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Dams provide vital service and protection to our communities and economy. The average age of the 90,580 dams in the country is 56 years. As our population grows and development continues, the overall number of high-hazard potential dams is increasing, with the number climbing to nearly 15,500 in 2016. Due to the lack of investment, the number of deficient high-hazard potential dams has also climbed to an estimated 2,170 or more. It is estimated that it will require an investment of nearly $45 billion to repair aging, yet critical, high-hazard potential dams.

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Conditions & Capacity

Dams come in a variety of sizes and serve a number of purposes. Our nation’s dams provide essential benefits such as drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, flood control, and recreation. The public most commonly thinks of engineering marvels like the Hoover Dam in Nevada rather than the smaller structure that created the lake at the center of a planned community. No matter how large or small, dams have a powerful presence that frequently is overlooked until failure has occurred.

Conditions & Capacity

Funding & Future Need

Investment is needed to rehabilitate deficient dams and to improve the efficacy of policies and regulatory programs that oversee dam safety programs. Upgrade or rehabilitation is necessary due to deterioration, changing technical standards, and improved techniques, as well as better understanding of the area’s precipitation conditions, increases in downstream populations, and changing land use. When a dam’s hazard classification is changed to reflect an increased hazard potential, the dam may need to be upgraded to meet an increased need for safety. Many dam owners, especially private dam owners, find it difficult to finance rehabilitation projects.

Funding & Future Need
$45 Billion
Investment Needed
$5.6 Billion
Funding Provided
Dams Funding

Public Safety & Resilience

In order to improve public safety and resilience, the risk and consequences of dam failure must be lowered. Progress requires better planning for mitigating the effects of failures; increased regulatory oversight of the safety of dams; improving coordination and communication across governing agencies; and the development of tools, training, and technology.

Public Safety & Resilience

Raising the Grades

Solutions that Work Now
  • Fund the national dam rehabilitation and repair funding program to cost-share repairs to publicly owned, non-federal, high-hazard potential dams.
  • Develop emergency action plans for every high-hazard potential dam by 2021.
  • Implement a national public awareness campaign to educate individuals on the location and condition of dams in their area and become more “dam aware.”
  • Implement better public education about high-hazard potential dams, specifically ensuring the public has a better understanding of the dam rating system and how we determine condition.
  • Encourage incentives to governors and state legislatures to provide sufficient resources and regulatory authorities to their dam safety programs.
  • Require federal agencies that own, operate, or regulate dams to meet the standards of Federal Guidelines for Dam Safety.
  • Encourage improved land use planning at the local level so that communication about how dams affect local areas is more accurately known and considered in future planning.
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