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Living with Dams: Extreme Rainfall Events | 2015

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The risks associated with dam

failure and flooding in the US

continue to increase dramatically

as a direct result of the occurrence

of extreme rainfall events, local

land development and a failure to

adequately maintain or upgrade

existing infrastructure.

Extreme rainfall events happen

almost every day, somewhere–

maybe not in your backyard or

above a dam in your community,

but around the country and the

world. Sometimes we see them

in the news on TV and sometimes

these extreme rainfall events get

names like Katrina, Irene, and Sandy

Can extreme storms happen?

or are referenced by location,

like Boulder, Colorado (2013) or

Pensacola, Florida (2014).

Climate experts put all the historical

extreme rainfall events into a

database to determine how often

they happen, how big they can

get and what the threat is for

individual communities. Experts

consider hundreds of years of data

at thousands of locations and

have a broad understanding of

the climate and the potential for

extreme rainfall events. They know

that extreme rainfall happens and

may be happening more often.

This booklet was prepared by the DamOwner Outreach Committee

of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

What Should Dam Owners Do?

• Follow proper Industry, State and Federal Guidelines.

• Have your dam inspected.

• Invest in routine maintenance and repair.

• Adhere to regulations (no shortcuts or exemptions).

• Don’t let short term band aids become long-term fixes.

• Have a plan for emergencies.

What Should Policymakers Do?

• Promote proactive dam safety programs that balance sound science and economics

with risk reduction and public safety.

• Recognize that adequately funding dam safety programs is the most cost effective

hazard mitigation available for private and public dams.

• Recognize that public welfare and safety supersedes individual hardships and ability

to afford the proper level of protection for dam safety.

• Provide funding mechanisms. Storage of water is a personal responsibility but often

requires public assistance due to the benefits realized by all.

Dam engineers use this climate

database to predict the extreme

rainfall events they use in dam

design. Mother Nature very often

surprises us with the unexpected

ferocity of her storms. Climate data

helps engineers to anticipate these


This publication will help explain

and justify the engineering

principles involved with predicting

the extreme rainfall events and

how they are used to design safe,

functional and economical dams.

It will connect the concepts of rain

to floods to dams to failure and the

flooding impacts downstream.



• Know Your Neighborhood:

Who is at Risk?

• Ask: Is the dam upstream safe?

• Ask: Has it been inspected?

• Know who your emergency manager is.

• Work cooperatively to minimize the

risk to the public.