Seriousness of Dam Safety on the global environment

May 24, 2018

The World is shrinking with technology continuing to link mankind to multiple streams of information.  In the past Dam Safety was predominantly only a matter of concern for the engineers operating the dams.  Today any matter that relates to dam safety and their impact on the community and the environment becomes public knowledge very quickly.


Public fascination with Dams is widespread - the Morning Glory spillways:   9,639,420 views on YouTube

Dam failures are captured on film, published and shared - 10,592,665 views on Youtube



So how does dam safety impact the global environment?


  1. The safe operation of a dam benefits: The Owner; The Operators; The Public; The Environment

  2. Dams harness potential energy as aquatic environments that  form part of the global aquatic environment.

  3. It is an environment that must be taken care of as well as utilised for the well-being of the general public.

  4. The greatest threat to the environment and now mankind is via micro-plastic used in plastic and in particular used plastic that is now recycled but is burnt or discarded eventually finding its way into tributaries of reservoirs and dams.

  5. Plastics entering the food chain causes damage - water released from dams ends up in the food chain and eventually into the ocean.

  6. Our dams are becoming storage for not only sediment but also micro-plastics and this is a global problem.


Working try to clean up the plastic waste in their dam …a never ending battle which will be hard to win using conventional methods.



Hence the safe and responsible operation of a Dam now includes not only:

  • Monitoring catchment conditions

  • Structural conditions

  • Quality of water and the constituents of the water that is being used for drinking purposes and agriculture.


But also the environmental consequences of large dams include direct impacts on biological, chemical and physical factors, all which impact the global environment.

  • Properties of rivers and riparian environments.

  • The dam wall for example blocks fish migration.

  • The dam traps sediment which can have an impact as far down as coastal wetlands.

  • The deprivation of sediment leads to numerous problems downstream also including their rivers recapturing their lost sediment through bank erosion, riverbeds can be deepened and the water table lowered.

  • The deterioration of oxygen in the reservoir greatly impacts aquatic plants and animals – often with invasive species entering into the reservoir and greatly impacting the native flora and fauna.


Whatever man does, it has an equal and opposite reaction, therefore as owners and operators of dams we are globally accountable. It is imperative that dam safety is taken seriously, that means we need to:


  1. Improve the monitoring systems that relate to:

    • Inflow

    • Water Quality

    • Outflow

    • Sedimentation

    • Structural integrity

  2. Initiate a standardised system with real time information available for knowledge based decision making

  3. Safe guard the environment as best as we can

  4. Safe guard those living downstream of the dams

  5. Initiate actions to ensure that those living upstream are not impacting the health of the reservoirs

  6. Take action to eliminate invasive species

  7. Design dams so that they have a minimal impact on the environment

  8. Be good global citizens and consider the needs of others

If you would like to find out more about emalte's Dam Safety Projects, get in touch with Mark Wolf (CEO), he is always delighted to have a chat and share his knowledge and experiences.


Tel:      1800 66 99 80 within Australia


            61 402 432 472 outside Australia




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