Operate and Maintain a Dam

D​am Ownership – Operating and Maintaining a Dam

Dam owners are responsible to regularly inspect your dam; maintain your dam in a safe condition; obtain training to ensure knowledge of current laws, regulations and industry trends; and to become knowledgeable about the risks and liabilities associated with dam ownership. You could be found liable should your structure fail and cause loss of life or damage to property of others. 

The following materials have been developed by the Dam Safety Division or collected from other sources and reflect a portion of the body of knowledge that dam owners are expected to obtain.

Maryland Dam Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection Manual Template

This template manual provides a framework for owners to compile pertinent information on their dam, including regular maintenance, inspection and operation expectations, record-keeping policies, permits and other materials. It is intended that owners will modify the template to meet their specific needs and the conditions at their dam. Download the Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection Manual Template.

ASDSO Dam Ownership Fact Sheets

ASDSO has compiled a number of fact sheets that provide guidance on specific issues many dam owners face. Download the Dam Owner Fact Sheet Booklet.

FEMA Pocket Safety Guide for Dams and Impoundments

This “Pocket Safety Guide for Dams and Impoundments” was developed for dam owners, inspectors and other people as a quick reference when assessing dams and impoundments. Download the Pocket Safety Guide for Dams and Impoundments.

ASDSO: Dam Owner Academy YouTube Series​

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials Officials has developed a series of videos to educate and inform owners​ on all aspects of operating and maintaining a dam safely. The videos concisely present the critical basics of owner responsibilities. For future videos, make sure to subscribe to ASDSO's Youtube Channel and check DamOwner.org.

Owners Liability

The dam owner is liable for the damages resulting from a dam's mis-operation or failure that would result in a sudden release of water downstream. 

In Maryland, the General Assembly has added statutory requirements on top of the Common law strict liability and negligence doctrines. Construction and repair of dams require state permits and those permits contain specific conditions for maintenance. Size, location, design, and public safety are all issues addressed by State law and regulations. The Administration may order structures built without permission to be drained or removed.

Professor Denis Binder (Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law) has prepared the following documents that further explain the concepts of liability as it pertains to dam owners. Download "Legal Liability for Dam Failures."​

Download “Emergency Action Plans, A Legal and Practical Blueprint."​


Contact Information

For more information, you may call us at (410) 537-3552 or reach us at our mailing address:

Dam Safety Program​
Water and Science Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment

1800 Washington Boulevard, Ste. 440
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-1708​

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