2017 – Seqwater Dam Improvement Program – Assessment, Prioritisation, Justification and Implementation of Dam Upgrades

Barton Maher and Michael Peel

The Queensland Bulk Water Supply Authority (Seqwater) manages up to $12 billion of bulk water supply infrastructure and the natural catchments of the region’s water supply sources to ensure a reliable, quality water supply for more than 3million consumers across the region. Seqwater was formed on 1 January 2013 through a merger of three State-owned water businesses, the SEQ Water Grid Manager, LinkWater and the former Seqwater. Seqwater delivers a safe, secure and reliable water supply to South East Queensland, as well as providing essential flood mitigation services and managing catchment health. Seqwater also provides water for irrigation to about 1,200 farmers and offers community recreation facilities enjoyed by more than 2.5 million people each year.Seqwater owns and operates 26 referable dams which fall under the dam safety regulation in Queensland, 51 weirs, and two bore fields across the region. Twelve key dams across the region supply as much as 90% of South East Queensland’s drinking water.In 2011, Seqwater engaged a consultant team of URS (now AECOM) and SKM (now Jacobs) to undertake a portfolio risk assessment of the 26 referable dams and Mount Crosby Weir. At the completion of the project in December 2013 there were 12 dams with life safety risks assessed as being above the ANCOLD and DEWS Limit of Tolerability. A $6.2 million investigation was approved in 2014 to commence planning for the recommended dam safety upgrades and reduce uncertainties in the risk assessment.This program of work was completed in late 2016. The estimated costs of the identified dam safety upgrades exceed $900 million.Confronted with such a large capital program, Seqwater has instigated a number of key actions including:-benchmarking capital investment and rates of risk reduction achieved by other dam owners through a dam owners group-developing a dam safety investment policy to provide a clear guidance on the framework for prioritising and scheduling upgrades-undertaking targeted investigations to reduce uncertainty in the risk assessments including the use of detailed consequence assessment-preparing a prioritised schedule of planned upgrades to gain endorsement from Government and the Dam Safety Regulator. This paper presents the outcomes of the Portfolio Risk Assessment and key changes to the initial risk assessment following further studies. The basis for the dam safety investment policy is presented and the proposed prioritisation tools.The impacts of the risk assessment provisions in the most recent revision of Queensland Acceptable Flood Capacity Guidelines for Water Dams are also discussed. In particular,the application of the economic criteria for determining the minimum upgrade required by the Queensland Dam Safety Regulator and its relevance to other dam owners.

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