Earthmoving and excavation: Dam building

PIVOTAL: Farm dams should be planned and built with the same care you would apply to building a house.

PIVOTAL: Farm dams should be planned and built with the same care you would apply to building a house.

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Excavation and earthmoving can be an important part of the development of any holding, and can be used for important infrastructure including building dams.

Building a farm dam is not a case of digging a hole and waiting for it to fill with water.

Many farm dams fail because they were not planned or built properly.

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Farm dams should be planned and built with the same care you would apply to building a house.

There are also several things to consider when building a farm dam, such as who should build it, preparing the site, building the dam, and maintaining the dam. 

Government offices can advise as to what size you can build without needing a licence. If a larger capacity is needed, then a licence may need to be issued.

Some councils require a development application for every dam built in their area.

Farm dams can be built on minor watercourses (lower order streams) but not on larger streams, unless they are approved.

Department of Primary Industries websites contain information on where dams can be built.

It is advisable to check with the DPI before you start building, as they can confirm whether or not a dam can be constructed at the proposed site on your property.

A permit is required for excavations, placement of fill or construction in or near a watercourse, lake or estuary. 

When determining dam size, growers will need to consider farm water requirements. Water requirements also vary considerably depending on crop type, geographic location, stock type and stock numbers.

If the dam will be used for irrigation, this may increase its size considerably, depending on what proportion of the crop’s water needs the storage will hold. 

Evaporation losses from the dam must also be considered in the size of the storage.

Evaporation losses from a storage are not constant and vary from month to month and from location to location.

Higher evaporation losses can be expected in summer more than in winter and higher losses can be expected inland than on the coast.

Initially the most desirable method to minimise evaporation is to make the storage as deep as possible to reduce its surface area.

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