Dam safety management

As a dam owner, you must have an effective dam safety management program in place to minimise the risk of a dam failing, and protect life and property.

You can use the Queensland dam safety management guidelines (PDF, 1.3MB) when developing a safety program.

Dam safety conditions

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water can apply dam safety conditions that require dam safety programs for referable dams.

Applied conditions can vary according to the type of dam and the specific circumstances of the dam.

They typically require:

  • reporting of all incidents and failures (additional to requirements of emergency action plan)
  • design and construction documentation (including drawings)
  • standing operating procedures and operation and maintenance manuals
  • engineering inspections (special, annual and comprehensive)
  • periodic safety reviews
  • undertaking of works to improve the integrity of the dam.

For dams with very low populations at risk, and low risk to life, the requirements of the safety conditions can be significantly simplified.

All referable dams are required to have an emergency action plan.

Dam safety training

As a dam owner, you are required to develop a program that keeps the skills of your dam operation staff up to date through training programs, courses and on-the-job training.

Read the Dam operator training: Analysis of current trends and future outlook (PDF, 1.5MB) report for information on the technical resources and training options available in Queensland, other Australian states and overseas.

Small dam safety

The department categorises a small dam to be less than 10 metres in height and storing less than 1,500 megalitres. There are thousands of these dams in Queensland, including gully dams, hillside storages or ring tanks. Many are on private properties and play a vital role in providing water for farming, livestock and natural resource industries.

As a small dam owner you are responsible for your dam, including impacts on life, property and the environment should your dam ever fail.

We regulate small dams differently to larger dams. The small dam safety program ensures that the regulations for small dams remain simple, practical and affordable, reflecting the lower risk levels.

Irrespective of size, a dam becomes a referable dam if shown to have 2 or more people at risk if it were to fail. Once referable, the department will apply conditions to your dam to require appropriate management and you will need to develop an emergency action plan that outlines steps to follow should an emergency occur.

Read our Small dam safety: Information for Queensland small dam owners (PDF, 5.1MB) pocketbook for a summary of information, including a checklist to help you to manage your small dam effectively.

You can email damsafety@rdmw.qld.gov.au to request a hard copy of the pocketbook.


General enquiries: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)