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Top 10 Largest Dams In the World in 2024

Dams are some of the most massive structures ever built by man. They are used for several purposes from storing water to generating hydroelectric power. Building dams is one of the best ways to generate electricity. That is why many countries build huge dams. Here is the list of the 10 biggest dams in the world. 

List of 10 Biggest Dams In the World

  1. Three Gorges Dam (China)
  2. Itaipu Dam (Brazil/Paraguay)
  3. Xiluodu Dam (China)
  4. Guri Dam (Venezuela)
  5. Tucuruí Dam (Brazil)
  6. Grand Coulee Dam (United States)
  7. Longtan Dam (China)
  8. Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam (Russia)
  9. Krasnoyarsk Dam (Russia)
  10. Robert-Bourassa Dam (Canada)     

1. Three Gorges Dam (China)

The Three Gorges Dam, located in China, stands as one of the largest dams globally, spanning the Yangtze River in Hubei Province. Completed in 2006, this colossal structure took 17 years to build, costing approximately $28 billion. Its primary purpose is flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and improving navigation along the Yangtze.

Stretching over 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) in length and reaching a height of 185 meters (607 feet), the dam’s reservoir can hold up to 39.3 cubic kilometers (9.43 cubic miles) of water. This vast capacity helps regulate water flow, reducing the risk of floods downstream. Furthermore, the dam’s hydroelectric capacity is immense, boasting 34 generators with a combined output of 22.5 gigawatts. This output provides clean energy to millions of homes and businesses, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Construction of the Three Gorges Dam involved relocating over 1.2 million people and required extensive environmental impact assessments. Despite controversy surrounding its ecological effects, such as altered sediment flow and impacts on aquatic life, the dam has significantly reduced flood damage along the Yangtze, protecting millions of people.

In addition to flood control and power generation, the dam facilitates navigation by improving water depth and reducing the need for dredging. It also features a ship lift capable of transporting vessels up to 3,000 tons, enhancing transportation efficiency on the river.

The Three Gorges Dam exemplifies engineering prowess, providing vital services to China while also raising questions about environmental sustainability and social impacts.

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2. Itaipu Dam (Brazil/Paraguay)

Completed in 1984, the Itaipu Dam stands as a monumental engineering feat on the Paraná River, shared between Brazil and Paraguay. Its construction required immense effort and collaboration, taking 16 years to complete and involving thousands of workers. The dam’s primary purpose was to generate hydroelectric power, and it remains a global leader in this regard.

At 7,919 meters in length and 196 meters in height, Itaipu is one of the largest dams in the world by volume. Its reservoir covers an area of approximately 1,350 square kilometers, capable of holding an astounding 29.3 cubic kilometers of water. The power plant’s maximum capacity is a staggering 14 GW, making it a vital source of electricity for both Brazil and Paraguay.

What’s particularly impressive about Itaipu is its consistent performance. Since its inauguration, it has maintained a high level of efficiency, producing record-breaking amounts of clean energy. In 2016, Itaipu set a new world record by generating over 103 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, a testament to its technological prowess and operational excellence.

Furthermore, Itaipu plays a significant role in sustainability efforts. By harnessing the power of water, it avoids the emission of millions of tons of greenhouse gases annually, contributing positively to environmental conservation.

Beyond its technical specifications, Itaipu serves as a symbol of international cooperation between Brazil and Paraguay. The project’s success highlights the benefits of cross-border partnerships in tackling complex challenges and achieving ambitious goals in energy production and infrastructure development.

3. Xiluodu Dam (China)

Completed in 2013, the Xiluodu Dam stands as a monumental feat of engineering in China. Its construction took over six years and it was officially inaugurated on October 30, 2013. This hydroelectric dam spans the Jinsha River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Xiluodu’s primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation, contributing significantly to China’s renewable energy capacity. With a staggering height of 278 meters (912 feet) and a crest length of 700 meters (2,297 feet), it ranks as one of the tallest and longest dams globally. The reservoir created by the dam covers an immense area of about 600 square kilometers (232 square miles), providing ample water storage for power generation and flood control.

The dam’s construction required immense resources, including over 16 million cubic meters of concrete and a workforce of thousands. Its hydroelectric capacity is immense, generating up to 13.86 gigawatts of electricity, which is vital for meeting China’s growing energy demands sustainably.

Moreover, Xiluodu Dam plays a crucial role in water resource management, especially during the dry season, regulating river flow to support downstream irrigation and industrial needs. Its reservoir capacity of 12.67 billion cubic meters helps mitigate floods and ensures a stable water supply for various purposes.

Since its completion, the Xiluodu Dam has significantly contributed to China’s renewable energy portfolio and has become a symbol of the country’s commitment to sustainable development. It represents not only a technological marvel but also a strategic asset for energy security and environmental management in the region.

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4. Guri Dam (Venezuela)

The Guri Dam in Venezuela stands as one of the world’s largest dams, boasting impressive dimensions and capabilities. Constructed on the Caroní River, a tributary of the Orinoco River, this monumental structure began its journey in 1963, with construction completed in 1986. This ambitious project was aimed at harnessing Venezuela’s hydroelectric potential, contributing significantly to the nation’s energy needs.

At its core, the Guri Dam is a concrete gravity dam, standing at a towering height of approximately 162 meters (531 feet). Its crest length stretches to about 1,300 meters (4,265 feet), making it a formidable presence in the landscape. The reservoir formed by the dam, known as Lake Guri, has a staggering surface area of around 4,250 square kilometers (1,641 square miles) when full, making it one of the largest man-made reservoirs globally.

In terms of electricity generation, the Guri Dam is a powerhouse, quite literally. Its installed capacity hovers around 10,235 megawatts (MW), with an annual energy production of approximately 47,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh). This output plays a crucial role in Venezuela’s energy matrix, accounting for a substantial portion of the country’s electricity supply.

However, the Guri Dam hasn’t been without its challenges. Environmental concerns, including impacts on local ecosystems and communities, have been subjects of debate and scrutiny over the years. Additionally, issues such as sedimentation in the reservoir and fluctuations in water levels due to climate variations have required ongoing management and adaptation strategies.

Despite these challenges, the Guri Dam remains a symbol of engineering prowess and a vital asset in Venezuela’s energy infrastructure, showcasing the immense potential and complexities associated with large-scale hydroelectric projects.

5. Tucuruí Dam (Brazil)

Completed in 1984, the Tucuruí Dam stands as a colossal hydroelectric project in Brazil, a nation renowned for its environmental diversity and energy innovation. This concrete gravity dam spans the Tocantins River, with a length reaching 12,327 feet (3,758 meters) and a height of 292 feet (89 meters). Its reservoir covers an impressive area of 2,430 square miles (6,297 square kilometers), making it one of the largest reservoirs globally.

The dam’s construction was a massive endeavor, with around 44 million cubic meters of concrete utilized in its creation. It boasts an installed capacity of 8,370 megawatts, contributing significantly to Brazil’s energy grid and economic development. The power generated here supports industries, urban centers, and rural electrification, underpinning Brazil’s growth as an emerging economy.

Beyond its sheer size and electrical output, the Tucuruí Dam represents a triumph in engineering and environmental management. It includes a navigational lock system, facilitating river transportation and trade along the Tocantins River. Moreover, the dam’s reservoir has become a hub for fishing activities, providing sustenance and livelihoods for local communities.

However, the dam’s construction and operation haven’t been without controversy. Environmentalists have raised concerns about its impact on local ecosystems, particularly regarding deforestation and altered river flow patterns. Efforts are ongoing to mitigate these effects through sustainable practices and conservation initiatives.

Despite these challenges, the Tucuruí Dam remains a pivotal infrastructure project, showcasing Brazil’s capacity for large-scale engineering and its commitment to harnessing renewable energy sources for national development. Its legacy continues to shape the country’s energy landscape and environmental policies, serving as a testament to the intersection of technology, nature, and human progress.

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6. Grand Coulee Dam (United States)

The Grand Coulee Dam, located in Washington State, United States, stands as one of the largest dams globally, boasting impressive statistics and rich history. Construction of this monumental structure commenced in 1933 and concluded in 1942, making it one of the oldest among the largest dams.

This massive dam spans the Columbia River, with a length of about 1.6 kilometers and a height of around 168 meters, making it taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its primary purpose is to generate hydroelectric power, contributing significantly to the region’s energy needs. The dam’s powerhouse contains 33 generating units, capable of producing over 6,800 megawatts of electricity, making it one of the most productive hydroelectric facilities worldwide.

Grand Coulee Dam also serves irrigation purposes, with its reservoir, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, providing water to over 600,000 acres of agricultural land. This has been instrumental in transforming the region into a fertile farming area.

The construction of Grand Coulee Dam marked a significant engineering achievement during its time, employing over 8,000 workers during peak construction periods. Its completion brought substantial economic benefits to the region, facilitating industrial growth and agricultural development.

In addition to its functional significance, the dam has become a notable tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world to witness its sheer scale and engineering prowess. Its annual laser light show, illuminating the dam’s structure with vibrant colors, is a popular event that celebrates its historical and technological importance.

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7. Longtan Dam (China)

Completed in 2009, the Longtan Dam in China stands as a testament to modern engineering prowess, boasting a height of 216.5 meters and a length of 849 meters. This colossal structure is situated on the Hongshui River in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Its reservoir has a capacity of 27.3 billion cubic meters, making it one of the largest in the world.

Construction of the Longtan Dam began in 2001 and was completed in just eight years, showcasing China’s rapid development in infrastructure. The dam serves multiple purposes, including flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and water supply for irrigation. Its power station has an installed capacity of 6,426 MW, making it one of the most powerful hydroelectric stations globally.

The dam’s construction involved substantial challenges, including the relocation of over 75,000 people and the inundation of significant land areas. Despite these complexities, the project was successfully executed, highlighting China’s capabilities in managing large-scale engineering endeavors.

Since its completion, the Longtan Dam has played a crucial role in China’s energy landscape, contributing significantly to the country’s renewable energy goals. It harnesses the river’s power to generate electricity, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating environmental impacts.

Furthermore, the dam has become a tourist attraction, drawing visitors who marvel at its sheer scale and the engineering marvel it represents. The Longtan Dam stands as a symbol of human ingenuity and the drive to harness nature’s resources for sustainable development.

8. Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam (Russia)

The Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam, located in Russia, stands as one of the largest dams globally, holding significant records in hydroelectric power generation. Completed in 1978, this colossal structure spans the Yenisei River in the Siberian region. Its height reaches a towering 242 meters (794 feet), making it one of the tallest dams on the planet.

Operated by RusHydro, the dam boasts an impressive power generation capacity of 6,400 megawatts. However, in 2009, a catastrophic accident occurred due to a turbine malfunction, causing the dam’s turbine hall to flood and resulting in multiple casualties and extensive damage. The incident led to a significant reduction in power output and a lengthy reconstruction period.

Despite this setback, the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam remains a vital energy asset for Russia, contributing substantially to its electricity supply. Its reservoir, with a capacity of 31.3 cubic kilometers (7.5 cubic miles), provides ample water storage for consistent power generation, particularly during peak demand periods.

The dam’s construction and ongoing maintenance require meticulous engineering and management due to its immense scale and strategic importance. It serves as a testament to Russia’s capabilities in harnessing hydropower for national energy needs.

Moreover, the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam has become a tourist attraction, drawing visitors to witness its grandeur and learn about its operational intricacies. The dam’s integration into the surrounding landscape, including the Sayano-Shushenski Nature Reserve, also highlights efforts to balance energy development with environmental conservation.

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9. Krasnoyarsk Dam (Russia)

Completed in 1972, the Krasnoyarsk Dam stands as one of Russia’s monumental engineering achievements. This colossal structure spans the Yenisei River, creating the Krasnoyarsk Reservoir and generating hydroelectric power on a massive scale. With a length of 1,065 meters and a height of 124 meters, it’s among the largest dams globally, boasting a capacity of 6,000 MW.

Construction commenced in 1956, involving tens of thousands of workers and engineers in a project that lasted over 15 years. The dam’s strategic significance lies not only in its energy production but also in its role in regulating the river’s flow and supporting navigation along the Yenisei.

The reservoir formed by the dam stretches over 400 kilometers in length, providing water for irrigation, industrial use, and maintaining river ecosystems. The Krasnoyarsk Dam’s impact extends beyond energy generation, influencing regional development and water resource management.

Its concrete gravity structure represents the cutting-edge engineering of its time, showcasing Russia’s expertise in large-scale infrastructure projects. The dam’s location in the Siberian wilderness posed numerous challenges during construction, from extreme weather conditions to logistical hurdles, but these were overcome through innovative techniques and determination.

10. Robert-Bourassa Dam (Canada)

The Robert Bourassa Dam in Canada stands as one of the largest dams globally, showcasing impressive engineering feats and significant contributions to power generation. Completed in 1981, this hydroelectric dam spans the La Grande River in northern Quebec, creating the vast Robert Bourassa Reservoir, also known as the La Grande-2-A Reservoir. The dam was initially named La Grande-2, but in 1995, it was renamed to honor Robert Bourassa, a former Premier of Quebec.

This colossal structure reaches a height of 162 meters (531 feet) and boasts a crest length of 2,835 meters (9,301 feet). It has a maximum reservoir capacity of approximately 61.5 billion cubic meters (49.9 million acre-feet) and covers an area of over 2,800 square kilometers (1,080 square miles) when full. These dimensions underscore its immense scale and capacity for water storage.

The Robert-Bourassa Dam plays a pivotal role in hydroelectric power generation, with an installed capacity of 5,616 megawatts (MW) across its 16 generating units. This capacity is sufficient to power over a million homes annually. Its construction required vast amounts of concrete, totaling around 2.9 million cubic meters (3.8 million cubic yards), and involved extensive planning and execution over several years.

Moreover, the dam’s strategic location within Quebec’s hydroelectric network contributes significantly to the province’s energy production, reinforcing its status as a key player in renewable energy. The Robert-Bourassa Dam stands as a testament to Canada’s engineering prowess and commitment to sustainable energy solutions, showcasing the potential of large-scale hydroelectric projects to meet power demands while minimizing environmental impact.

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Largest Dams in the World by Height 

NameYear of CompletionRiverCountryHeight (m)
Jinping-I Dam2013YalongChina305 
Nurek1980VakhshTajikistan300
Grande Dixence1961DixenceSwitzerland285
Inguri1980InguriGeorgia272
Vaiont1961VaiontItaly262
Chicoasen1980GrijalvaMexico261

Largest Dams in the World by Volume

NameYear of CompletionRiverCountryVolume (Cubic Metres)
Syncrude TailingsN/A4Canada750,000
New Cornelia Tailings1973Ten Mile WashUS209,500
Tarbela1977IndusPakistan106,000
Fort Peck1937MissouriUS96,050
Lower Usuma1990UsumaNigeria93,000

Largest Dams in the World by Size of Reservoir

NameYear of CompletionRiverCountryReservoir capacity (Cubic Metres)
Owen Falls1954Victoria NileUganda2,700,000,000^5
Kakhovka1955DnieperUkraine182,000,000
Kariba1959ZambeziZimbabwe-Zambia180,600,000
Bratsk1964AngaraRussia169,270,000
Aswan High1970NileEgypt168,900,000

Largest Dams in the World by Power Capacity       

NameYear of CompletionRiverCountryInstalled capacity(megawatts)
Itaipú1982ParanáBrazil-Paraguay12,600
Guri (Raúl Leoni)1986CaroníVenezuela10,300
Grand Coulee1941ColumbiaUS6,480
Sayano-Shushenskoye1989YeniseyRussia6,400
Krasnoyarsk1967YeniseyRussia6,000

Conclusion

The largest dams in the world stand as monumental engineering feats, reshaping landscapes and powering economies. One standout is the Three Gorges Dam in China, completed in 2006 at a staggering cost of $28 billion. It spans the Yangtze River and boasts a length of 2.3 kilometers, generating 22,500 megawatts of electricity annually.

Following closely is the Itaipu Dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border, operational since 1984 and producing a remarkable 103.1 terawatt-hours of energy by 2021. Its colossal scale includes 20 turbines, each capable of generating 700 megawatts.

The Grand Coulee Dam in the United States remains an emblem of American ingenuity, completed in 1942 and still generating around 21 billion kilowatt-hours yearly. Its 168-meter-high concrete structure serves irrigation, flood control, and electricity production.

These mega-structures underscore humanity’s ability to harness nature for sustainable development, providing vital resources while balancing environmental concerns. As populations grow and energy demands rise, such dams continue to play a crucial role in shaping our modern world.

FAQs

Which Is the 7th Largest Dam in the World?

The 7th largest dam in the world is the Xiluodu Dam in China, standing at a height of 285 meters.

Which Is the Largest Dam in Pakistan?

The largest dam in Pakistan is the Tarbela Dam, located on the Indus River. It is one of the largest earth-filled dams in the world.

Which Is the Largest Dam in Asia?

The largest dam in Asia is the Three Gorges Dam in China. It’s not only the largest in Asia but also the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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