Section 60 approval for local water utility dam works

Under Section 60 of the Local Government Act 1993, local water utilities are required to obtain Ministerial approval for any significant modifications to or construction of dams and flood retention basins which could cause a significant threat to public safety in the event of a failure, regardless of the dam's height or storage volume.

The Section 60 approvals provide an independent review of the proposed works to ensure they are fit for purpose and provide robust, safe, cost-effective and soundly based solutions that meet environmental and regulatory requirements.

Each activity requiring Section 60 approval requires an options study, concept design report and detailed design. These need to be prepared by suitably qualified and experienced practitioners and submitted to the Department for review. The information provided must clearly define the proposed activity and detail how the environment will be protected.

The department, with assistance from the NSW Dams Safety Committee, will give an independent, objective review of the proposed works and provide value to applicants by sharing the insights and expertise it has gained while overseeing the local water utility dams and weirs in non-metropolitan NSW through its dam safety program.

The program aims to ensure that utilities are managing and maintaining their dams in a safe condition and are ensuring that proposed new or augmented dams are designed and developed in accordance with best practice to be safe and cost effective.

As part of the program, the department carries out regular (intermediate type) inspections of local water utility-owned prescribed dams in accordance with the Australian National Committee on Large Dams Guidelines on Dam Safety Management (2003). These inspections are undertaken to assist local water utilities in their ongoing responsibility to safely operate and maintain their dams. They also help to identify remedial action that may be required.

Innovation is encouraged and Section 60 approvals will be granted for soundly based pilot projects involving novel solutions. However, applications need to demonstrate that the facilities can be effectively operated by the utility over the broad range of operating conditions likely to be encountered over the asset's lifespan.

How to apply

To apply for Section 60 approval for the construction or modification of local water utility-owned dams and flood retention basins, follow the steps below.

Step 1 - Initial consultation

Utilities are advised to involve the department and the Dams Safety Committee in the problem identification phase of a project as they can provide independent advice to help direct projects towards better and more cost-effective outcomes.

To begin initial consultation, contact us.

Step 2 – Options study/investigation report

The utility is required to commission suitably qualified and experienced dam engineers and specialists to prepare an options study or a relevant investigation to address the problem identified. Suitable investigations include:

  • a dambreak study
  • a safety review
  • a structural analysis
  • a geotechnical investigation
  • a flood study
  • a secure yield analysis
  • independent peer reviews where required by the Dams Safety Committee.

The utility should:

  • involve the Dams Safety Committee in the early stages of the options study/investigation
  • discuss the options study/investigation with the Dams Safety Committee if required and incorporate comments
  • provide the final draft report to the Dams Safety Committee for endorsement with a copy to the Department.

The report should include preliminary considerations of environmental and all other regulatory requirements relevant to the options. It should also identify all other supporting investigations and reports needed.

Step 3 – Concept design

After a preferred option has been selected, the utility should commission suitably qualified and experienced dam engineers and specialists to prepare a concept design report. The concept design should be carried to such a stage where detailed design can be confidently based on the concept, and where only minimal further investigation is required.

The utility should:

  • involve the Dams Safety Committee in the early stages of the concept design
  • discuss the draft concept design report with the Dams Safety Committee
  • arrange amendments if required
  • provide the final report to the Dams Safety Committee for endorsement with a copy to the Department

The concept design should include detailed consideration of environmental and all other relevant regulatory requirements. Supporting investigations and reports identified in the option study should also be supplied with the application if these have not already been submitted.

Step 4 – Section 60 approval

The utility should write to the Department requesting Section 60 approval based on the final concept design report and the recommendations from the Dams Safety Committee. Approval will be issued together with any conditions either in the detailed design or by the final product.

Step 5 – Tender process

After the concept design has been endorsed and Section 60 approval given, the utility may call tenders for the detailed design of the work.

The utility should inform the Dams Safety Committee and the department when the contract has been awarded.

Step 6 – Detailed design

After the contract is awarded, the successful contractor should develop full technical details for the project as part of the detailed design. The utility should:

  • involve the Dams Safety Committee in the key aspects of design beyond those included in the concept design report
  • provide the draft detailed design and key drawings to the Dams Safety Committee for comment, with a copy to DOI Water for information
  • discuss comments with the Dams Safety Committee if required
  • arrange amendment of the design if required
  • provide the final design to the Dams Safety Committee for endorsement with a copy to the department.

Approval process

The above steps are summarised in the Section 60 approval process for local water utility dam works (PDF, 96.69 KB).