Using high-strength steels for pressure shafts and tunnel liners and taking into account significant rock mass participation allows the design of comparatively thin steel liners in hydropower projects. Nevertheless, during emptying of waterways, these steel linings may be endangered by buckling. Compared with traditional measures such as increased steel liner thickness and stiffeners, pressure relief valves are a very economical solution for protection of steel liners against critical external pressure and therefore buckling during emptying. A calculation procedure has been developed for the design of the required number and arrangement of pressure relief valves, and this has been used successfully in practice. Systematic model tests enabled the assumptions of the design method to be verified.