America’s aging dams could put tens of thousands of people across 44 states at risk of deadly floods as 1,700 are rated ‘poor or unsatisfactory’
Built for flood control, irrigation, water supply, hydropower, recreation or industrial waste storage, the nation’s dams are over a half-century old on average. And some straining to handle the intense rainfall and floods as climates have changed over time.
The association estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most US dams are privately owned, proving difficult to regulate and require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to cover the high costs.
America’s Aging Dams Are in Need of Repair
Nearly 2,000 state-regulated high-hazard dams in the United States were listed as being in need of repair in 2015, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. A dam is considered “high hazard” based on the potential for the loss of life as a result of failure.
By 2020, 70 percent of the dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers keeps an inventory of 90,000 dams across the country, and more than 8,000 are classified as major dams by height or storage capacity, according to guidelines established by the United States Geological Survey.
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