Reservoirs - Austrian Reservoir Commission

Sankt Anton dam
Photo: EWA St. Anton

Reservoirs are bodies of water artificially confined through the building of damming structures.

For the safety of dams

Austrian dams and the dam reservoirs they create contribute significantly to balancing natural water availability – e.g. by continuing to provide renewable hydropower in times of lower runoff, flood retention and water for snowmaking on ski slopes (snowmaking reservoirs).

In order to ensure an appropriate level of safety of these big structures created by engineers the owners are obliged to ensure careful supervision and maintenance.

Since, however, public interest is substantially affected, the state also performs independent security checks – with the assistance of expert bodies. One should stick to this proven “multi-level principle”. This means companies as well as state administration must ensure that competent specialists continue to be available for these complex tasks.

Ensuring the sustainability of reservoirs requires conservative construction, on the one hand (design with safety reserves), and sensitive facility monitoring, on the other hand (trained staff, representative measuring equipment).

Additional measures must be developed to handle emergencies (emergency plan) for the extremely improbable case of damage to the facilities or of unexpected behaviour (terrorism, extreme natural disasters).

More details are contained in the download "12 Thesen zur Sicherheit der großen Talsperren Österreichs" (12 theories on the safety of large dams in Austria).

Austrian Reservoir Commission

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management has set up a commission for the expert evaluation of issues related to dam reservoir facilities and dams, which is charged with supporting the water authorities in this technical field in the context of or outside of water rights procedures.

Legal bases for reservoirs

Essential public interest aspects of dam security assessment and monitoring are regulated by the Water Rights Act of 1959 (WRG1959) and the Ordinance on the Austrian Reservoir Commission 1985 (Staubeckenkommissionsverordnung 1985).

Requirements related to the internal monitoring of dams and reservoirs by the operator (dam officer), external monitoring by government agencies (national water authorities, Austrian Reservoir Commission – federal dam monitoring) and consultation of the Austrian Reservoir Commission are laid down in the following legally relevant provisions.

- Austrian Water Rights Act 1959

  • Section 23a: regulates the requirements for dam officers
  • Section 104 (3): specifies in which cases opinions must be requested from the Austrian Reservoir Commission
  • Section 131 (1): regulates the periodical inspections to be carried out by the Austrian Reservoir Commission
  • Section 134 (7): specifies, among other things, that the water authorities may, in the interest of public safety, prescribe the monitoring even of smaller dams by the Austrian Reservoir Commission and require the appointment of a dam officer.

The decree of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on "Permanent dam monitoring" of 5 April 1964: was repealed in the course of a decree adjustment in 1996, but still remains applicable, according to the view of the supreme water authority and must be largely adhered to.