With the increasing number of dams and the age of older dams, the issues of dam safety are becoming more prominent. The potential dam safety problem is not only a security issue but also a an issue of risk for areas downstream of dams. Therefore, risk management is the core of dam safety administration. Dam risk classification is an important part of risk management that should consider the probability of dam failure and the risk of loss (potential damage). This paper summarizes research on dam risk classification and finds that ‘three degrees’ and ‘four degrees’ of dam risk classification are used widely in developed countries or districts. It proposes that four degrees of risk could be adopted by the risk matrix approach for the current situation and relevant regulations of China. It might make the dam safety management more efficient and have a certain guiding significance in establishing the standard of dam risk classification in China.

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