2013 – Development and application of a risk based approach to managing floods during construction

Simon Lang, David Stephens, Peter Hill, Mark Arnold and Tommie Conway

Considerable thought has been given in recent years to managing the risks associated with floods during the construction of new dams and dam upgrades. Both ANCOLD and the NSW DSC provide some limited advice on how this risk should be managed, with many dam owners aiming for societal risk during construction to be no higher than pre-construction. One approach to do this is to draw down the reservoir such that sufficient airspace is created to reduce the probability of overtopping the construction works to be equal to that of overtopping the dam crest pre-construction. However, this frequently leads to very large releases of valuable water resource being required. This approach also fails to consider that the conditional probabilities of failure may be quite different during construction than during normal operation. A risk-based approach was applied for the recent upgrade of Tarago Reservoir. Existing event trees from a failure modes analysis were adjusted to reflect the construction conditions. In some cases, the event probabilities increased (for example as a result of excavation of the dam embankment), however some also decreased (for example as a result of more rapid means of detecting and intervening in breach formation during construction). The conditional probabilities of failure during construction were then used to estimate the overall seasonal probability of failure, and it was found that a limited draw down of the reservoir would be sufficient to ensure that risks were no higher during construction than pre-construction. To reinforce this, the cost-to-save-a-statistical life was estimated for further drawdown of the reservoir and used to demonstrate that the risks were as low as reasonably practicable.


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