Since publication in 2003, the ANCOLD Guidelines for Risk Assessment have reached broad acceptance and use in Australia. In practice, dam owners use the principles of risk assessment to drive business investment decisions. As the guidelines undergo revision, it is timely to assess whether our practices need to evolve to more holistically consider all types of consequences, rather than our current focus on loss of life, in decision-making. This paper aims to prompt dam owners and consultants alike to re-assess our focus on loss of life in risk assessment decision-making, and whether we should more meaningfully consider alternative or broader indicators.
An industry survey was undertaken which found that large dam owners are generally happy with the current system of dam safety decision making. However, the survey responses did identify difficulties in relation to justifying investment below the limit of tolerability that are subject to ALARP principles. In a small number of cases, dam owners found it difficult to justify investment when life safety was not important.
Building on the industry survey and subsequent discussions with practitioners, this paper discusses how the current approach to risk based decision making may result in sub optimal decision making. Further it is discussed how there is an important role that economics should play in providing a universally accepted framework for assessing trade-offs and providing consistent evidence to support decision making.
Global climate change will amplify existing risks, as well as create new risks for natural and human systems. Recent climate changes have already had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. Dams provide a range of economic, environmental and social benefits including irrigation, flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power, recreation and wildlife habitat and play an important role in human settlement. Adapting into the effects of climate change is vitally important for future management of dams. This paper uses the recent drought and floods in Victoria to illustrate the importance of considering the effects of climate change in design, operations, maintenance and emergency management of dams.
The paper describes the development of UK guidance on reservoir drawdown capacity. The guidance provides for a consistent thought process to be used in determining the recommended capacity. A basic recommended standard is proposed for embankment dams which varies with the consequences of failure of a dam. The drawdown rate for the highest consequence dams is 5% dam height/day with an upper limit of 1m/day. Engineering judgement is used to vary this standard allowing for ‘other considerations’ including the vulnerability to rapid dam failure, surveillance and precedent practice. A different approach is proposed for concrete/masonry dam, which considers the prime purpose of drawdown being to lower the reservoir in a reasonable timeframe to permit repairs rather than rapid lowering to avert failure. The UK approach is compared with that used in Australia and suggestions made for where its use may be appropriate.
The As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) principle was established in the Australian Dams
community in the ANCOLD Guidelines on Risk Assessment in 1994. Since that time, dam owners have been focused on reducing their societal risk to below the ANCOLD Limit of Tolerability (LoT) through dam safety upgrades and are now considering how to justify an ALARP position. This paper presents a framework that provides a systematic approach to assembling the inputs, applying a process and documenting the outcomes of an ALARP assessment. It is a pragmatic approach that aligns with the safety case, which is a legislated requirement for Major Hazard Facilities in Victoria.
The framework has been applied to two dams in Melbourne Water’s portfolio with differing societal risk, size, uses and criticality to the water supply system. It has highlighted the importance of dam safety governance, documentation of procedures, defensible technical analysis and an ongoing engagement with leading industry practice, in demonstrating risks are ALARP.
Ulu Jelai project is a recently completed 372MW hydroelectric peak – power project located in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. A combination of power generating and reservoir operating conditions together with the site topography, existing road infrastructure, geology and hydrogeological conditions pose a significant risk to the viability of the project during operation. As a result, significant reservoir rim stability treatments were designed and constructed along a 3.5km section of the right abutment of t he Susu Reservoir to reduce the risk of instability to acceptable levels. This paper describes the methods of investigations, stability assessment and design aspects of the reservoir rim stability treatments that were constructed.
In 2018, DNRME released the latest revision of the Failure Impact Assessment (FIA) Guidelines and the first significant change since 2003. An FIA is the instrument for determining if a dam is referable and therefore regulated for dam safety purposes in Queensland.
The guidelines reflect upon changes in legislation and advances in methods and tools for assessing consequences of dam failure. The revised version tends to be less prescriptive and emphasises the responsibility of the engineer completing the assessment to develop appropriate and defensible methods.
The paper provides an overview of the FIA guidelines, key concepts, the steps to follow when preparing an FIA and a comparison to ANCOLD’s latest consequence assessment guideline.