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Water Retaining Facilities Ordinance
of 17 October 2012 (Status as of 1 April 2018)
The Swiss Federal Council,
based on Articles 4, 5 paragraph 3, 12 paragraph 2, 22 paragraph 3, 31 paragraph 3 and 33 of the Water Retaining Facilities Act of 1 October 20101 (WRFA),
(Art. 3, WRFA)
1 A water retaining facility comprises the following components:
- a dam;
- the associated reservoir;
- auxiliary installations.
2 Dams may take the following form:
- concrete or masonry dams;
- embankment dams;
- river impoundments with their side embankments.
3 A reservoir is a lake that is artificially formed by dams.
4 Auxiliary installations are structures and equipment installed on the reservoir and dam that are required for the safe operation of a water retaining facility, e.g. relief and outlet works.
5 The operator of a water retaining facility is the holder of the licence to put the facility into operation.
(Art. 2 para. 2 let. a, WRFA)
1 A high risk potential is deemed to exist if the collapse of a water retaining structure could endanger human lives and/or result in extensive property damage.
2 The relevant cantonal authorities shall notify the federal supervisory authority (Swiss Federal Office of Energy, SFOE) about water retaining facilities which, in view of their size, are not governed by the provisions of the WRFA, but which could have a high risk potential.
3 Operators of such facilities are obliged to provide the SFOE with all the documentation that is required for performing its assessment.
4 Before it makes its decision, the SFOE shall consult the other cantons concerned.
(Art. 2 para. 2 let. b, WRFA)
1 When submitting their application to exempt their water retaining facility from the scope of application of the WRFA, operators must submit all documentation that is required for assessing the risk potential.
2 Before it makes its decision, the SFOE consults the cantons concerned.
(Art. 4, WRFA)
1 The SFOE specifies the safety requirements for the construction and operation of water retaining facilities on bodies of water bordering neighbouring countries, in cooperation with the relevant foreign supervisory authorities.
2 For this purpose the SFOE shall as far as possible abide by the provisions of Swiss legislation on water retaining facilities, and in any case ensure a level of safety that is equivalent to that specified in the relevant legislation.
(Art. 5 para. 3, WRFA)
In the case of water retention basins and structures for stabilising the beds of torrents, the installation of bottom outlets and bottom sluice gates may be dispensed with.
(Art. 6 para. 5, WRFA)
1 The planning approval specifies the documentation to be submitted by the licence holder to the supervisory authority before and during construction, and on completion thereof.
2 During the construction phase, the following documentation in particular may be requested:
- results of geological surveys and geotechnical tests;
- results of pressure grouting or other geotechnical measures carried out in order to stabilise and make the subsoil watertight;
- construction reports;
- results of material tests;
- findings from surveillance;
- reports on special occurrences.
3 The following documentation in particular may be requested on completion of the construction work:
- a summary and evaluation of the geological surveys and geotechnical tests;
- a summary and evaluation of the pressure grouting or other geotechnical measures carried out in order to stabilise and make the subsoil watertight;
- a list of the materials used during construction, and an evaluation of the material tests;
- modifications to the construction project;
- drawings of the completed structure (as-built drawings);
- types and locations of monitoring instruments.
(Art. 6 para. 8 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 The supervisory authority monitors the construction. In particular, it verifies whether it complies with the approved plans.
2 During the construction work, the holder of planning approval must submit the documentation specified therein to the supervisory authority (Art. 6 para. 1 and 2).
Any modifications to the project must be reported to the supervisory authority for approval in accordance with Article 6 WRFA.
(Art. 6 para. 8 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 On completion of the construction work, the holder of planning approval must submit a final report to the supervisory authority.
2 The final construction report must include the documentation specified in the planning approval (Art. 6 para. 1 and 3).
3 The supervisory authority verifies whether the construction work has been carried out in accordance with the approved plans and the specified requirements, and records its findings in an acceptance report.
(Art. 6 para. 1, WRFA)
The decommissioning of a water retaining facility is equivalent to a modification.
(Art. 7, 8, 10 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 Before commissioning the facility, the operator must produce the following regulations and submit them to the supervisory authority for approval:
- regulations governing the operation of gated relief and outlet works that are required for mastering floods (gate regulations);
- regulations governing the procedure for warning the authorities and the population in the event of an emergency, and for dealing with emergencies (emergency regulations).
2 The operator must constantly review the regulations and submit any amendments thereto to the supervisory authority for approval. Amendments and updates to details that are not of relevance to safety (e.g. contact details or modifications relating to the operation of gated relief and outlet works in normal operation) must be submitted to the supervisory authority, but do not require the latter’s approval.
(Art. 7, WRFA)
1 In the case of facilities where the initial filling of the reservoir can be carried out in a controlled manner, the operator must monitor the behaviour and status of the water retaining facility, notably with the aid of measurements, visual inspections and examinations of the relief and outlet works. The operator shall notify the supervisory authority about the result of its observations.
2 The supervisory authority shall monitor the progress of the initial filling and verify that it is carried out in accordance with the licence granted.
3 Raising the normal water operating level following transformation work and refilling after completion of safety-relevant maintenance or repairs are equivalent to an initial filling of the reservoir.
(Art. 7, 8 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 After completion of the initial filling or refilling of the reservoir, the operator must submit a corresponding report to the supervisory authority.
2 This report must contain the following items in particular:
- an overview of how the initial filling or refilling of the reservoir progressed;
- an analysis of the behaviour of the water retaining facility during the initial or subsequent putting into operation;
- the results of the function tests of the relief and outlet works.
1 A water retaining facility may only be operated if the result of the initial filling or refilling of the reservoir indicates that it may be operated safely.
2 The operator shall produce regulations governing the surveillance of the facility in normal operation and during extraordinary events, and shall submit it to the supervisory authority for approval (surveillance regulations).
3 The operator must constantly review the regulations and submit any amendments thereto to the supervisory authority for approval. Amendments and updates to details that are not of relevance to safety (e.g. contact details of personnel responsible for monitoring the facility) must be submitted to the supervisory authority, but do not require the latter’s approval.
(Art. 8 para. 2, WRFA)
1 The operator must carry out an annual inspection of the gated relief and outlet works in order to verify their safe and reliable function. The way the inspection progressed and the findings of the inspection must be recorded in a report.
2 Each inspection must be carried out with a high water level in the reservoir and include a discharge test (wet function test).
3 The relief works may also be tested under dry conditions or in another suitable manner if the normal water level in the reservoir is below the level required for opening.
4 The outlet works installed in retention basins and in structures for stabilising the beds of torrents may be tested under dry conditions.
(Art. 8 para. 2, WRFA)
1 The operator must carry out measurements and visual inspections in accordance with the surveillance regulations (Art. 14 para. 2).
2 In the period during which a large facility is under water, the operator must verify electronically transmitted measurement data at least once a month by carrying out manual measurements on site.
3 For other facilities, electronically transmitted measurement data must be verified by carrying out manual measurements on site at least once a year.
(Art. 8 para. 2 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 The operator must ensure that a qualified professional evaluates the results of measurements on an ongoing basis, carries out a visual inspection of the water retaining facility once a year and records his or her findings in an annual measurement and inspection report (annual report).
2 The operator must submit each annual report to the supervisory authority within six months of the close of the period under review. The report consists of the results of inspections of the relief and outlet works, visual inspections and measurements.
3 The supervisory authority may grant exemptions from the annual rhythm (para. 1) and the deadline for submitting the annual report (para. 2) as long as the same level of safety is assured.
(Art. 8 para. 2 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 The operator must ensure that experienced experts in the fields of civil engineering and geology carry out a comprehensive safety assessment every five years, if the facility concerned:
- has a storage height of at least 40 metres; or
- has a storage height of at least 10 metres and a storage capacity of more than 1 million cubic metres.
2 The operator must submit the reports on the safety inspections (five-yearly reports) within nine months of the close of the period under review.
3 The supervisory authority may waive the requirement of periodical comprehensive safety inspections (para. 1), and grant exemptions from the deadline for submitting the five-yearly reports (para. 2), as long as the same level of safety is assured.
4 The supervisory authority may order extraordinary safety reviews, as well as five-yearly inspections of water retaining facilities of smaller size.
(Art. 8 para. 2 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 The operator must notify the supervisory authority of the person it has appointed as qualified professional (Art. 17). The supervisory authority may reject the appointed professional if there are grounds for doubting his or her suitability.
2 The operator shall submit its choice of experts (Art. 18) to the supervisory authority for approval.
3 Experts must be independent of the qualified professional, the operator and the owner of the facility.
(Art. 8 para. 3 let. a, WRFA)
1 The operator must notify the supervisory authority in advance of planned overhauls, although the activities themselves do not require approval.
2 During work carried out on relief and outlet works, the operator must ensure:
- that there is sufficient protection against floods; and
- that in the event of impending danger the lowering of the level of the reservoir is possible without delay.
(Art. 8 and 25 let. a, WRFA)
The operator must notify the supervisory authorities in advance of the following deadlines:
- inspection of relief and outlet works;
- on-foot inspection of the water retaining facility within the scope of the annual and five-yearly inspections;
- emptying of the facility.
(Art. 25 let. a, WRFA)
1 The operator must maintain and constantly update an archive containing all documentation relating to the water retaining facility, and grant the supervisory authority access thereto at any time.
2 The archive contains the following items in particular:
- the main drawings of the realised facility and details relating to its construction;
- the agreement between the owners and the project developers concerning the planned utilisation (utilisation agreement);
- the description of the practical implementation of the utilisation agreement (basis of project);
- the static, hydrological and hydraulic calculations and reports;
- the geological reports;
- the report on the commissioning of the facility;
- the annual reports and reports on geodetic deformation measurements;
- the five-yearly reports;
- the reports on malfunctions and operating anomalies;
- the surveillance, gate and emergency regulations.
(Art. 8 para. 4, WRFA)
1 The supervisory authority participates in five-yearly inspections (Art. 18) and additionally inspects the facilities concerned at least once every five years.
2 The supervisory authority inspects those large water retaining facilities that are not subject to five-yearly inspections at least once every three years.
3 The supervisory authority inspects all other water retaining facilities at least once every five years.
(Art. 8 para. 3 and 5, WRFA)
If the operator fails to carry out maintenance or repairs by the specified deadline, the supervisory authority shall order the necessary measures and, in the event of an unsuccessful reminder, order the emptying of the facility.
(Art. 10, WRFA)
1 The emergency regulations in accordance with Article 11 paragraph 1 letter b must include the following items in particular:
- a map depicting those zones which would probably be flooded following a sudden total collapse of the water retaining structure (inundation map);
- an analysis of those factors that could seriously disrupt or prevent the management of emergencies (risk analysis);
- a strategy for dealing with emergencies, including specification of the measures to be taken in a given emergency situation (emergency strategy);
- a document in which the functions of the personnel responsible for dealing with emergencies are described, together with the procedure for issuing warnings and alarms (emergency response organisation);
- a dossier on operational procedures in the event of an emergency (operational procedures).
2 The supervisory authority may grant exemptions as long as the same level of safety is assured.
3 The supervisory authority shall forward copies of inundation maps and operational procedures to the cantons concerned and to the Federal Office for Civil Protection (National Alarm Centre).
(Art. 11, WRFA)
1 After consulting with the cantons concerned and the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) specifies which water retaining facilities with a reservoir with a capacity of less than 2 million cubic metres must be equipped with a water alarm system.
2 A high risk in accordance with Article 11 paragraph 2 WRFA exists if, in the event of a sudden total collapse of the water retaining structure, at least one thousand people who are regularly in the near zone for a lengthy period of time would be at risk.
3 The concept and technical composition of the water alarm system must be approved by the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP).
(Art. 12 para. 1, WRFA)
1 Based on the inundation maps, the cantons concerned prepare the plans for the evacuation of the population (evacuation plans).
2 The cantons concerned shall grant public access to the evacuation plans and shall ensure that the population is provided with the necessary information.
3 The cantons shall pass on a copy of the evacuation plans to the SFOE and the FOCP (National Alarm Centre).
4 The cantons constantly review the evacuation plans and pass on any updates or amendments that may be made to the SFOE and the FOCP (National Alarm Centre).
5 The FOCP is responsible for supervising the implementation of this provision.
(Art. 12 para. 2, WRFA)
In the event of a military threat, the Federal Civil Protection Crisis Management Board is responsible for making special arrangements in accordance with Article 2 paragraph 1 of the Ordinance of 2 March 20182 on the Federal Civil Protection Crisis Management Board.
(Art. 22 WRFA)
1 The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is the federal supervisory authority.
2 The main duties of the SFOE are as follows:
- supervision of large water retaining facilities;
- overall supervision of water retaining facilities subject to supervision by the cantons;
- issuing guidelines and preparing other technical documents in cooperation with the cantons, universities, professional organisations and industry;
- promotion of research;
- securing expertise in cooperation with universities, cantons and professional organisations;
- ensuring the exchange of information at international level.
3 The SFOE provides the cantons concerned with the following documentation in particular:
- rulings by means of which it declares water retaining facilities subject to the WRFA (Art. 2) or exempts them from the scope of application of the Act (Art. 3);
- the list of water retaining facilities that are subject to its supervision and are currently in operation (Art. 22 para. 1; Article 24, WRFA);
- planning approvals for the construction and modification of facilities, unless approval exists in accordance with other legislation (Art. 6, WRFA);
- acceptance reports produced after completion of construction work (Art. 9 para. 3);
- licences for putting installations into operation (Art. 7, WRFA);
- other rulings it issues in order to ensure safety (Art. 24; Art. 8, WRFA).
(Art. 23, WRFA)
The main duties of the cantonal supervisory authorities are as follows:
- to supervise water retaining facilities that are not subject to direct supervision by the federal government;
- to report the following details in particular to the SFOE concerning the facilities they are responsible for supervising:
- the operator,
- the purpose,
- location coordinates, type and year of construction of the water retaining structure,
- the year in which the facility was put into operation,
- the geometric data;
- to submit an annual report on their supervisory activity to the SFOE by 31 March of the following year;
- to report to the SFOE on any unusual occurrences that could have an influence on the safety of the water retaining facilities they are responsible for supervising.
(Art. 31, WRFA)
In accordance with Article 31 paragraph 3 WRFA, the SFOE is the administrative authority responsible for prosecution and judgement.
The repeal and amendment of previous legislation is dealt with in the Annex.
1 The approvals and licences that existed on commencement of this Ordinance remain legally binding.
2 Operators of existing facilities must submit their emergency regulations within five years of the commencement of this Ordinance to the relevant supervisory authority for approval (Art. 11 para. 1b).
3 Within one year of commencement of this Ordinance, the supervisory authority shall verify whether the experts meet the requirements specified in Article 19 paragraph 3.
4 The SFOE shall hand over the documentation relating to water retaining facilities which, in accordance with previously existing legislation, it has been responsible for supervising, and which in accordance with the new legislation are now subject to supervision by the cantons, to the relevant cantonal supervisory authorities within two years of the commencement of this Ordinance. The cantons shall assume responsibility for the supervision of these facilities after the documentation has been handed over.
5 The cantons concerned shall draw up evacuation plans within three years of the commencement of this Ordinance (Art. 27).
This Ordinance comes into force on 1 January 2013.