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Reservoir emergencies

Download our public information leaflet on reservoir emergencies

The likelihood of reservoir failure is low and there has been no loss of life due to dam failure in this country since the 1920s.  Even so, we need to be prepared to ensure we can respond in case of an emergency.

Changes to legislation and the near failure of the Ulley reservoir (South Yorkshire) in 2007 highlighted the need to prepare for potential future flooding from reservoirs. 

reservorsReservoir Legislation 

The Environment Agency has a regulatory role for reservoir safety, under the Reservoirs Act 1975. It ensures that reservoirs are regularly inspected and essential safety works are implemented. The Reservoirs Act 1975 requires reservoir undertakers (i.e. owners or operators) to appoint specialist engineers to oversee the safety of individual reservoirs. 

Reservoir flood maps 

As part of the Government’s commitment made in response to the Pitt Review (the independent review of the 2007 summer flooding), inundation (flood) mapping was completed of every reservoir under the Reservoirs Act, in England and Wales. 

Within Birmingham this includes 22 reservoirs owned by Birmingham City Council, the Environment Agency and private companies.  Of these 22, Birmingham City Council owns 11:

Reservoir flood maps are available on the Environment Agency website.  You will be able to use these to find out if you live or work in an area that could flood from a reservoir by going to the Environment Agency ‘What’s in your backyard’ pages.

Emergency Plans

The City Council maintains an Emergency Management Response Plan that specifies how the City Council will respond to any incident that affects Birmingham.  Our key partners also have their own similar response plans and documents that describe the roles and responsibilities of officers and the agency when responding to an incident.

The City Council has been sent reservoir flood maps by the Environment Agency and will use these to inform response activities during a reservoir emergency and to review emergency procedures. This will ensure we are well prepared for reservoir flooding emergencies.

The City Council is currently reviewing our reservoir flood response procedures in light of the changes to legislation and the new reservoir flood maps. The review includes response to all reservoirs within our boundaries and not just those owned by the Council.  Information on what residents should do in a reservoir emergency is available in the downloadable leaflet (link at the top of this page).

As with all emergencies in Birmingham, the City Council will use Birmingham Community Alert to warn and inform our residents and people that work in Birmingham. 

What to do in an emergency

It’s important that you are aware of what to do in an emergency to keep you and your family safe.

Reservoir failure could lead to the sudden release of deep, fast-moving water.  It could be very different from most other forms of flooding and there could be little warning of reservoir failure.

While trained officials work hard to prepare for emergencies, it is important that you are prepared too. 

Click here to know what to do in a reservoir emergency

Reporting any signs of damage to reservoirs

Members of the public should ring the reservoir owner if known or the Environment Agency Incident Helpline (0800 807060).

Further Information

For more about reservoirs, reservoir flooding, local emergency plans, the Environment Agency has produced a frequently asked questions document which is available on their website.  Further information on reservoir safety is available at: 

* Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is lead department for flooding legislation, policy and regulations and for reservoir safety.