Dam safety is a serious issue worldwide. However, in many countries, for example, China and Australia, although much attention is being devoted to the medium to large-scale dams, little or no attention is being paid to the serious potential problems associated with smaller dams, particularly the potential “cumulative domino effect” failure risk to the larger public dams. Farmers in Australia have often overlooked the common law obligation to review/design dams in line with current standards because of high engineering consulting costs. This leaves them vulnerable to litigation if their dam fails and the downstream community is susceptible to unacceptable risk levels. To overcome this problem, an innovative Australian-developed cost-effective spillway design/review procedure has been developed to minimise cost burdens to dam owners and encourage better dam safety management. A recent survey undertaken in the Australian “policy model” State of Victoria to test community attitudes to the procedure and implemented dam safety and water allocation policy is also reported here. This survey clearly demonstrates that farmers require more than awareness and encouragement in order to ensure that they look after their dams properly.

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