Building a Dam 101: The Basics You Need to Know

These marvels of engineering have complex construction processes.
Loukia Papadopoulos

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Dams are marvels of engineering that are used to store staggering amounts of water, control flooding, and generate electricity. This begs the question: how are these powerful structures built?

Dams are either built on soil or rock foundations that must be rigid and strong enough to support both the weight of the dam itself and withstand the water pressure exerted on it. As you can imagine, that is a lot of weight to support!

Dam foundations are built below the ground which means pockets of soft soil or rock are sometimes found. These are replaced immediately with stronger materials to ensure the dam’s foundations are as tough as possible. Any fissures and cracks are also filled up with grout.

But where does all the concrete required for dam building come from? How do engineers use water from natural sources to build these structures? How are rivers diverted using tunnels? How do their makers ensure the reservoirs are tough enough to withstand large amounts of water? How are dams tested and what results indicate that a project is good to go? We bring you answers to these questions and more as well as footage from dams around the world.

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