Issues concerning dam safety and equitable sharing of catchment run-off are receiving more attention throughout the world. This paper assesses these matters in the context of Australia, and the need for policy responses. Landholders often overlook the common law obligation to review/design dams to current standards because of high costs, leaving them vulnerable to litigation if their dam fails. The paper reports on an innovative spillway design/review procedure, applicable to southeast Australia, but transferable to any region worldwide. Dam safety policy models and guidelines derived from international best practice are linked to the procedure and intended to aid government decision-making. The procedure minimises costs to landholders and provides an acceptable level of safety assurance to downstream communities. Also discussed are recent surveys testing community attitudes to the procedure and implemented dam safety and water allocation policies. These further guide any government wanting to implement this'integrated engineering and community partnerships'approach to preventing potential disasters due to private dam failure and achieving sustainable and safe water storage and use.