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Dam safety

In the role as national dam safety authority, Svenska kraftnät acts for a future with safe dams and coordinated preparedness for dam failures.

We contribute to national coordination and development through clear requirements, guidance and follow-up. We provide supervisory guidance to the county administration boards in matters of dam safety according to chapter 11 in the Environmental Code. We promote capacity building through research, development, education and information in collaboration with stakeholders. Each year, we follow up and report to the Government about dam safety developments.

Svenska kraftnät has the mandate from the Government to promote dam safety

Svenska kraftnät promotes dam safety through activities in the following areas:

Hydropower facility.
Älvkarleby hydropower facility in the Dalälven river.

Dams in Sweden

In Sweden, there are an estimated 10,000 dams of varying size and age. Most of these dams are small and a dam failure with an uncontrolled release of water would generally have only minor consequences for the surrounding area.

There are around 2,000 dam facilities in the hydropower industry. Most large hydropower facilities in the country were built during the 1950s-1970s. After that, new construction in hydropower decreased, to almost cease during the 1990s.

In recent decades, instead, rebuilding and upgrading of existing dams with regard to aging and new safety requirements has been – and is – an extensive activity. Within the mining industry, the expansion of tailings dams continue, primarily through successive heightening of existing tailings dams.

The consequences of a dam failure can vary greatly, mainly depending on the amount of water impounded, the size of the dam and the conditions in the area that is flooded as a result of the failure.

Our book titled ” Book on Dams – The Swedish Experience (.pdf) Opens in a new window” tells the general story of Swedish dams from a historical and geographical perspective, supported by maps, pictures, and timelines. An annex presets a selection of around 40 dams that illustrate the development of dams in the country.

Dam safety framework

In Sweden several general statutes are applicable to dams and dam safety issues. The most important regulations are found in the Environmental Code and the Civil Protection Act.

According to the Environmental Code, the owner of a dam has the obligation to maintain the dam in order to avoid damage. The dam owner has strict liability and shall prepare and follow procedures for self-regulation.

The county administrative boards are responsible for dam safety supervision, i.e. supervision of the owners' self-regulation.

For further information about legislation and roles read "Dam Safety in Sweden" (.pdf) Opens in a new window.

Garpenberg tailings management facility
Garpenberg tailings management facility.

Ongoing activities

We carry out assignments from the Government to further stimulate the development of dam safety. Some recent assignments are presented here.

Hydropower facility.
Sveg hydropower facility in the Ljusnan River.

English translations of Swedish legislation and guidelines

In the following we have compiled a selection of legislation and guidelines relevant to dam safety. Please note that the translations are unofficial.