Dam Safety

More than 1,800 active dams in B.C. are regulated under the Water Sustainability Act. Regulated dams require a water licence issued under the Act and must meet the requirements specified in the Dam Safety Regulation.

There are procedures and practices that are important to know if you're involved in the management, design, construction, rehabilitation, decommissioning or removal of dams in B.C.

Oversight of Dam Safety in British Columbia

The Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia recently undertook an audit of the provincial dam safety program with the objective to determine if the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has effectively overseen the safety of dams in B.C.  The audit procedures included analysis of the ministry’s databases, review of a statistical sample of dam files, review of selected files by an independent subject matter expert, analysis of key documentation, and interviews with:

  • Program staff and management
  • Dam safety officers across the province
  • Compliance and Enforcement Branch management
  • External stakeholders such as the BC Cattlemen’s Association and Engineers and Geoscientists BC.

To learn about the audit findings, please visit the OAG’s website at https://www.bcauditor.com/pubs/2021/oversight-dam-safety-british-columbia

Information Bulletin

The Provincial Dam Safety Program would like to remind dam owners of their responsibilities under the Water Sustainability Act and Dam Safety Regulation. The documents below have been developed to assist dam owners in ensuring they are fully aware of their responsibilities as well as the liabilities that are associated with dam ownership.

If you have questions, please email dam.safety@gov.bc.ca or contact your Dam Safety Officer.

2023 Spring Freshet

Dam owners are responsible for routine inspections and the safe operation and maintenance of their dams.  This is especially important in preparation for the upcoming spring freshet.

Dam owners are urged to:

  • conduct regular surveillance and monitoring;
  • clear the spillway of any blockages (including temporary flashboards);
  • ensure the low-level outlet is maintained and operational;
  • review and exercise your Dam Emergency Plan;
  • confirm any inflow diversion structures are maintained and operational;
  • ensure that the required signs for dams located on crown land are in place and in good repair; and
  • under certain circumstances, to lower the reservoir to provide additional storage to reduce downstream flooding.

Dam owners can also refer to the River Forecast Centre’s website for seasonal runoff forecasts in the latest Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin, and any flood advisories applicable to their areas.

In the dam emergency such as overtopping and/or imminent structural failure, it should first be reported to Emergency Management BC at 1-800-663-3456.

Dam Locations

Find a dam in B.C. using the following map application:

Other Water Retaining Structures

A number of structures that retain water are not licensed under the Water Sustainability Act. The Dam Safety Regulation does not apply to those structures.


Dams on a mine site that require a water licence may be regulated under the Water Sustainability Act and Dam Safety Regulation. Further information on regulatory authority on a mine site can be found within the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment. Other Acts and guidance for dams on a mine site includes:


A Water Sustainability Act authorization is required if any of the water in a dugout is groundwater from an aquifer (including seepage), or water from a “stream” as defined in the Act (which includes a lake, pond, river, creek, spring or other natural watercourse). The requirement for an authorization applies regardless of whether the source of the water, or the dugout, is located on Crown land or private land.

Dam Safety Regulation requirements may apply if a dugout includes an artificial barrier or embankment that was constructed to retain water.  

The report, Managing Dugouts in Northeastern British Columbia, identifies and explores the many policy issues associated with dugouts in northeast B.C. It was commissioned to support the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s efforts to clarify the regulatory regime for dugouts, and ensure landowners and proponents understand authorizations for dugouts required under the Water Sustainability Act. In summer 2017, ministry staff conducted field assessments on high priority dugouts and dams in the northeast to ensure existing structures are appropriately licensed, do not cause any public safety concerns and are not damaging the environment or water quality. The field assessments did not find any serious public safety issues and relatively few environmental hazards. The fact sheet details actions the ministry and OGC have taken in addressing the report’s 27 recommendations.