This week, several Goulburn-Murray Water staff will be presenting at the Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) Dam Operators Forum.
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The forum is a great platform for professionals across the country to share innovations and learnings relating to dam management and engineering.
Events such as last year’s floods create several challenges from an engineering perspective.
As an engineer myself, I think engineering can be seen as the art of problem-solving.
In the late 19th century, northern Victoria faced a significant problem, with drought limiting many farmers’ access to water.
The solution to this came via the construction of Goulburn Weir and an extensive irrigation network.
G-MW now operates this network and its infrastructure.
The dams, lakes and reservoirs we manage account for more than 70 per cent of the water storage capacity in Victoria and are crucial to the prosperity of the region.
The designs of these storages vary greatly. Some are only a few decades old; others are more than a century old. Some have a capacity of a few thousand mega litres; others have a capacity of a few million.
Maintaining these storages and ensuring they are in top working condition is a significant undertaking, particularly in the aftermath of events such as the 2022 floods.
While our storages are designed and maintained to comfortably withstand major floods such as the one experienced in 2022, such events require significant inspections to be undertaken to ensure they remain in optimal working order.
G-MW is unique in that it carries out many of its own dam inspections.
The strong engineering expertise we have in the business ensures annual inspections of our storages can be conducted cost effectively and to a consistently high standard.
These inspections are supplemented by comprehensive five-yearly inspections carried out by specialist consultants.
Having specialists with a fresh perspective conduct these assessments complements the inspections we have conducted internally and allows us to validate the data we have collected.
The combination of internal inspections and ones conducted by consultants therefore provides us with a comprehensive overview of how our storages are performing.
We also benefit from our internal engineering expertise when it comes to responding to major events such as floods or earthquakes.
For example, following the 2022 floods, we could quickly carry out inspections on our storages because we had the staff immediately at hand.
Furthermore, our engineers’ familiarity with the dams meant they could quickly determine if any data found during the inspections was noteworthy or needed to be acted upon.
Flooding is fittingly one of the key themes of the ANCOLD Dam Operators Forum.
While climate change is ultimately reducing the water our catchments harvest, we also know extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent, and we must be prepared for these.
Having skilled engineering staff and detailed maintenance programs means we are well equipped to respond to major events, however, we are always searching for improvements.
Every flood is different and every flood provides us with information we didn’t have before.
We are now using the data we captured during the 2022 floods to update our flood management plans.
We are also looking to share our learnings where possible, such as through the ANCOLD Dam Operators Forum.
This ensures we are growing more resilient together as an industry, and engineering a better future.
Charmaine Quick,
G-MW managing director
Goulburn-Murray Water managing director
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