2015 – Benchmarking Dam Safety Management in Victoria

David Stewart, Shane McGrath & Siraj Perera

Dam safety in Victoria is overseen by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on behalf of the relevant Minister and under the Water Act. For each of the 19 state-owned Water Corporations, Government has issued a Statement of Obligations which describes all responsibilities of the Corporation, including specific reference to dam safety management and ANCOLD Guidelines.

These Corporations report annually to the Department on their compliance with all their obligations, including dam safety management. In late 2014, 13 Water Corporations along with the Department commissioned a comparative benchmarking study of dam safety management practices across the state. This work was facilitated by the VicWater Dams Industry Working Group. The study used a rapid assessment method against 14 separate criteria for dam safety management, based on the Statements of Obligations, guidance notes developed by the Department, ANCOLD Guidelines, the ICOLD Draft Bulletin on Dam Safety Management, good governance principles and examples of best practice from other jurisdictions.

The study involved assessment of background data, site inspections and discussions with various individuals of each owner, including a range of field staff, dam safety staff, Executive Managers, Managing Directors and Board Directors. The benchmarking study covered 142 dams of Significant, High and Extreme Consequence Category throughout Victoria.

The results of the benchmarking study have been extremely useful for individual dam owners and for the Department to understand areas where good practice is in place and also where there is potential for improvement of individual programs. The study also provides a measure of assurance of the current status of dam safety management practices and areas where regulatory practices could be better focused. It also reinforced the importance of strong industry networks such as ANCOLD and VicWater for knowledge transfer, capacity development and sustainability of dam safety management practices.

This paper presents the methodology used for the benchmarking study and its broader findings. It also highlights good practice considerations for dam owners, regulators and other dam safety practitioners.

Keywords: Dam Safety Management, Governance, Benchmarking

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