Resources by Topic

Resources by Topic: Dam Failure Investigations


Dam failures are usually tragic events. Competent and independent investigations serve the following purposes:

  • To determine the cause(s) of failure
  • To understand contributing factors including organizational and cultural factors.
  • To learn what went right and recognize efforts/successes
  • To better support communication with the public and the press
  • To identify lessons learned
  • To recognize deficiencies and advance design/construction practices
  • To improve understanding of warning signs of dam distress
  • To improve dam safety regulation and dam engineering
  • To prevent future failures
  • To increase awareness of dam safety and civil infrastructure

The state dam safety office should consider consequences of the failure and other factors in determining whether an investigation is needed, though the ASDSO Dam Failure Investigations Committee recommends that failures that result in loss of life or high economic losses should be investigated. The scale of the investigation is usually in direct proportion to the magnitude of the loss of life and other losses impacts.

Major dam incidents (without full dam failure) and failure of low hazard potential dams should also be considered for investigation. There is a clear need to establish and maintain independence of the investigation team members.

Classroom and Web-Based Training

ASDSO offers the following courses on this topic:

For additional training, search the ASDSO Training Calendar.

Guidelines and Suggested References

Some of the most highly recommended resources in this area are listed below. For additional resources, search the ASDSO Bibliography. Suggested search terms: failure analysis, failure modes, failures


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