On February 7, 2017, the gated service spillway (also known as the Flood
Control Outlet or FCO Spillway) at Oroville Dam was being used to release water
to control the Lake Oroville level according to the prescribed operations plan.
During this operation, the service spillway’s concrete chute slab failed, resulting
in the loss of spillway chute slab sections and deep erosion of underlying
foundation materials. Subsequently, as the damaged service spillway was
operated in an attempt to manage multiple risks, the project’s free overflow
emergency spillway was overtopped for the first time since the project was
completed in 1968. Significant erosion and headcutting occurred downstream of
the emergency spillway’s crest structure, leading authorities to evacuate about
188,000 people from downstream communities.
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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.
Physical modelling of dam structures remains a preferred method for validating and improving dam designs. Flow behaviour in the approach and over the crest of a dam can be accurately studied with traditional methods such as pressure transducers, piezometers and current meters due to the relatively smooth and steady flow conditions. However, characterising flows within a stilling basin is far more difficult due to the complex, aerated and highly turbulent flow conditions. Recent work on detailed measurement of hydraulic jumps using a line-scanning Lidar was adapted for measurement of stilling basin surface profiles in a 1:50 scale model of Somerset Dam, QLD. Lidar was shown to be an effective and efficient tool for providing assessment of the toe jump, boil and flow into the downstream channel.
Across Australia, recreation usage around dams is growing rapidly. There is also increasing public expectation around the facilities provided and the activities that can be undertaken.
While dams create many benefits, they also have inherent risks associated with them. The risks associated with public access include public and staff safety, water quality, pollution, environmental degradation, bushfires, water availability, dam & power generation operations, and financial.
In 2016 the Victorian government released “Water for Victoria”, a strategy for managing increasingly valued water resources and a growing population. This strategy recognises the importance of recreational enjoyment of waterways and commits water corporations to continuing to maintain infrastructure and facilities to support recreational objectives at their water storages. Water for Victoria also commits water corporations to consider recreational user objectives in the way water storage and supply is managed. However, this must be within legislative requirements to meet the needs of water entitlement holders and with awareness of the realities of dry conditions and climate change.
For the last 10 years, Goulburn Murray Water has been progressively rolling out Land & on Water Management Plans and setting up Land & on Water Implementation Committees. These committees provide a forum for liaison with local government, other statutory authorities, as well as interested environmental, heritage, indigenous, commercial and recreation groups. The groups aim to understand the concerns and requirements of all parties, take appropriate action, which may involve educating communities where some of their desired actions are not achievable.
While this approach has been successful, the growth in social media and the emergence of groups outside of the Land & on Water process has meant that consultation has had to be extended to include self-identifying, special interest groups. This has involved the development of separate groups at Dartmouth and Lake Eppalock to educate and work through the issue at hand, developing appropriate actions, which are accepted and implemented by all parties.
This paper will review the Goulburn Murray Water Land & on Water process, and consider two cases studies, namely the “Save Lake Eppalock” community driven campaign and the provision of fishing access on Dartmouth regulating pondage.
Deformation Survey is a simple and widely implemented technique to identify the early signs of dam failure and is regularly undertaken on many dams. Thanks to advances in equipment and more accurate survey records, there is now a better understanding of measurement and movement of embankments and previous records.
However, the “expected” range of transverse deformation and implications for failure modes of dams is not particularly well researched or understood.
This paper collates a case history of transverse deformation for a number of Tasmanian dams and examines the relative behaviour of the embankment dams. From this the “expected behaviour” of an embankment dam can be estimated and related to key influencing factors, such as observed settlements, height and age of the dams, and thereby providing guidance on when transverse deformation is considered unusual for similar dams.
Earthquakes are a well-known threat to the safety of dams. While this threat is subdued for Australian Dams, the potential for earthquake induced failure of a dam requires risk minimisation in the downstream community through monitoring and emergency response procedures. This paper details WaterNSW’s approach to their development of a Seismic Monitoring Strategy which was to align the business and ensure an appropriate post-seismic response.
The strategy also identifies that a proactive approach to seismic instrumentation can be taken to reduce business risk by aiding decision making should a dam be in a damaged post-seismic state.
The interim outcome of implementing the Seismic Monitoring Strategy resulted in a fast emergency
response time and less overreaction/distraction of dam safety resources in insignificant seismic events. There is opportunity for other Australian dam owners to implement similar systems to = WaterNSW and achieve similar results.