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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.Learn more
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
Susan Ryanand Siraj Perera
This paper describes the benefits of the statewide risk reporting framework used in dam safety regulation in Victoria and its ongoing development. Key to this approach is a web-hosted reporting system and benchmarking process, established by the Department of Sustainability and Environment in collaboration with the Victorian water industry. This is the first time that such an approach has been used in Australia for publicly owned dams.
Sector-wide reporting on dam safety is central to the objective-based approach used by the Department in the governance and regulation of the water industry. Water corporations submit detailed annual reports on dam safety status. This incorporates ‘self assessment’ against performance criteria based on ANCOLD risk and dam safety management guidelines. These are collated to produce a statewide report of industry-wide results on the progress of dam safety management programs. This benchmarking process is providing a driver for on-going improvement and proving to be an effective tool for regulation of publicly owned dams.
The reporting framework has significantly advanced the understanding of dam safety risk across the water sector, with outputs easily understood by both dam safety practitioners and decision makers. It has improved monitoring and trend analysis of risk management practices, and is informing policy development on demonstration of the ALARP principle and decision-making about appropriate long-term dam safety levels.