What is National Dam Safety Awareness Day?

The River Authority
May 31, 2022

In observance of National Dam Safety Awareness Day, learn about the history of this day and the many dams operated and maintained by the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority).

On May 31, 1889, a tragic dam failure occurred when the South Fork Dam near Johnston, Pennsylvania, collapsed, killing more than 2,220 people. Following this incident, May 31 was designated National Dam Safety Awareness Day. It aims to remind people of the importance of dam safety and what we can do to help prevent tragedies like this one from repeating. More recent crises, like the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams in Michigan, have highlighted the risks associated with improper maintenance and inspection of dams, increasing the need for awareness around this important issue.

The River Authority, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which promotes this holiday, encourages the public to know the risks and benefits of dams and take action to educate each other. Dam Safety is our shared responsibility.

Read below to learn about the River Authority’s important role in dam safety throughout the San Antonio River Watershed.


Safety is a crucial mission for the River Authority, including protecting people and property from flooding. In this effort, the River Authority employs a comprehensive approach to flood mitigation categorized into two primary groups: Protection and Preparedness. In our model for flood risk management, protection refers to man-made structures designed to re-direct and manage the flow of water, diverting it from inundating neighborhoods where people and property are dense. The River Authority has a team of experts that properly maintain these dams on a routine basis.

San Antonio River Authority Flood Water Retention Dams

The River Authority operates and maintains 41 floodwater retention dams throughout the San Antonio River Watershed, with 28 dams in Bexar County and 13 dams in Karnes County. The upper reaches of Salado Creek have the most extensive system with 14 dams.

Flood Dam holding back water.

Since the early 1950s, the River Authority has partnered with officials in Bexar and Karnes counties, special districts, and federal entities to develop these dams. Most dams were built in the 1960s and 1970s. These dams mitigate flooding in populated areas and are designed to withstand up to 44 inches of rain over 24 hours. In 2003, the McAllister Park Dam on the Salado Creek in Bexar County was the final dam completed.


Picture of Scientists working with maps and data to mitigate flooding.

Working together with other government organizations is crucial for effective flood risk management. Communities can plan more effectively and efficiently by harnessing shared information, knowledge, and resources.

How do I learn more about flooding and flood mitigation?

The River Reach is back!

River Reach is a quarterly, 12-page newsletter that is designed to inform the San Antonio River Authority’s constituents about the agency’s many projects, serve as a communication vehicle for the board of directors and foster a sense of unity and identity among the residents of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.

If you wish to be placed on the mailing list for River Reach, please contact us or complete the form.