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Flood Status
Low Water Status



Upper Durham Dam
Upper Durham Dam

Dams are a common site in the Saugeen River watershed. There are 52 dams in the watershed that are over 3 metres in height. Most of these are former mill dams. Some have been converted to produce hydroelectric power while others provide some recreational benefits. Saugeen Conservation owns four dams however the vast majority are privately owned. Some are in very poor condition.

  • Dams were a necessary part of the infrastructure as this part of Ontario was being settled as they provided a reliable source of power for local milling operations. These structures were a vital part of the local economy.
  • Much discussion has taken place around the benefits these dams offer society today in relation to the negative impact they pose of an environment, social and economic nature.
  • One view is that our society would be better off if many of these old dams were removed and river systems restored. The following Master thesis investigates the many barriers that can be experienced when attempting to remove a dam and how they can be overcome.

For information on safety around dams, check out the Ministry of Natural Resources webpage at the following link; public safety around dams

The following is an abstract of a Masters Thesis concerning dams in the Saugeen River watershed:

Donald Smith, 2002. "Improving the Sustainability of River Systems Through the Removal of Dams on the Saugeen River, Southwestern Ontario

Dams on the Saugeen River System

Thesis Question:

What are the factors preventing the removal of dams on the Saugeen River and how can they be overcome to facilitate potential improvements to the sustainability of a river system?

Dams played an important role during the settlement of the Saugeen watershed by providing a reliable source of power. While dams still provide some benefit to our society, their importance has diminished considerably. They have significant negative impact on a river system of an environmental, social and economic nature.

Many of these negative impacts could be alleviated if the dams were removed, a practice which is not common in the Saugeen River watershed.

The factors preventing the removal of dams were determined by interviewing officials from regulatory agencies, dam owners and other stakeholders. A plan was developed for working towards the desired future state that included strategies and specific actions to address each of the identified barriers to the removal of dams.

Download the Plan (pdf 184 kb)


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