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Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering

On-line version ISSN 2309-8775
Print version ISSN 1021-2019


REYNOLDS, S  and  BARNARDO-VILJOEN, C. Evaluating the prioritisation of South African dams for rehabilitation with special focus on risk to human lives. J. S. Afr. Inst. Civ. Eng. [online]. 2014, vol.56, n.3, pp.14-24. ISSN 2309-8775.

Existing decision criteria for the prioritisation of dam rehabilitation in South Africa are evaluated. In this context risk to human lives and economic considerations are the most important decision drivers, although other considerations are also taken into account by the Department of Water Affairs. The Department's assessment of risk to human lives is compared to international best practice and prediction models to show that the assessment is currently somewhat inconsistent, resulting in over-conservative decisions for low-consequence situations and possibly too low safety levels for severe-consequence situations. Reduction of the life-safety risks comes at significant costs, which may be better spent elsewhere. Society's Willingness to Pay is used to determine the lower boundary for acceptable investments in life safety. Investments for improved safety could also be made for economic reasons. Economic optimisation would often imply higher safety levels than required by Society's Willingness to Pay. These concepts are applied to case studies of actual South African dam rehabilitation projects, allowing evaluation of the quality of decisions taken. Based on the above, life-safety criteria that incorporate a measure of the economic efficiency of the proposed rehabilitation are developed, and suggestions are made to improve the current decision criteria used by the Department of Water Affairs.

Keywords : dams; risk acceptability; life safety; SWTP; optimisation.

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