Regulating reservoir safety in Northern Ireland

The regulation of reservoir safety in Northern Ireland is provided for by the Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 which will introduce regular inspection, supervision, maintenance and repair of reservoirs.

What does the Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 provide for?

The Act provides for the regulation of structures or areas, capable of holding 10,000 cubic metres or more of water above the natural level of the surrounding land. These are Controlled Reservoirs.

The provisions of the Act will ensure that Controlled Reservoirs are managed and operated to minimise the risk of flooding due to an uncontrolled release of water resulting from dam failure in order to protect people, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity.

The provisions of the Act are based on industry best practice for the management and maintenance of Controlled Reservoirs. The key provisions of the Act are:

  • Registration - reservoir managers will be required to register Controlled Reservoirs with the Department;
  • Designation - the Department will give Controlled Reservoirs a designation of High, Medium or Low Consequence. The reservoir designation will be informed, in large part, by the impact that an uncontrolled release of water from the reservoir will have on people, property, economic activity, the environment and cultural heritage in the area flooded;
  • Commission of reservoir engineers - reservoir managers will be required to commission reservoir engineers, that have been approved by the Department, to supervise, inspect, and construct/alter Controlled Reservoirs;
  • Compliance - reservoir managers will be required to comply with recommendations and/or directions made by reservoir engineers.

Commencement of the Reservoirs Act (Northern Ireland) 2015

A number of provisions commenced on Royal Assent in July 2015. These include the definition of:

  • Controlled Reservoirs
  • Reservoir Manager

Controlled Reservoirs

Killylane Reservoir

Structures or areas, capable of holding 10,000 cubic metres or more of water above the natural level of the surrounding land.

Reservoir manager

The reservoir manager is the person responsible for the safety of the reservoir. This is most likely the person who manages or operates the reservoir. Where no-one manages or operates the reservoir, the owner of the reservoir, or a part of the reservoir, is the reservoir manager for the reservoir or that part of the reservoir which they own.

Secondary legislation is required to commence other remaining provisions of the Act. This will be progressed in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In the meantime, the Department would encourage all reservoir managers to adopt the best practice principals which underpin the legislation and appoint a reservoir engineer to provide advice and direction on the appropriate management of their reservoir.

Who is responsible for reservoir safety?

Reservoir managers are responsible for the safety of their reservoir. The Act defines who the reservoir manager is and generally this is the person who manages or operates the reservoir. By default, where no other person manages or operates the reservoir, the owner of the reservoir is the reservoir manager.

The Department would encourage all reservoir managers to adopt the best practice principals which underpin the legislation and appoint a reservoir engineer to provide advice and direction on the appropriate management of their reservoir.

What are Reservoir Engineers?

Reservoirs are complex structures and require a high degree of technical expertise to fully understand the operation and the early signs of a structural weakness. Reservoir engineers are qualified civil engineers who are suitably experienced in the specialist field of reservoir safety.

Lists of suitably qualified reservoir engineers are available on the Defra website.

Where are the Controlled Reservoirs in Northern Ireland?

There are Controlled Reservoirs throughout Northern Ireland. Many were built reasonably close to the industry or population centre they served.

The Reservoir Flood Map provides the location of each Controlled Reservoir and the flood extent in the event of an uncontrolled release of water due to dam failure.

Further Information 

If you require further information relating to Controlled Reservoirs you may contact:

DfI Rivers Headquarters
49 Tullywiggan Road
Loughry
Cookstown
BT80 8SG                 

 

 

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