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Community members get a rare tour inside the historic Somerset Dam wall

Somerset Dam upgrade

Somerset Dam is one of several dams identified for upgrade as part of Seqwater’s Dam Improvement Program.  The dam plays an important role in the SEQ Water Grid and its continued performance and safety is critical to South East Queenslanders.

The aim of the upgrade is to improve the dam’s ability to withstand extreme floods and earthquakes. At this stage, construction is expected to start late 2021 or early 2022.

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Home What We're Doing Somerset Dam upgrade

At Seqwater, some of the dams we operate were built decades ago and, just like cars, they need regular maintenance to keep them in good working order and meet changing safety standards and guidelines.

In 2012-13, Seqwater commissioned an independent review, which found improvements are needed at many of our 26 regulated dams to meet Queensland’s dam safety guidelines and bring them in line with the latest engineering standards.

Temporary full supply level

In 2016, the flood operation procedures for Somerset Dam were modified as a precautionary safety measure and drinking water levels of both Somerset and Wivenhoe dams were temporarily lowered to maintain flood mitigation benefits provided by both dams. Somerset was lowered to 80 per cent of its normal drinking water storage and Wivenhoe to 90 per cent.

The full supply levels in both dams will remain lowered until Somerset Dam is upgraded.

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  • Community members get a rare tour inside the historic Somerset Dam wall

    Somerset Dam enthusiasts take rare tour inside the wall

    Few people have seen the inside of historic Somerset Dam wall in the past 60 years.

    But as plans to upgrade Somerset Dam take shape, community members have received a rare peek inside the bowels of the major dam.

    The invitation was offered by Seqwater, as a way to engage and educate the public about the dam ahead of its scheduled upgrade from 2021-2022.

    Across two days, more than 450 people walked across the crest of the dam, with some lucky people also going into the concrete tunnels within the dam wall.

    Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said the tour had given visitors unique insight into South East Queensland’s water history and a better understanding of the planned upgrade work.

    “South East Queensland’s water supply has been a fascinating and often dramatic story as engineers and planners worked to adapt to a rapidly growing population over the decades,” Mr Brennan said.

    “Somerset Dam is one the region’s key water storages. It was built between 1937 and 1959, with work suspended for a number of years due to World War 2.

    “By taking part in the tour, residents were able to view the machinery used to operate the dam as well as the valves and steel gates that are used to release water – even graffiti inside the dam walls from operators dating back to the 1950s.”

    Among the visitors were descendants, Henry Plantagenet Somerset, the pioneer pastoralist and politician whom the dam is named after.

    The youngest of Henry Somerset’s grandchildren, Charles Somerset, 75, said the last time he walked on the dam wall was during its official opening, all those decades ago.

    The retired grazier, who drove from Toowoomba with his wife Pamela and sister Sue to attend the event, said the tour had become a reunion of sorts for the Somerset family.

    “We arranged to meet at the dam with my cousins, Arthur – the eldest of Henry Somerset’s grandchildren – and Bill who are also bringing members of their families along.

    “It’s been ages since we’ve seen each other. It’s great to be able to meet up at a site that we all have a strong connection to.

    “Grandfather died before I was born but my father would tell us a lot of stories about him, his life as a pioneer pastoralist and politician and how he was the first to suggest the site of the dam.”

    Both the Somerset Dam and the Somerset Region are named in Henry Somerset’s honour.

    Somerset tour

    Save the date! Somerset Dam Tour

    Save the date! We are holding free tours of Somerset Dam on 24 and 25 August 2019. You can take a tour of the dam wall and find out about the planned upgrade to Somerset Dam. This will be your opportunity to experience Somerset Dam from a different side – maybe even go through the tunnels in the dam wall.

    Want to be the first to know when free dam tour tickets are available? Sign up for Somerset Dam upgrade email updates  (select Somerset Dam Improvement in the subject) to receive the registration link in early August.

    You can also visit the historic village of Somerset Dam and support the community by buying some great local food.