Dam Safety – preparedness in the long-term

Finland has a long tradition of construction, control and safety management of dams. Majority of some 500 dams in Finland are built in the 50’s and require serious attention to safety and maintenance. This experience has provided Finnish actors with expertise on preventive measurements, long-term planning and efficient public-private cooperation on dam safety.

Dam safety in Finland

Dams in Finland have been constructed since 1800’s to serve many purposes: hydropower plants, flood protection, mining sites, water supply and recreational activities. In the beginning of 1900, all monitoring of dam safety was made in person and manually recorded to paper. Today, all dams in Finland are centrally managed by one authority and common information system. Dam owners fill in to the information system all information relevant to dam safety, such as:

  • Technical details and dam design
  • Hydrological dimensions
  • Surveillance program as expected by the Dam Safety Law
  • Risk Assessment documents
  • Safety Plans
  • Dam Condition Assessments
  • Fixed-term Inspection reports

Additionally, dam owner can provide details like information on abnormal situations and renovation plans. Easy reporting and follow-up ensure continuously up-to-date information for all stakeholders.

Also technical tools for dam safety have seen a drastical development. Remote surveillance and automation solutions provide efficient tools for securing both structural and environmental safety of dams. New water quality parameters can be monitored remotely on real-time for better insight to reservoir status.

Finnish Dam Safety Model – holistic and integrated approach

Idea behind the Finnish Dam Safety Model is not only monitoring the problems once they occur, but identification and prevention of risks beforehand. With decades of experience, it is possible to identify parameters that reflect the overall status of the dam. Additional to dam structure, environmental impact can be monitored and mitigated with the help of advanced technology and knowledge.

Dam Safety is a major concern of several stakeholders: not just the dam operators, but also regional and national authorities. It is therefore important to provide accurate real-time information to specified needs of each user. When all monitoring data is gathered to the same platform, different dashboards can be customized for each user type. Some key parameters to monitor can be for example:

  • Dam structure safety
    • Stability and movements
    • Water pore pressure, inclinometry
  • Water quality
    • Online early warning systems
    • Turbidity, trace metals, conductivity, pH…
  • Sedimentation
    • E.g. Biannual comprehensive evaluation of sediment quality and quantity, water flow measurements
  • Ecology & Hydrology
    • Water balance
    • Eutrophication and nutrients
    • Carbon footprint / GHG
Example of dam-level dashboard view
Example of monitoring site dashboard view

Finnish water expertise at your service

FWF members can provide unique expertise for comprehensive dam safety solutions. Contact us to learn more about Finnish experiences.