Man made dams represent some of the most incredible architectural feats in the world today. While most dams were designed to impound or retain water, others (like floodgates and levees) are often used to control water flow into certain areas.
Regardless of how they’re used no one will question the sheer power and force each dam holds. One crack or failure – one mistake in control – could easily cause a catastrophic accident with the potential to wipe out an entire city.
The following are some of the largest dams in the world as measured by sheer volume. While they’re not all necessarily in the “The top 10 in terms of size, they’re certainly sights worth visiting.
10. Srisailam Dam – India
Located on the Krishna River, the Srisailam Dam was constructed in the Nallamala Hills in a gorge that sits approximately 300 meters above sea level. The dam was is one of the 12 largest in the country in terms of hydroelectric power production but was specifically built in order to provide irrigation for the districts of Kurnool and Cuddapah – both of which are prone to severe droughts.
9. Nagarjuna Sagar – India
The Nagarjuna Sagar Dam can be found in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh in India. Considered one of the largest ever built in Asia, this dam was completed in 1966 and features 26 individual crest gates. As far as construction is concerned, this dam is the tallest in the world to be made strictly from masonry and its creation resulted in the third largest man-made lake on the globe. The dam and its canals are incredibly important to the ability to irrigate nearby land.
8. Verzasca Dam – Switzerland
The Verzasca Dam, also known as the Contra dam, was built between 1960 and 1965 in Val Verzasca, Switzerland. The dam was built by Verzasca SA, a company that generates electricity on the site and will continue to do so until at least 2046. The Lago di Vogorno reservoir is artificial, created by the dam itself, and has been responsible for causing earthquakes during times when it is filled.
7. Ataturk Dam – Turkey
Completed in 1990, the Ataturk Dam in Turkey is a rock-fill dam found on the Euphrates River. Originally named the Karababa Dam, the site was later renamed in order to honor the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The dam is responsible for irrigating the regions plains as well as for generating electricity.
6. Mangla Dam – Pakistan
The twelfth largest dam in the world was built in 1967 and was funded in part by the World Bank. The Mangla Dam came into creation thanks to the 1960 signing of the Indus Waters Treaty in which rights to the waters contained in the Ravi, Beas, and Suglej rivers were given to Pakistan. Before the dam was built Pakistan’s irrigation system relied solely on the flow of the Indus River – most of which was completely unregulated.
5. Tarbela – Pakistan
Completed back in 1976, the Tarbela Dam, also known as Torabela or Pashto, is considered to be the largest dam ever constructed on Pakistan’s Indus River. While it’s not the largest dam in the world overall, it is the largest dam filled naturally by the earth. The dam stores water in order to not only control flooding but for use in irrigation and the production of hydro-electric energy as well.
4. Fort Peck – United States
The Fort Peck Dam in northeast Montana is one of six dams found on the Missouri River. Construction of this dam began in 1933 as part of the New Deal put forth by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and enabled over 11,000 workers to have gainful employment during the course of construction. The dam, which is solely responsible for the formation of Fort Peck Lake, is used to control flooding and generate power.
3. Aswan Dam – Egypt
The Aswan Dam is actually a pair of dams – the Aswan High Dam and the Aswan Low Dam. In ancient times it was known that the River Nile would flood each summer as the waters flowed down from East Africa. As the population along the river grew it became necessary to find a way to control flooding in this area. Now the land is still fertile enough for farming and the people no longer have to worry about drought but the fields aren’t in danger of being wiped out due to flooding, either.
2. Syncrude Tailings – Canada
Located near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, the Syncrude Tailings Dam is approximately 540,000,000 meters in volume. The dam is currently maintained by a company known as Syncrude Canada Ltd – a company responsible for oil extraction in the Athabasca Oil Sands. The dam serves as a barrage used to store tailings – or leftover slimes and residues – that appear as byproducts of the oil extraction operation.
1. Three Gorges – China
The Three Gorges Dam in China is projected to be the absolute largest in the world. Expected to hold over 39,300,000,000 in volume, the reservoir is complete but the actual dam itself will not be completed until later this year. The construction of this dam had a huge impact on life in Sandouping, resulting not only in the relocation of dozens of villages but in the scenery as well. Because of the height of the Three Gorges Dam the mountains now look a bit lower than they actually are.
These dams are not only amongst the largest, but are considered some of the most functional, beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing in the world. Don’t hesitate to visit one if you’re ever in the area. Seeing one of the enormous dams in person will prove to be an absolutely breathtaking experience.