What is it about?

A ‘risk assessment’ is the process of looking at what could go wrong in a workplace or building. This study looked at how risk assessments are used to make sure that dams are safe. In the context of dam safety, ‘risk factors’ are things like water levels (what is normal, what causes them to change, and by how much) or floods (how big and how often). Climate change is affecting some of these ‘risk factors’, which is making it harder to assess the risks around dam safety.

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Why is it important?

The scientists were worried that the possible effects of climate change were not being considered as part of risk assessments. For example, what if a flood is more severe than expected because of extreme rainstorms caused by global warming? Or, what if the reservoir is fuller than expected because people have moved out of the area and are using less water? They suggest some extra steps that the people who develop or manage dams can take when assessing risks to dam safety. They tested their new process using a real-life example – a dam in Spain where the full risks had already been understood. They found that their new process correctly predicted the levels of risk. KEY TAKEAWAY: Many industries use processes and techniques that were invented before we had good knowledge of climate change. We need to check and update these processes to make sure they allow for risks caused by climate change.

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This page is a summary of: Accounting for Climate Change Uncertainty in Long-Term Dam Risk Management, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, April 2021, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), DOI: 10.1061/(asce)wr.1943-5452.0001355.
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