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Existing major reservoirs in California, with average age above 50 years, were built in the previous century with limited data records and flood hazard assessment. Changes in climate and land use are anticipated to alter statistical properties of inflow to these infrastructure systems and potentially increase their hydrological failure probability. Because of large socioeconomic repercussions of infrastructure incidents, revisiting dam failure risks associated with possible shifts in the streamflow regime is fundamental for societal resilience. Here we compute historical and projected flood return periods as a proxy for potential changes in the risk of hydrological failure of dams in a warming climate. Our results show that hydrological failure probability is likely to increase for most dams in California by 2100. Noticeably, the New Don Pedro, Shasta, Lewiston, and Trinity Dams are associated with highest potential changes in flood hazard.

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This document was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters by Wiley on behalf of the American Geophysical Union. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1029/2018GL081888