Dam Ownership in the United States

Most U.S. dams are privately owned (56.4%) followed by local governments (20.1%), undetermined interests (11.6%), state governments (4.8%), the federal government (4.7%), and public utilities (2.4%).
Source: National Inventory of Dams, February 2005

Dam owners are responsible for the safety and the liability of the dam and for financing its upkeep, upgrade, and repair.

Although most infrastructure facilities, such as roads, bridges, and sewer systems, are owned by public entities, the majority of dams in the United States are privately owned. In general, very large dams are owned and regulated by the Federal Government.

Given the diffuse nature of dam ownership versus regulation in the United States, it is apparent that dam safety and security are often not solely a federal, state, or local issue.

The safety and security of a dam can affect persons and property across local, state, and even national borders. An incident in one area can affect commerce, navigation, and power generation and distribution, or it can cause severe damage in another area. As a result, there is a reasonable federal role to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to provide dam safety and security to citizens.

To encourage individual and community responsibility for dam safety, FEMA coordinates partnerships through two federal organizations. Visit National Dam Safety Program Partners for more information.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 19-Apr-2006 14:28:42 EDT