Dam safety regulations
The failure of a dam can have major consequences—from injury and loss of life to economic, property and environmental damage.
The legislation for referable dams is the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008, specifically the requirements in Chapter 4: Referable dams and flood and drought mitigation.
While no dam is 100% safe, the risks of failure are usually very low and can be managed.
In Queensland, the responsibility for the safety of a dam rests with the dam owner.
Under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008, the Queensland Government is responsible for the regulation of water dams that would, in the event of failure, put 2 or more people at risk. Such dams are called 'referable' dams.
By definition, referable dams do not include:
- dams containing hazardous waste
- weirs that do not have variable flow control structures on the crest of the weir
- large fabricated water tanks.
On 15 May 2019, the Natural Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The new Act amends the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008, by clarifying several provisions in relation to emergency action plans (EAPs). These changes commenced on 24 May 2019.
The key amendments include the following:
- When there is a change in ownership of a dam, the former dam owner must provide the dam safety regulator with details of the new owner within 10 business days and ensure all dam safety documentation has been provided to the new owner.
- New EAPs and renewals will have an approval period of 30 business days.
- Applications to renew an existing EAP are now required to be submitted to the dam safety regulator at least 2 months before the EAP expires.
- All minor amendments to an EAP by agreement have an approval period of 10 business days.
No amendments have been made in relation to the content of an EAP or to the operational requirements of an EAP during an emergency event.