• FloodsA Warming California Will See Reservoirs Overwhelmed by Floods

    By the 2070s, global warming will increase extreme rainfall and reduce snowfall in the Sierra Nevada, delivering a double whammy that will likely overwhelm California’s reservoirs and heighten the risk of flooding in much of the state.

  • DamsDo Two Failed Dams Foretell a Dire Future?

    By Upmanu Lall and Paulina Concha Larrauri

    Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall events and hence the risk for filling and overtopping dams, which is the predominant mechanism of dam failure. However, using climate change as a bogeyman for aging infrastructure failure is an unfortunate trend, since it takes attention away from an urgent and potentially fixable problem.

  • DamsWhen Dams Cause More Problems Than They Solve, Removing Them Can Pay Off for People and Nature

    By Jon Honea

    Across the United States, dams generate hydroelectric power, store water for drinking and irrigation, control flooding and create recreational opportunities such as slack-water boating and waterskiing. But dams can also threaten public safety, especially if they are old or poorly maintained.

  • FloodsMichigan Governor Vows Legal Action After Devastating Floods

    Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state will pursue “every line of legal recourse” against the owners of one of two dams that failed earlier this week, causing severe flooding in several communities. More than 10,000 residents in the central town of Midland were evacuated Wednesday as the Tittabawassee River overran its banks hours after the Edenville Dam, located 32 kilometers north, failed after several days of heavy seasonal rains.

  • InfrastructureBrazil: Court Accepts Homicide Charges over Dam Collapse Which Killed 270

    In January 2019, more than 270 were killed, thousands of homes destroyed, and large tracts of agricultural land poisoned when Brazil’s Brumadinho dam collapsed, releasing tons of toxic sludge. Last week, a Brazilian judge accepted the prosecution’s argument that 16 employees of Brazilian mining giant Vale the company’s German safety auditor should stand trial for intentional homicide. Documents show that Vale’s former CEO and the German auditors colluded to falsify engineering reports which warned about the dam’s structural weakness. Separately, German prosecutors said that they would file charged of negligent homicide and bribery against the German safety auditors.

  • LeveesFlooding Damage to Levees Is Cumulative—and Often Invisible

    Recent research finds that repeated flooding events have a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of earthen levees, suggesting that the increase in extreme weather events associated with climate change could pose significant challenges for the nation’s aging levee system.

  • Perspective: DamsDams Across the U.S. Pose Potential Risk

    A more than two-year investigation by the Associated Press has found scores of dams around the United States in various states of disrepair, located in areas where a breach might place thousands in danger. These aging dams loom over homes, businesses, highways, or entire communities which could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.

  • DamsDam-breach simulation software helping communities plan for emergencies

    Two days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 70,000 residents in the vicinity of the Guajataca Dam were urged to evacuate as a precaution. Heavy rains were rapidly filling up the island’s 36 dams. Without clearer data, local authorities could only plan for the worst-case scenario. The Guajataca Dam, which holds more than 11 billion gallons of water, was on the verge of uncontrolled overflowing and could cause great devastation to the area downstream. These are challenges emergency managers face when they do not have reliable information.

  • FloodsAfter historic Texas flooding, officials will likely open more floodgates on Central Texas dam

    By Carlos Anchondo

    Across Central Texas and the Hill Country, heavy rain has led to catastrophic flooding in the past week. With more rainfall in the forecast, state and local officials are working to manage floodwaters before they move downstream. After the wettest September in Texas history, multiple Central Texas reservoirs are completely full. That has forced officials to consider releasing a historic amount of water down the Colorado River.

  • DamsUsing Artificial Intelligence to locate risky dams

    By Sarah Fecht

    In the U.S., 15,498 of the more than 88,000 dams in the country are categorized as having high hazard potential—meaning that if they fail, they could kill people. As of 2015, some 2,000 of these high hazard dams are in need of repair. With a hefty price tag estimated at around $20 billion, those repairs aren’t going to happen overnight.

  • DamsUsing Artificial Intelligence to locate risky dams

    By Sarah Fecht

    In the U.S., 15,498 of the more than 88,000 dams in the country are categorized as having high hazard potential—meaning that if they fail, they could kill people. As of 2015, some 2,000 of these high hazard dams are in need of repair. With a hefty price tag estimated at around $20 billion, those repairs aren’t going to happen overnight.

  • FloodsFlood thy neighbor: Who stays dry and who decides?

    By Lisa Song, Patrick Michels, and Al Shaw

    When rivers flood now in the United States, the first towns to get hit are the unprotected ones right by the river. The last to go, if they flood at all, are the privileged few behind strong levees. While levees mostly are associated with large, low-lying cities such as New Orleans, a majority of the nation’s Corps-managed levees protect much smaller communities, rural farm towns and suburbs such as Valley Park. Missouri. Valley Park’s levee saga captures what’s wrong with America’s approach to controlling rivers.

  • LeveesInside a secretive lobbying effort to deregulate federal levees

    By Lisa Song, Patrick Michels, and Alex Heeb

    Nearly a year after record Midwestern floods killed at least five people and caused $1.7 billion in damage, a secretive lobbying effort funded by Illinois and Missouri drainage districts is underway to roll back flood regulations, documents show.

  • DamsDam simulation program saves lives, money

    Have you ever wondered what happens when a dam fails? How fast and how far would all the water, which was being held back, reach? How long would it take to stop and just how deep would the flooding be? And, most importantly, how much damage would it cause to properties, infrastructures and the environment downstream from the dam? Not to mention the toll on human life. With more than 96,000 dams across the United States, those are the kind of questions dam safety engineers in state and government agencies and emergency managers must answer in order to prevent loss of life and to protect properties and critical infrastructures in case of a dam failure.

  • DamsMiniaturizing America's tallest dam to prevent future disasters

    Engineers at Utah State University’s Utah Water Research Laboratory have constructed a 1:50 scale model of the Oroville Dam spillway. The model will provide useful information about hydraulic conditions in and around the damaged spillway.