Ageing Water Storage Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk

The Report provides an overview of the current state of knowledge on the ageing of large dams –an emerging global development issue as tens of thousands of existing large dams have reached or exceeded an “alert” age threshold of 50 years, and many others will soon approach 100 years.

These aged structures incur rapidly rising maintenance needs and costs while simultaneously declining their effectiveness and posing potential threats to human safety and the environment.

The Report analyzes large dam construction trends across major geographical regions and primary dam functions, such as water supply, irrigation, flood control, hydropower, and recreation.

Analysis of existing global datasets indicates that despite plans in some regions and countries to build more water storage dams, particularly for hydropower generation, there will not be another “dam revolution” to match the scale of the high-intensity dam construction experienced in the early to middle, 20th century. At the same time, many of the large dams constructed then are aging, and hence we are already experiencing a “mass ageing” of water storage infrastructure.