Dam Improvement Program

About the Dam Improvement Program

Dams are long-life assets which require continual assessment, monitoring and maintenance. While Seqwater dams were built to high standards, many were built some decades ago. Methodologies and data used to estimate extreme rainfall events have significantly improved and industry engineering standards and risks have progressed since dams were originally built.

Across Queensland and Australia, there are multiple dam upgrades occurring to meet modern engineering standards and comply with the safety requirements outlined in the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008.

Through Seqwater’s Dam Improvement Program, we’re investing in our region’s dams to ensure ongoing safety and water security for years to come.

This program is required to be completed by 1 October 2035 and planning is well underway.

Since 2008, Seqwater has delivered 13 upgrades, including Leslie Harrison Dam at Capalaba, Sideling Creek Dam north of Brisbane and Ewen Maddock Dam on the Sunshine Coast.

Current Dam Improvement Projects and Status

Lake Macdonald Dam

Early works underway, ahead of major construction expected in mid-2024.

North Pine Dam

Options analysis.

Somerset Dam 

Detailed business case.

Wivenhoe Dam 

Options analysis.

While the Dam Improvement Program is underway, some of our dams are operating at a reduced full supply level, which is an industry-accepted practice to manage dam safety. South East Queensland has a safe, reliable and resilient water supply system, stemming from careful and ongoing water security planning and a diverse asset base which allows Seqwater to supplement supply in a timely way when needed. The reduced supply levels do not significantly impact the long-term water supply security for the region. Periodic reviews will continue until the Dam Improvement Program is complete to ensure dam safety, water supply and long-term water security are appropriately managed.

Seqwater continues to ensure its dams operate safely, and function safely during extreme weather events in line with regulatory requirements.

For more information

For more information on our Dam Improvement Program, contact the project team on:

Frequently asked questions

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Who is responsible for the dam upgrades?

In Queensland, dam owners are responsible for the safety of their dams under the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008 (the Act). The schedule for completion of the work has been determined by the Queensland Dam Safety Regulator (part of the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water) and is required to be completed by 1 October 2035.

Does the dam improvement program mean the dams are unsafe?

All Seqwater managed dams continue to operate safely. Dam improvement projects are undertaken to meet modern engineering and safety standards so that dams can continue to safely pass large volumes of water during periods of extreme rainfall.

Dams in Queensland were built to high, internationally accepted safety standards. Many of the dams were built in the 1960s and 1970s (some even earlier) and the methodologies and data used to estimate extreme rainfall events and flooding impacts have significantly improved, and industry understanding of engineering standards and risks have progressed.

All these factors are considered as part of the Dam Improvement Program so our dams operate as they should into the future.

How is dam safety regulated in Queensland?

Dam safety is regulated by the Queensland Government which publishes the Dam Safety Management Guidelines outlining the processes and procedures dam owners need to follow. The Dam Safety Regulator also published the Acceptable Flood Capacity Guidelines which define the required capacity of spillways on referable dams based on predicted rainfall events and the overall hazard posed by the dam to communities downstream.

How long do dam improvements take?

Every dam project is different – some may take several months, while others take years to complete.

Once a dam has been identified as needing improvement, investigations and planning are needed to determine the scope, estimated cost and timing of work.

Our dam improvement projects follow relevant government frameworks such as the Project Assessment Framework and Detailed Business Case Framework, which ensure major projects are appropriately assessed and deliver strategic objectives and value for money.

Dam improvement projects are prioritised across the region in a staged program that is scheduled to maintain water supply security, while delivering best value for money. The timing of dam improvements may change based on the outcome of ongoing investigations.

Major dam upgrades can be extremely complex and take years to plan.

What is the status of the dam improvement projects and when will they be complete?

Since 2008, Seqwater has delivered 13 upgrades, including Leslie Harrison Dam at Capalaba, Sideling Creek Dam north of Brisbane and Ewen Maddock Dam on the Sunshine Coast.

Planning work is underway for the next tranche of upgrades at Somerset, Wivenhoe and North Pine dams, and early works underway for Lake Macdonald Dam ahead of major construction expected to commence in mid-2024.

Seqwater is undertaking the necessary investigations to understand the options for the upgrade of North Pine, Somerset and Wivenhoe projects – our region’s largest dams. More information will be available as the projects progress. Please check the project web pages for the most up to date information.

Why are some dam levels lowered?

The water levels of some dams may be lowered until improvements can be completed. Lowering the water level in a dam reduces water pressure and loads on the dam wall.

In some cases, the reduced water levels will be temporary while we conduct investigations and improve the dam. In other cases, permanently lowering the water level in the dam may be a solution to meeting the relevant safety guidelines in the long term.

Lowering water levels is an industry-accepted practice to best manage the safety of dams either temporarily or in the long term.