A structure that is built through a stream or river for holding the water back is referred to as a dam. Throughout the centuries, several materials have been utilized by the people for building the dams.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dams

Advantages and Disadvantages of Dams
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

In ancient times, builders utilized materials found in nature like clay or rocks for building the dams. In contrast, current builders of dams often utilize concrete.

Dams are hydraulic constructions built for storing water on its side of upstream through a river. It is a fairly or impervious barrier that is put through a natural stream, resulting in the formation of a reservoir.

Reservoirs are the artificial lakes that are created with the dams for storing water to be utilized in household applications, industry, and farming. Dams also benefit people by safeguarding them from floods.

Dams are primarily motivated in producing hydroelectricity through the harnessing of the mechanical energy created via the flowing water’s force through hydro-power plants. Gravity dams were the first dams created by humans. Their building material was either concrete or masonry that resisted the load of the water due to their weight.

According to Brandon Miller, the first gravity dam, known as Sadd el-Kafara meaning Dam of the Pagans is considered to be built via the ancient Egyptians. That structure is believed to be around 350 feet in width and 37 feet in height at its crest.

Throughout history, people have been viewing the dams as a human inventiveness’s symbol. But, ecologists concerned with the study of lakes and rivers have exposed some downsides to the environment on the construction of the dam.

The functioning process of the rivers is altered via dams, and in certain conditions, this might lead to harming of the populations of the local fish.

Dams can satisfy the demands of the energy of the growing population, but at the same time can lead to the flooding of a large portion of the respective reason.

Hence, before deciding the long-term and instant influences of the dams to nature and the living organisms, you should consider the evaluation of the following presented merits and demerits of dams.

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Advantages of Dams

The world is gradually moving towards the clean energy and Electricity holds a major chunk as a source of clean energy. However, there are many other advantages of constructing a dam which are discussed below.

1. Clean Energy

Supply of about 19% of the energy of the world is done via the hydroelectricity, which offers more than about 3000 terawatts every year. The production of the power is possible through dams due to the kinetic energy of the movement of the water, resulting in the spinning of the turbines that grants in the generation of the renewable and clean energy.

2. Drinking Water

A storage’s portion can be taken out from the reservoirs and provided for industry, municipal, and drinking. The water extracted through the reservoir, after adequate treatment, can be utilized for satisfying the need of drinking water to several nearby villages and towns.

3. Firm Navigation

Dams on rivers can be utilized for delivering a system of stable transportation of inland water. The United States’ navigable ways of water can be provided with a locks’ system using this technology for generating a safe region for people to transport supplies along with a series of other welfare.

4. Facility of Irrigation

The immense quantity of water stored in the reservoirs of dams can be utilized for facilitating irrigation to the nearby fields. In the United States, around 10% of the lands of the crop are presently irrigated with the application of the water from a dam’s reservoir, benefiting thousands of jobs associated to the production of the crop.

5. Control of Flood

Prevention of the loss of the property along with the limitation in the risk to the life of the human from yearly events of the flood can be done with the aid of dams. Dams confiscate the waters from the flood into the reservoir behind them, granting us the facility of storing or releasing it within the controlled condition. Diversion of the extra precipitation can be done for serving irrigation, drinking water, etc., needs, leading to the control of flood.

Disadvantages of Dams

Regardless of the above-illustrated advantages, there are several drawbacks of dams that are presented in the below section.

1. Wastage of Water

On experiencing deepening by the riverbeds, a lower table of the groundwater is created with the river via this issue. Because of this, roots of the plants find it hard for reaching the needed survival quantity and the villages near dams are mandated to dig deeper wells for drawing water. Excess quantity of water is wasted in the reservoir, leading to these issues.

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2. Greenhouse Gas

Due to the engulfing of the vegetation in the water, those plants die out eventually, leading to the release of the methane that eventually reaches the atmosphere. Due to the methane being about 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide as a reflector, there is an increment in the greenhouse gases’ production.

3. Risk of Flood

Dams might be thought of the structures that grant us with some form of protection from the flood, however, in the case of this structure’s failure, overwhelming consequences results for the communities in the downstream, leading to the loss of thousands of life and property.

4. The Cost

For the construction of a large dam, its height must be considered to be more than 15 meters. Development of these dams cost more than 20 billion dollars, and the time required for its completion can range in between seven to ten years.

5. Operation and Maintenance

Maintenance of the reservoirs behind the dams is hard for fulfilling the need for irrigation and drinking in the condition of drought due to various challenges like evaporation, leading to the increment in the problems of the environment.


Concluding, with the construction of dams, the rising demand for clean energy can be satisfied and people can attain a source of clean drinking water. Dams aid in controlling the risk of the flood as well as preventing the flow of the debris. Also, the water from the reservoir of the dams can be utilized for serving the purpose of irrigating the agricultural fields.

On the other hand, construction of the dam costs extremely high and the maintenance of the reservoir is very challenging. While dams aid in preventing the flood, the case of its failure can lead to a devastating outcome with the loss of millions of life and property. Hence, one can decide dams to be advantageous or disadvantageous through the above-addressed merits and demerits.


(Last Updated On: November 17, 2020)
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