Dam risk highlights need to inspect and maintain
Recent heavy rainfall has saturated soils and created significant runoff across the Hills and Fleurieu. While this is welcome respite for the many watercourses that rely on fresh flows, it has seen most dams fill and some are dangerously close to overspilling or even collapsing. This has again highlighted the importance of land managers conducting regular monitoring and maintenance of their dams.
“It is important to note that the majority of dams in the Mount Lofty Ranges were built before there was any regulation either as part of land use planning or water resource management,” said Michael Garrod, Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu General Manager.
“Times have changed, and there’s now a detailed permit and application process to go through before building or modifying dams - meaning the capacity, structural integrity and engineering components of more recently built dams have been somewhat regulated and controlled.
“While all dams need to be carefully inspected and maintained, the older ones in particular can be concerning when they fill to levels that put extra pressure on dam walls and spillways, potentially causing collapse.
“We are advising land managers to watch and maintain their dam water levels appropriately, and check spillways are functioning correctly. If you are at all concerned for the immediate safety of yourself or downstream properties, contact the SES,” he said.
Regular inspection and management also enables the identification of minor defects which can be repaired cost effectively before major damage occurs, prolonging the life of the dam and protecting it against deterioration. While summer is the best time for preventative maintenance, when water levels are low and land is dry, safety inspections through the wetter months is critical.
It is important to speak with Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu before undertaking any modifications to your dam, as these maintenance activities have the potential to impact on watercourses and require a Water Affecting Activity permit.
“Ultimately, land managers are responsible for the safety of their dams and may be liable in the case of a dam failure. As with any emergency situation, prevention is better than cure.”
In an emergency, there is a guideline and rapid risk assessment tool to provide dam owners and emergency responders with a quick and simple assessment to determine whether further action is needed, if it suspected that a dam safety incident may occur.
The guideline and resources for how to carry out a maintenance inspection and what to do in an emergency situation are available at www.ses.sa.gov.au/flood/during-a-flood/dams
The South Australian State Emergency Services (SASES) can be reached on 132 500 in the case of a flood or storm emergency.
The Department for Environment and Water is the flood hazard leader in South Australia, with further information available at www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/flood
For further information about the management of dams or water affecting activities, contact us on 8391 7500 or visit our dam safety and maintenance page.