Dam Construction – Things to Consider When Planning to Build a Dam on Your Property

A dam is an important investment and an asset that supports the productivity of crops and

livestock, so it makes sense to build a dam on your farm or rural property. However, if not properly built, managed and controlled, dams can fail resulting in damage to homes, property, the environment and can even lead to the loss lives. At Bittern Garden Supplies, we are experienced in dam construction on the Mornington Peninsula and we understand the need for professional earthmoving contractors and state of the art excavation equipment and techniques to ensure a safe and reliable dam. If you’re looking to build a dam, read on to learn more.

What Is the Definition of a Dam?

Under the Water Act, a dam is defined as ‘anything in which by means of an excavation, a bank, a

barrier or other works water is collected, stored or concentrated’. A dam may be constructed from earth or other suitable materials. It may be on a hillside, in a gully or on a waterway, or entirely off-stream. 

Do I Need a Licence to Build a Dam on My Property?

There are various licences that may be required to construct a dam. These include:

‘Take and Use’ licence – needed for all dams used for irrigation or commercial purposes, regardless of their location or size. Dams built on private property and used for domestic and stock purposes only do not require a take and use licence. If you intend to take and use water from a dam for any purpose other than domestic and stock use, a ‘take and use’ licence is required and it should be obtained before building a new dam, as the licence conditions stipulate particular works that may need to be incorporated into the construction.

Construction licence – All dams constructed on a waterway (“on-stream”) require a construction licence. If you wish to build a dam off a waterway, you will also need a construction licence if the dam is:

  • 5 metres or higher and 50 megalitres capacity or larger; or
  • 10 metres or higher and 20 megalitres capacity or larger; or
  • 15 metres or higher, regardless of capacity; or
  • The dam belongs to a prescribed class of dams.

Operating licence – If you have a take and use licence, there will usually be conditions concerning the operation of the dam. Depending on the size of your dam and its potential consequences of failure, you may be required to have an operating licence. This includes conditions relating to surveillance and management of the dam’s safety.

Whether or not a dam needs a licence under the Water Act, local council permits may still be required. If you are considering building a new dam, contact your local licensing authority and your local council for further advice.

Selecting the Right Dam Site

When identifying the best site for dam construction on your Mornington Peninsula property, you should consider a range of factors including:

  • The presence of a suitable valley or hillside that will catch enough water
  • A location that will maximise the available catchment area and minimise the cost of the dam
  • Suitability of the foundations and materials available at the site
  • Location of the dam relative to where the water is to be used

Avoid locating the dam where run-off from houses, piggeries, dairies or septic systems can

pollute the water. Planning matters and impacts on surrounding properties may also need to be considered where council approval for construction is required.

Professional Construction of a Dam

Victorian legislation highlights the seriousness of the owner’s responsibility to make sure that their dam is safe. A property owner who is planning to build a new dam must contribute to its safety by:

  • Having the dam properly planned and designed
  • Having it properly constructed to meet design requirements and specifications
  • Ensuring that professional advice is obtained at each point

Using inexperienced earthmoving contractors can lead to big problems and turn your dam into an expensive liability. It is vital to engage the services of a reputable dam construction team that use appropriate equipment and experienced machine operators.

If you are looking for highly skilled and professional excavator hire and earthmoving contractors on the Mornington Peninsula, get in touch with Bittern Garden Supplies today. Our team has the experience and expertise to get the job done right and can help with any advice on design or planning that you need. Enquire online or give us a call on 5983 9779.

*some information has been referenced from:

Victorian State Government (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) – Your dam: Your responsibility – A guide to managing the safety of small dams. 2018.