Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with societal, environmental, and other issues. Our student Mr. Choroser makes this connection here…

International benchmarked guidelines and demonstrative case studies for small dam management were published in an article by the Water Resources Research journal of the American Geophysical Union on January 31, 2012. The article explains the significance of small-dam safety problems that occur in various areas of the world. The different methods and models that are utilized for small dam safety protection are described in the context of the article.

The water resources engineering issues related to this article are flood control and water quality. Small dam failures that have occurred caused significant amounts of residential and environmental damage to surrounding areas. Improper maintenance and construction of small dams needs to be taken into consideration.

Water quality is important because there is the potential for toxic chemicals to leak into main bodies of water. The article explains that toxic sludge was released from the Ajka tailings dam in Hungary in October of 2010, causing tremendous ecological damage to nearby areas.

Damage from the Ajka tailings dam in Hungary in October 2010.

This article discusses the relevance of flood control and maintaining appropriate water quality. In the article, numerous flood problems that have been an issue on Australia are also discussed. Australia has a large number of small, privately owned dams and many of these dams have failed. South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales are four states within Australia that have each experienced the effects of small dam failures. The implementation of a strong dam safety assurance policy has assured the proper coverage and effectiveness for small dams. Tasmania is one of the states in Australia that is achieving policies to improve the safety of privately owned dams.

The water resources engineering issues of water quality and flood control also relate to the societal context. The societal context deals with the interactions of people within local or state governments and how these groups of people relate to economical, environmental, and political issues. People generally look toward their government to protect them from possible disasters. Although governments protect people from the risk of dam failures, humans need to consider maintaining and constructing dams more effectively.

Remains of the Kelly Barnes Dam ten days after the dam failure from November 6, 1977.

The connection between small dam failures and society is that when a small dam failure occurs, the water released will cause ecological and property damage to surrounding areas. People within the area may be injured or possibly killed from one of these failures. The benefit for people adjacent to small dams is that the new policies implemented for small dams will provide improved maintenance and guidance for improving the dam conditions.