Volume 21 Issue 2, 2006

The need for private dam safety assurance: a follow-up ‘model’ policy from Tasmania

Dr John Pisaniello, Professor Jennifer McKay

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


Landholders in Australia have often overlooked the common law obligation to review/design dams in line with current standards because of high engineering consulting costs, complacency from believing that as the dam has not failed to now then it will never fail, and because the typical probabilities required for design floods are beyond the average farmer’s comprehension. Hence, some form of regulation is needed to reduce the risk to downstream communities to generally acceptable levels. The seriousness of this problem was demonstrated by previous case studies undertaken in the ’still’ policy-absent state of South Australia and the ‘now’ policy-driven state of Victoria. This paper follows up the previous research by re-enforcing the need for supervision of small dams and their spillways, in addition to the larger, more hazardous dams. Tasmania provides a ’model‘ on how this can be achieved and its policy has been reviewed comprehensively here. The Tasmanian approach is in line with international best-practice dam safety assurance policy, and is the only state in Australia thus far to acknowledge that even small, low hazard dams need to be supervised, albeit to a modest extent.