Estimating the likely extent, depth and velocity of flooding should a dam fail – and planning to both prevent and respond to such a failure – are important parts of managing risk from dams and ensuring community resilience. This paper compares and contrasts current standards and practices for dambreak analyses and flood routing in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK. Comparisons highlight consistent and evolving practices and consider how dambreak modelling supports robust dam safety decision making. In addition, the paper offers opinions regarding selected areas for future research, and insights into the benefits and limitations of increasing complexity in breach modelling.
There are currently around four new flood detention reservoirs (retarding basins) built each year in UK, which although only being modest structures with median height of 4m and reservoir capacity of 300,000m3 pose a significant risk to the community as they are located immediately upstream of the community they are protecting. These communities range from around five to several thousand households.
The cost and therefore viability of these structures can vary depending on the number of defensive features built into the design, which raises interesting conflicting issues of public safety contrasted to vulnerability to property inundation in operational (say, 1 in 100 chance) floods.
The authors have designed and supervised over 30 flood detention reservoirs in the UK in the last 20 years. This paper describes the engineering decisions which need to be made regarding defensive measures and the resilience of these structures to withstand flood loading on demand. Examples of measures to include resilience are described, with discussion of when selection of the options to increase resilience against a particular failure mode should be mandatory, and when it may be more appropriate to consider it on a case by case risk-based approach. The paper will also discuss more strategic issues of how to balance making flood detention reservoirs affordable, while at the same time maintaining high standards of public safety and compares Australian and UK approaches.
Loss of life estimates in dam breach circumstances are a key determining input in establishing the appropriate risk profile for these assets. They can also be useful in identifying the most effective emergency management responses. While there are a range of approaches described in the literature for assessing loss of life for concentrated population centres, there is little specific guidance on approaches to be taken when there is only a small number of properties or where itinerant loss of life has the potential to be the dominant risk element. Itinerants are most commonly considered to be road users, although, they can alternatively be any temporary users of the floodplain. The literature on flood fatalities indicates that the largest number of deaths occurs at vehicle crossings or otherwise when individuals voluntarily enter waterways. An approach has been developed for identifying the cases where itinerant loss of life has the potential to be the dominant vector for flood fatalities. In addition, the available flood fatality literature and associated databases have been reviewed to establish the precursors to fatalities.
A simple stepped procedure is presented which allows the user to identify cases where itinerant risk to life on roads should be considered with a separate procedure and a method presented by which itinerant life loss may be identified.
Design floods for most dams and levees typically have an annual exceedance probability (AEP) of 1:100 (1E-2) or less frequent. In the U.S., high hazard dams are designed to pass the Probable Maximum Flood (PMF), which typically has an AEP of 1:10,000 (1E-4) or less frequent. In order to reduce epistemic uncertainties in the estimated AEP for extreme floods, such as the PMF, it is important to incorporate as much hydrologic information into the frequency analysis as reasonably possible. This paper presents a Bayesian analysis framework, originally profiled by Viglione et al. (2013), for combining at-site flood data with temporal information on historic and paleofloods, spatial information on precipitation-frequency, and causal information on the flood processes. This framework is used to evaluate the flood hazard for Lookout Point Dam, which is a high priority dam located in the Willamette River Basin, upstream of Portland, Oregon. Flood frequency results are compared with those from the Expected Moments Algorithm (EMA). Both analysis methods produce similar results for typical censored data, such as historical floods; however, unlike the Bayesian analysis framework, EMA is not capable of incorporating the causal rainfall-runoff information in a formal, probabilistic manner. Consequently, the Bayesian method considered herein provides higher confidence in the fitted flood frequency curves and resulting reservoir stage-frequency curves to be used in dam and levee safety risk assessments.
The majority of Australian tailings dams over the last 100 years have been successfully built using upstream construction. However, recent major tailings dam failures in some countries have led to a global industry wide review of the design and management of tailings storage facilities, with a focus on the upstream raise method as a common factor for some failures. As a reaction to the recent failures, there is the potential for regulations to become more restrictive and the potential for unjustified pressure on existing and new mines to rule out upstream raising due to possible safety and failure risks.
This paper looks at whether it is the upstream construction method or other more fundamental issues that have led to these failures and examines whether such issues are equally relevant in Australia. Does Australia have a specific advantage in being able to successfully use upstream tailings dam construction or are we fooling ourselves?
The topic of upstream tailings storage is a subject of broad and current interest and the lessons learned from historic failures are rightfully leading to improvements. Implementation of good practice starts with the overall management structure that guides how tailings dams are designed, constructed, operated and closed.
Critical design practice involves understanding the unique site conditions, properties of the tailings and management of tailings placement, as the tailings form part of the overall retaining structure. Good practice during operation of upstream tailings dams is key to reducing the risk of tailings dam failures and the success of safe and sustainable closure.
This paper presents key features of both good and bad practice for the upstream raising of tailings dams and discusses how the design and operation can be made more resilient to ensure the safety of the community and infrastructure. It concludes that upstream raising can be a safe and economical method of tailings disposal if designed, constructed and operated correctly.
The geographical location of New Zealand to the south west of the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ and in the ‘Roaring Forties’ of the Pacific Ocean exposes national infrastructure networks across the country to a range of natural hazards. Despite this, studies of built environment resilience to natural hazards in New Zealand, have historically focused on the robustness of individual physical assets, with less emphasis on the performance of infrastructure networks at a national level. This is particularly true for the stopbank (levee) network. Until recently, stopbanks have often been considered at regional scales and to varying degrees depending on what information has been catalogued, and the level of interest / requirements and local expertise available at the time.
We present the findings of a preliminary national level natural hazard exposure assessment of New Zealand’s stopbank network by adopting the newly developed New Zealand Inventory of Stopbanks (NZIS). Geospatial seismic hazard data from recent modelling is used as a case study to demonstrate how understanding the exposure of stopbanks in NZIS can inform multi-hazard risk and resilience assessments. Four seismic and co- seismic hazard metrics are considered in our stopbank network exposure assessment: surface rupture (through proximity to known active faults), the strength of ground shaking (i.e. probabilistic estimates of peak ground accelerations and velocities), and liquefaction and landslide susceptibility.
With over 20% of current catalogued NZIS stopbank length and a relatively high seismic hazard exposure (active fault proximity and liquefaction susceptibility) in Southland, the likelihood of stopbank failure or breaching due to seismic activity appears to be relatively high in this region of New Zealand. Large sections of the stopbank network in other regions including Manawatu-Wanganui, Wellington and Hawkes Bay are also particularly exposed to large seismic hazards in our preliminary assessment. However, further work is required to more appropriately understand stopbank attributes including design and safety considerations.