alluvial sequence that formed due to valley formation, an historic dry period and a prolonged period of drawdown. The presence of the crack and its assessed mechanism of formation presented a dam safety risk of piping through the embankment. The risk evaluation process was worked through with URS, Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW), and G-MW’s expert panel, and eventuated in construction of the localised filter buttress in February – March 2006 to address the dam safety deficiency.
In Austria, special procedures for ensuring dam safety apply to dams higher than 15 m or reservoirs with a capacity of more than 500,000 m³. There are at present about 90 dams which belong to this category. The largest one is the 200 m high Kölnbrein arch dam.
In general, it is the task of the dam owner to provide for the safety of a dam. For that, he has to appoint qualified engineers, the “Dam Safety Engineers”, which are in charge of dam surveillance and maintenance. The Water Authority verifies that the owner makes the necessary provisions for dam safety. Water Authorities are the Provincial Governor and the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. The Water Authorities are supported by a governmental advisory board, the “Austrian Commission on Dams”.
Projects for new dams or for reconstruction of existing dams are examined by the Austrian Commission on Dams. Approval by the Water Authority is based on the findings of this commission. A group of a few experts of the commission accompanies the project during construction, first impounding and the final acceptance procedure. In normal operation, dam attendants carry out visual inspections and measurements. The most important instruments are measured automatically and the data are transmitted to a permanently manned control centre. The Dam Safety Engineer has to inspect the dam at least once a year. His annual report to the Water Authorities must contain an assessment of the safety of the dam. The Federal Dam Supervisory Department of the ministry checks the annual reports and carries out an in-depth inspection of the dam at least every five years.
In the case of extraordinary events, the Dam Safety Engineer has to assess the situation and he has to set appropriate measures. An Emergency Action Plan is available for all dams of the said category.
Jeffrey A. Schaefer, Ph.D., P.E., P.G. and David M. Schaaf, P.E.
In 2005 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed and implemented a Screening Portfolio Risk Assessment (SPRA) process for Dam Safety. The screening process considered loading frequency, an engineering rating to estimate a relative probability of failure, and both human life and economic consequences of failure. The results were utilized as a tool to help prioritize funding for dam safety modification projects and required studies. Three multidisciplinary cadres evaluated what was considered the worst 10% of the USACE’s dam projects in 2005 and the next worst 10% in 2006. The dams evaluated included flood control, navigation, and multi-purpose dams. Approximately seventy facilities were evaluated each year.
As a result of the aging of the USACE’s dam portfolio and the state of the art at the time of design and construction (mostly 1940’s-50’s), significant dam safety deficiencies exist at many USACE dams. This paper summarizes the major deficiencies identified from the SPRA process. Examples, including foundation seepage, karst development, embankment stability, gate deterioration, liquefiable foundations, and inadequate spillway capacity are provided along with discussion on which deficiencies contribute the greatest risk.
For many years most emergency management agencies in Australia have used a framework called Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery (PPRR). This approach has worked very well in the past and has been incorporated into the more recent framework of Emergency Risk Management.
While Emergency Management Agencies use practice sessions in the form of Desktop/Tabletop Exercises and Field Exercises as part of Preparedness (the 2nd P in PPRR) these activities can suffer from a lack of engagement with the community.
State Water Corporation, a dam owner in NSW, has installed warning systems to trigger plans written by the SES to warn affected residents of possible dam failure. Although the systems are maintained and tested regularly in a technical sense, the next logical step is to encourage the affected communities to understand their role in the event of evacuation.
A joint exercise involving the NSW State Emergency Service (SES), State Water Corporation and the community, was conducted in a town in the Namoi valley in 2005 and has provided an opportunity to explore this concept. State Water Corporation is now confident that not only will the technical side of the warning system work but that residents should be more aware of their role and that of the SES and State Water Corporation.
Other benefits from the exercise are: the opportunity for improving general flood awareness in the community; the SES identifying community representatives; fine tuning procedures between and within the SES and State Water Corporation; allaying fears within the community about what is required of them in a dam failure; and demonstrating the dam owner’s duty of care to affected residents.
Ensuring compliance with the Regulator’s requirements is a cornerstone consideration for any water corporation in planning its risk minimisation strategies against dam failure. With the increased focus on due diligence and corporate governance however, there are emerging themes that are of equal importance for a water corporation in planning protections against its core risks to dam safety. These considerations include: