Analyzing the intra-actions between the actors involved, this paper presents results from interviews and participatory observations with local authorities, local inhabitants, power companies representatives as well as dam operators. We argue that the Swedish model for dam safety currently is suffering from a major deficiency as the expertise and understanding of the technical constructions remain among the dam owners and that the societal authority in charge of supervising the dam owners work have no capability of achieving the same level of understanding and thus to take informed and relevant decisions. Furthermore we argue that the lack of technical understanding of dams and hydropower outside of the dam sector has become a huge threat to dam safety as state representatives and political decision makers currently allow and even encourage mining exploitation both next to high risk classified hydropower dams and even within existing hydropower reservoirs.
We argue that the actual challenge to safeguard an increased dam safety is by bridging the gap between the multitude of different actors– engineers/operators, users, political decision makers - in order to generate new understandings and new methodologies to deal with risk, safety and security. It is necessary to bridge the gaps between the sectors and actors involved, and that this should be done through investment in close collaboration between the dam sector and engineering research on the one hand and social sciences and humanities on the other – to ensure understandings of political decision making as well as of technical artifacts and water flows.
The geographical focus is on two rivers – the Ume River and the Lule River in the north of Sweden. Both rivers are of major importance for national production of electricity, and the rivers are water suppliers for a large amount of inhabitants.