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Reservoir regulation decision 'could cost lives'

Lives are being put at risk by a government decision about reservoir regulations, a senior dam engineer has said.

British Dam Society chairman Ian Hope said severe weather could lead to dangerous levels of water being released as a result of the overtopping of poorly maintained dams.

Ministers last month said they would not yet be using new legal powers to impose inspections on reservoirs of between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3. These powers have been brought in under an amendment to Reservoirs Act 1975.

Those above this upper limit are already covered by the Act. It requires them to be built, supervised and inspected by specially qualified engineers.

But Hope said: “There are reservoirs [between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3] that pose a very real risk. Probably about 500 need looking at, and maybe 200 of those should be regulated.

“It is a time bomb waiting to go off. There are structures that have been in place since the Industrial Revolution and not been properly maintained. Lives could be put at risk.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said statement: “Defra has decided not to make further changes to the regime at this time because the current evidence base would not support such changes. For example it would not be possible to target new regulation and avoid imposing unjustified new costs on thousands of smaller reservoirs that do not pose a problem.

“Instead, ministers have asked the Defra reservoirs team to explore doing further research to inform a future decision on whether to regulate smaller reservoirs in the next Parliament. Defra plans to take this forward in consultation with the engineering community and other interested parties.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Barry Walton

    Ian Hope believes that the failure to include dams down to 10,000m3 capacity could cost lives. On the greater scale of things expending resources on one thing rather than another more important could cost live. As we are more an evidence based that belief based fraternity, might he identify one?

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  • It would be helpful to understand how many significant failures there have been between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3.

    Also, is there a figure for cascade reservoirs, because there is an argument for at lease treating their volume in aggregate based on potential effect of failure.

    David Lambert

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