CONCERNS ABOUT THE STABILITY of the Opuha dam near Fairlie in New Zealand has lead to the reservoir being drawn down by more than 2m.

A dam safety report, prepared by Dam Watch, a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, has said the dam may fail during an earthquake or during a flood.

The diminished capacity will mean restrictions in the water supply to more than 160 farms that rely on the dam for irrigation.

The report on the dam was commissioned in response to a request to increase the live storage height by 6m. From 21 December 2002 the reservoir level was lowered by 10cm daily.

The dam has already breached once in 1997 during construction, flooding farms, destroying livestock and forcing the evacuation of 200 people. Based on the dam safety report’s findings, the Ministry of Civil Defence has ordered a review of the 400m long, 50m high earth dam.