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Cover critical infrastructure in your area using data on the nation's dams

The NICAR Data Library has updated the National Inventory of Dams (NID), a database kept by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on dams in all 50 states with details that include structure type, purpose, owner, most recent inspection date and inspection frequency. The data also include latitude and longitude.

You can use these records to zero in on neglected and potentially dangerous dams in your area. In the past, newsrooms have used the data to produce stories on emergency preparednessaging infrastructure, and the effect of dams on the environment.

17% of the nation's 87,000 dam structures are considered "high hazard," which means someone is likely to die if they fail.

The USACE is still withholding some crucial information, such as the city nearest to the dam and the hazard ranking of the dam. The hazard ranking indicates how bad it would be if a dam fails; a dam is ranked "high hazard" if people will likely die in that event. Seventeen percent of the nation's 87,000 dam structures fall into this category. While the USACE will not release that information on an individual basis, they do provide the total number of high hazard dams by state. NICAR has compiled this information into a spreadsheet and includes it with the data. We also include the 2002 version of the database which does include hazard ranking, as a starting point for further reporting.

The team at NICAR has created a guide to getting started with the data and finding the story. You can also download additional documentation from the NID database page.

The IRE Resource Center also has tipsheets and stories to help you get started: 

  • Infrastructure CAR (tipsheet): The authors list and explain sources for infrastructure data and describe how they can be used for CAR stories.
  • Probes into dams and bridges (tipsheet): Davidson suggests possible issues to investigate and offers suggestions on how to proceed.
  • Disaster Ahead? Deregulated Dams (story): An old TN law allows dams to be downgraded from high-hazard status, exempting them from safety regulations.
  • Dangerous Dams (story): This story details the lax enforcement of rules and regulations of high-hazard dams that are in imminent danger of failing.

To purchase this data from NICAR, IRE members should visit the NID database page and log in to purchase and download the data online. Non-members should contact the Data Library at or (573) 884-7711. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. 

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