Dams engineering requires understanding and control of the enormous forces and potential energy of water. From foundation and seismic assessments through to geotechnical, hydrological, hydraulic, mechanical and structural design, projects demand in-depth skills and a coordinated, client-focussed approach.

We recognise our clients’ needs for solutions that harness in-depth knowledge with forward thinking to produce innovative, safe and cost-effective outcomes. We have successfully delivered through all methods of project delivery, from the conventional approach to design and construct, alliances and Engineering Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM). 

GHD provides services for the following dam types and appurtenant structures:

  • Earthfill dams
  • Earth and rockfill dams
  • Concrete or membrane-faced rockfill dams
  • Concrete gravity dams
  • Roller-compacted concrete dams
  • Concrete arch and multiple barrel arch dams
  • Concrete buttress (including diamond-head) dams
  • Tailings and mining dams
  • Gated and ungated spillways
  • Intake and outlet works
  • Hydromechanical installations

The services we provide in dams engineering include:

Investigations and appraisals

  • Project identification
  • Geotechnical site investigations
  • Engineering geological assessments
  • Stream gauging, flood assessments and reservoir yield studies


  • Feasibility studies
  • Hydrological analysis and review
  • Hydraulic design, analysis and assessment
  • Hydraulic modelling of spillways and outlet works including computational fluid dynamics
  • Dam break analysis and inundation mapping
  • Options studies for dam strengthening and spillway upgrades
  • Geotechnical assessments
  • Environmental assessment and management
  • Statutory approvals
  • Groundwater/recharge modelling and yield analysis


  • Foundation design including treatment and improvement, consolidation and curtain grouting, cut-offs (including slurry trenches) and abutment stability
  • Embankment zoning and slope stability analysis
  • Construction materials assessment and investigation
  • Concrete dam stability and structural analysis
  • Numerical modelling (2D & 3D) for thermal, seismic and structural effects
  • Hydraulic, structural and mechanical analysis and design of spillways, intake tower and outlet works
  • Diversion works including coffer dams, tunnels and conduits
  • Mechanical and electrical design for gates, valves and other equipment
  • Concrete and RCC mix design and trial mix studies

Tender and construction phase services

  • Development of tender documentation including specifications, engineering cost estimates and construction programming
  • Construction phase project management
  • Construction phase technical management
  • Materials management and quality control

Operational support

  • Asset management services
  • Asset valuations and condition assessments
  • Development of dam safety documentation including standing operating procedures, operation & maintenance manuals and emergency action plans
  • Dam surveillance, instrumentation and monitoring
  • Dam safety training
  • Rehabilitation works including corrosion control and concrete repairs
  • Sediment deposition management
  • Seepage analysis and control solutions

Dam safety and risk assessment

  • Dam safety inspections
  • Dam surveillance and safety reviews
  • Dam failure impact assessments and hazard/consequence classification
  • Post-disaster inspection and assessment
  • Risk assessment including quantitative and qualitative assessments, event trees, fault trees and consequence assessment for individual dams
  • Portfolio risk assessments

Owner’s Engineer and review panels

  • Specialist technical advice across all disciplines  
  • Project and design review
  • Procurement advice
  • Project management services

    To get in touch with one of our professionals, click on the 'key people' tab.

Enlarged Cotter Dam, Australia

A prolonged drought during the late 1990s and early 2000s tested the security of the ACT water supply. In response to this a number of options to increase the reliability of the system during extreme droughts were considered.

GHD was engaged in 2004-2005 to undertake a study to investigate options for the augmentation of the ACT water supply. This initially included the consideration of three potential dam sites and associated pipelines, pumping stations and water treatment plants. The scope was subsequently widened to consider options involving the transfer of water from the Murrumbidgee River to the catchment of the existing Googong Dam. 

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Googong Dam, Australia

Googong Dam was completed in 1978 and forms one of the main water supply storage reservoirs for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and surrounding region. It is a 66m high zoned earth and rockfill embankment on the Queanbeyan River and has been classified as an extreme consequence category dam in accordance with the guidelines in DSC (2002). Successive flood events in 1978 and through the 1980s resulted in extensive erosion in the unlined section of the spillway chute, including a large erosion hole, up to 19 m deep and 25 m wide, in the upper part of the unlined spillway chute. Staged remedial works were undertaken in the 1980s to protect the eroded structure.

GHD was engaged in 2006 to undertake a review of the historical performance and prediction of future performance of the structure. This engagement included a review and assessment of previous work, the development and comparison of options and ultimately the detailed design of the preferred arrangement. A scale physical model was constructed as a validation tool during the detailed design phase. The project also included an increase in the capacity of the spillway to discharge the required spillway design flood which had significantly increased due to changes in hydrological methods in recent years. 

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Quipolly Dam, Australia


Quipolly Dam was originally constructed in 1955. The spillway capacity was grossly inadequate as it could only pass a flood with an estimated return period of 850 years. The NSW Dams Safety Committee (DSC) recognized this as a dam with an unacceptably high risk to the safety of anyone living downstream in the event of a large flood resulting in a dambreak event. In light of this, the DSC required that Liverpool Plains Shire Council (LPSC) upgrade the Dam.

The scope of works for the design brief was to address the flooding spillway capacity problem as well as the potential piping failure, while at the same time increasing the water storage. GHD was appointed designer and project manager for this upgrade providing assistance to LPSC during the construction stage, including review of contractor’s certificates, review of claims submitted, monitoring quality of works and construction certification, in compliance with DSC requirements. One of the innovative elements of the project was the tower access bridge, which was designed as a single span rather than the three spans of the original bridge, "negating the need for underwater foundation construction for its replacement piers" (Source: Water Engineering Australia, July 2013).

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Baleh Hydroelectric Project prefeasibility and feasibility studies


GHD was engaged to carry out prefeasibility and feasibility studies for the Baleh Hydroelectric Project in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Based on the results of the studies, the project was found to be technically feasible and economically attractive. An arrangement was developed which could generate 9200 GWh/year with 100 percent reliability using a 220 m high roller-compacted concrete or concrete-faced rockfill dam.

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Lake Manchester


The Lake Manchester Dam Flood Security upgrade was a Brisbane City Council project to ensure the dam met current Australian dam safety guidelines. The project involved raising and strengthening the dam wall for flood security purposes.

In October 2006 an options study was conducted which identified 11 potential design options for the upgrade of the then 38 m high concrete gravity dam and associated spillway. These 11 options were then reviewed by a team of national and international dam experts, as well as the owner, Brisbane City Council. One option was selected to progress for detailed design and this was subsequently subjected to the same peer review process at each major stage of development.

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Caspar Creek Labyrinth Weir Fish Passage Restoration

CalFire and the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) worked cooperatively in a comprehensive paired watershed study at the Caspar Creek Experimental Watersheds in Jackson Demonstration State Forest, located in coastal Mendocino County, California. As part of the study, concrete dams equipped with precise flow measurement weirs were constructed providing an essential component of the scientific research. 

In 1964, a wooden fish ladder was built downstream of each weir. To avoid backwatering and submerging the measurement weir, which compromises its accuracy, tailwater levels were kept low requiring fish to leap over a two to three foot water surface drop at the weir. This precluded upstream passage of juvenile salmonids. During low-flow periods, leakage through the wooden fish ladder posed a significant risk of stranding and injury of juvenile salmonids.

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Sg Kinta Dam – Design and construction supervision


GHD was engaged to design and supervise the construction of the first Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam in Malaysia. The 90 m high Sg Kinta Dam has a crest length of 980 m and incorporates a 70 m high intake tower.

It was the first dam to be constructed using roller-compacted concrete in Malaysia. It was also the first time in the world where RCC had been used to form the steps on the spillway. This resulted in significant savings compared to using conventional concrete.

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Jindabyne Dam – Spillway upgrade and new environmental outlet works


GHD was engaged to develop detailed design and tender documentation for the upgrade of the Jindabyne Dam in New South Wales, Australia.

To comply with new dam safety requirements and statutory environmental releases, the upgrade almost tripled the spillway discharge capacity from 3400 m³/s to approximately 9500 m³/s. The economical solution allowed the works to be carried within the site constraints. The design enabled construction within a live reservoir without the need to lower the water level. The project also maintained traffic along the highway that traversed the dam crest.

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Awoonga Dam Valve Refurbishment, Australia


GHD developed a strategy for the refurbishment of valves at Gladstone’s Awoonga dam in Queensland.

As the sole source of water for the City of Gladstone, Awoonga dam is crucial to the heavy industries in the region which include alumina refineries, power stations, an aluminium smelter and a large port. A recent dam safety review recommended that the outlet valves should be refurbished due to their corroded condition.

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Kelalong Dam - Malaysia


Kelalong River (Sungai Kelalong) is located about 20km north-east of Bintulu, Malaysia. Sarawak Public Works Department engaged GHD to conduct preliminary design, geotechnical investigation, review of hydrology and reservoir yield, detailed design of embankment, spillway and outlet works and bidding; and award assistance for the dam and associated works.

The dam has a reservoir capacity of 33,680Ml at the full supply level of E130m. It comprises the main dam, saddle dam, concrete lined open channel spillway and an outlet for peak release.

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Corella Dam, Australia


GHD’s association with Corella Dam in Queensland stretches back more than 50 years. The dam was designed by GHD in the 1950s to provide water supply for the Mary Kathleen uranium mine and township. We also supervised the construction. The project was completed in the late 1950s.

Innovative solutions were developed for this project to maximise the use of locally-available materials and to take into account the proposed limited life span of the mine (expected to be 20 years). A dumped and sluiced rockfill dam with an upstream shotcrete facing was selected with the rockfill sourced from the adjacent spillway excavation. Ownership of the dam has since passed to the Queensland Government and GHD continues to be involved. We undertook a safety review of the structure and prepared dam safety documentation in 2004 and were subsequently engaged to design upgrade and remedial works mainly to address deterioration of the structure and changes in the required spillway capacity. Throughout the life of the project, GHD has been involved in undertaking dam safety inspections of the structure.

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Corin Dam


GHD has undertaken site investigations on Corin Dam in Australia’s ACT and recommended design improvements to remediate a safety risk.

Located on the Cotter River in the Namadgi National Park, Corin Dam is one of three dams that hold the water supply for Canberra, Australia's capital city.

Read More . . .

Asset & Facilities Management
Asset & Facilities Management
Impact Assessment & Permitting
Impact Assessment & Permitting
Materials Technology
Materials Technology
Power Generation
Power Generation
Renewable Energy
Renewable Energy
Waste Management

Water Systems
Water Sciences

Water Sciences
Water Transmission and
Water Transmission and Distribution
Waterways & Coastal

Waterways & Coastal

Richard Frost

key person image

Richard Frost has 30 years' experience, almost entirely related to dams and dam structures, but including canals, pumpstations and pipelines. He joined GHD in 2000, and is currently the New South Wales manager and company Service Line Leader for dams. Prior to this he was managing director of a consulting practice specialising in dams engineering in Africa. He has broad experience in dams, covering hydrology, hydraulics, geotechnology and structures. This has mainly been associated with embankment dams but has included several arch, arch buttress and gravity dams. Richard has been involved in all aspects of dam engineering, including project identification and planning, site investigations, detailed design, on-site supervision and project management, dam safety surveillance and rehabilitation.

Richard has been responsible for a design office that has carried out over 400 feasibility studies and 220 detailed designs on new dams, typically in the 15-45m height range, and was a project director for a number of major dam and water transfer projects with embankment volumes up to 3.5 million cubic meters and capacities up to 350 gigalitres.

Position: Service Line Leader, Dams
Tel: +61 2 6253 1999

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New South Wales – Peter Ballantine

Peter Ballantine

Peter has 35 years of related dams work experience, including dam surveillance, construction supervision, concept and detailed design of concrete and earthfill dams and concept and detail design of mini hydro installations and design for dam remediation works. He has worked in a number of locations, including Australia and Southern and East Africa. Major projects on which Peter has been employed include the 180 m high Katse concrete arch dam, 110 m high Maguga clay core rockfill dam and the 50 m high Berg River concrete faced rockfill dam. Peter joined GHD in 2008.

Position: Service Group Manager, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9462 4756

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Queensland/Northern Territory – Jon Williams

Jon Williams

Jon has worked in the Water engineering sector, particularly in dams engineering, for more than 20 years and is currently the Manager of the Dams group in Brisbane.   Jon’s experience ranges from design of a fish friendly 5 m high weir through to construction advice on a 190 m high Roller Compacted Concrete dam and in geographically diverse locations as Colombia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia.  Jon has worked in a variety of roles from on-site construction advice, investigation and design and in project lead roles including design manager for major dam upgrades.

Position: Service Group Manager, Queensland/Northern Territory
Tel: +61 7 3316 3578

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Tasmania – Matthew Daley

Matthew Daley

Matthew is a civil engineer with more than 14 years’ professional experience covering office & project team management, geotechnical investigations, civil engineering design, tender documentation, tender evaluation, contract administration and construction supervision for dams and other multi-disciplinary infrastructure projects. He has worked on projects throughout Australia as well as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Guinea and the UK. He is the Manager for Dams, Geotechnical & Irrigation in Tasmania.

Position: Service Group Manager, Tasmania
Tel: +61 3 6210 0702

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Victoria/South Australia – Dave Evans

Dave Evans

Dave has more than 15 years’ experience in civil engineering and is the Manager of our Dams and Tailings business for Victoria and South Australia. His project and management experience is extensive with project experience including hydro power scheme design review, feasibility assessments, dam safety inspections, construction advice for regulator construction, post mortem dam investigations, and geotechnical investigations for mining developments, stability risk assessment, sewage treatment plants, wharf reconstruction, landslide remediation and pipelines.

Position: Service Group Manager, Victoria / South Australia
Tel: +61 3 8687 8469

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Western Australia – Andy White

Andy White

Andy has more than 20 years’ experience working on dams and water environment projects worldwide. He has led the investigation, design, construction, and project management of significant civil engineering projects such as dams, reservoirs, major hydraulic structures, tailings storage facilities and flood alleviation, irrigation and land drainage schemes. Since joining GHD in 2009 Andy has managed the Perth Dams and Tailings teams and has been the responsible Project Director for numerous projects.

Position: Service Group Manager, Western Australia
Tel: +61 8 6222 8822

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Mauricio Rojas


Mauricio has more than 10 years’ experience in the Water Resources sector, with strong support of GIS and CAD. He has worked internationally (Colombia, Netherlands, Peru) in watershed (water catchment) studies, flood control, environmental sanitation, municipal engineering and river engineering. In Canada his experience has been mainly in hydropower, dam safety, PMF studies, water distribution modelling among others. He possesses practical experience in hydraulic and hydrologic modelling through extensive use of tools like HEC-RAS, HEC-HMS and SOBEK. In the hydropower field he has been involved in pre-feasibility and feasibility studies for both conventional (small and large hydro) and pumped storage schemes mostly in northern Ontario and Alberta.

Position: Service Line Leader, Canada
Tel: +1 1 905 752 4314

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New Zealand

Bob McKelvey

Bob McKelvey

Bob has more than 35 years of civil engineering experience with specific skills in project management of multi discipline projects. He has worked on a substantial number of projects in a number of regions including Asia Pacific, New Zealand and Africa. He has earned the respect of all parties on contract works and has a particular skill in bringing together teams including contractors, the clients and consultants to achieve the desired outcomes.

Position: Geotechnical Manager, New Zealand
Tel: +64 9 261 1551

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Manny Ancheta

Manny Ancheta

Manny has more than 30 years' extensive experience in mine design & planning for both open pit and underground mines, buildings and structures, mine haulage roads, dams, subdivisions, mine geology for both copper & gold, geodetic engineering (bathymetric, topography, cadastral and land surveying), geotechnical investigation and design management projects. He has significant work experience in project management and contract administration in the Philippines, Australia, Laos and more than 14 years in the Sultanate of Oman and United Arab Emirates.

As the Business Group Manager, he has significant engagement and responsibility for many of our Philippines – based clients within the Infrastructure and Mining sectors.

Position: Business Group Manager, Energy & Resources
Tel: +63 2 479 5772

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South America

Gavin Morrison

Gavin Morrison

Gavin is a Principal Civil Engineer and Operations Manager for GHD in South America, based in Santiago, Chile. He has an Honours degree in Civil Engineering and 30 years experience in a broad range of engineering projects. This experience has included a project and /or design management role of major civil projects including infrastructure for the AU$600M Bulk Water Alliance projects in the ACT, Australia, and the AU$800M Kuala Kencana town development in Irian Jaya for PT Freeport Indonesia Company. Gavin has extensive experience in the investigation, planning, concept development, design documentation, tendering and construction phase services for civil engineering infrastructure projects.

Position: Operations Manager, South America
Tel: +56 2 429 5718

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Beth Ann Smith

Beth Ann Smith

Beth Ann has more than 25 years’ experience in civil and environmental engineering with special emphasis in the area of geotechnical engineering. Her key areas include earthen and concrete dams, terrestrial and marine earthwork activities, site development, slope stability analyses, stormwater and drainage analyses, sanitary/storm sewer and pipeline construction, highway construction and general structure construction.  

Beth Ann has been the project manager for regulatory compliance involving inspection and maintenance plans, emergency action plans, safety inspections and engineering assessment plans.  In addition, she has evaluated, designed, permitted and constructed rehabilitations for dams that have not been maintained or have spillways that cannot pass the regulatory required flow, and she has also studied, designed, permitted and decommissioned dams. 

Position: Geotechnical Engineer, USA
Tel: +1 315 679 5728

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About GHD and Dams
GHD Published Papers on Dams

Below is a selection of technical papers published by members of GHD’s Dams team.




GHD Library

The GHD library is a collection of relevant resources to this service line.