List of reservoirs by volume

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The classification of a reservoir by volume is not as straightforward as it may seem. As the name implies, water is held in reserve by a reservoir so it can serve a purpose. For example, in Thailand, reservoirs tend to store water from the wet season to prevent flooding, then releases it during the dry season for farmers to grow rice. For this type of reservoir, almost the entire volume of the reservoir functions for the purpose it was built. Hydroelectric power generation, on the other hand, requires many dams to build up a large volume before operation can begin. For this type of reservoir only a small portion of the water held behind the dam is useful. Therefore, knowing the purpose for which a reservoir has been constructed, and knowing how much water can be used for that purpose, helps determine how much water is in possible reserve.


The following terms are used in connection with the volume of reservoirs:

Nominal Volume or Capacity is the total volume of all water held behind a dam at the maximum level possible.

Initial or Design Volume refers to the possible volume within the reservoir after it first opens. Many rivers are high in silt that over time deposits behind a dam reducing capacity.

Active or Live volume equals the total capacity minus the dead pool volume. This is the volume that can serve some downstream purpose. For example, it is the volume available to make hydroelectric power or provide drinking water to a city.

Dead pool or Minimum volume refers to the amount of water left in a reservoir that cannot be used for the general purpose the reservoir was constructed. At this state, the reservoir is termed fully drawn down. For example, if built to supply water in the dry season, it is the water left behind when no more water can be extracted. Frequently, the effective minimum volume is greater if the water is needed for a purpose behind a dam.

Available capacity may require knowing the reservoir's primary purpose. If it is designed to prevent flooding, it may be the volume of water that can be retained before reaching maximum or top water.

Actual or Current when coupled with another term reflects the fact the level behind the dam is not constant.

Expanded versus artificial lakes[edit]

The list below largely ignores many natural lakes that have been augmented with the addition of a relatively minor dam. For example, a small dam, two hydroelectric plants, and locks on the outlet of Lake Superior make it possible to artificially control the lake level. Certainly, the great majority of the lake is natural. However, the control of water that can be held in reserve means a portion of the vast lake functions as a reservoir.

Recognition of lakes like Lake Superior greatly changes the list below. For example, the Francis H. Clergue Generating Station and Saint Marys Falls Hydropower Plant, which are both on the lake's outlet, operate with just 5.9 meters total head. This is short compared to other dams. However, when viewed against the 81,200 km2 area of the lake, even a small range in Lake Superior's water level means its active volume is greater than the largest nominal in the table below.


Rank Reservoir Dam River Country Year Nominal volume km³ Ref.
1 Lake Kariba Kariba Dam Zambezi River  Zambia and  Zimbabwe 1959 180.6 ,[1] 160.3[2]
2 Bratsk Reservoir Bratsk Dam Angara River  Russia 1964 169 ,[1] 169.3[2]
3 Lake Volta Akosombo Dam Volta River  Ghana 1965 150 ,[1] 148[2]
4 Manicouagan Reservoir Daniel-Johnson Dam Manicouagan River  Canada 1968 141.85 ,[1] 141.7[2]
5 Lake Guri Guri Dam Caroní River  Venezuela 1986 135 [1]
6 Lake Nasser Aswan High Dam Nile River  Egypt 1971 132 [3]
7 Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Blue Nile River  Ethiopia under construction 79 [4]
8 Williston Lake W. A. C. Bennett Dam Peace River  Canada 1967 74.3 [1]
9 Krasnoyarsk Reservoir (ru) Krasnoyarsk Dam Yenisei River  Russia 1967 73.3 [1][2]
10 Zeya Reservoir Zeya Hydroelectric Station (ru) Zeya River  Russia 1978 68.4 [1][2]
11 Robert-Bourassa Reservoir Robert-Bourassa generating station La Grande River  Canada 1981 61.71 [1]
12 La Grande-3 Nord Reservoir La Grande-3 generating station La Grande River  Canada 1981 60.02 [1]
13 Ust-Ilimsk Reservoir Ust-Ilimsk Dam Angara River  Russia 1977 59.3 [1][2]
14 Boguchany Reservoir Boguchany Dam Angara River  Russia 2012 58.2 [1]
15 Kuybyshev Reservoir Zhiguli Hydroelectric Station Volga River  Russia 1955 58 [1][2]
16 Cahora Bassa Cahora Bassa Dam Zambezi River  Mozambique 1974 55.8 [1]
17 Serra da Mesa Reservoir Serra da Mesa Dam Tocantins River  Brazil 1998 54.4 [5]
18 Caniapiscau Reservoir Brisay generating station Caniapiscau River  Canada 1981 53.8 [1]
19 PatiChapetón(proposal) Paraná River  Argentina ? 53.7 [1]
20 Bukhtarma Reservoir (ru) Bukhtarma Hydroelectric Power Plant Irtysh River  Kazakhstan 1967 53 [1][2]
21 Danjiangkou Reservoir Danjiangkou Dam Han River (Yangtze River tributary)  People's Republic of China 1962 51.6 [1]
22 Lake Atatürk Dam Atatürk Dam Euphrates  Turkey 1992 48.7 [1]
23 Irkutsk Reservoir Irkutsk Dam Angara River  Russia 1956 46 [1]
24 Tucuruí Dam Tocantins River  Brazil 1984 45.54 [1]
25 Los Barreales Lake?[verification needed] Loma de la Lata Dam? (Cerros Colorados Complex)[verification needed] Neuquén River  Argentina 1973 43.5 [1]
26 Mari Menuco Lake?[verification needed] Planicie Banderita hydroelectric power plant (Cerros Colorados Complex) Neuquén River  Argentina 1979 43 [1]
27 Three Gorges Reservoir Three Gorges Dam Yangtze River  People's Republic of China 2009 39.3 [1]
28 Lake Mead Hoover Dam Colorado River  United States 1936 37.3 [1]
29 Winar Grue?[verification needed]  Canada 1952 37 [1]
30 Roseires Reservoir Roseires Dam Blue Nile  Sudan 1966 36.3 [1]
31 Vilyuy Reservoir (ru) Vilyuy Dam (ru) Vilyuy River  Russia 1967 35.9 [1]
32 Lake Powell Glen Canyon Dam Colorado River  United States 1964 35.55 [1]
33 Nechako Reservoir Kenney Dam NechakoKemano  Canada 1966 35 [1]
34 Sobradinho Reservoir Sobradinho Dam São Francisco River  Brazil 1979 34.1 [1]
35 Smallwood Reservoir Churchill Falls Churchill River  Canada 1971 32.64 [1]
36 Jenpeg Dam Lake Winnipeg outlet  Canada 1975 31.79 [1]
37 Keban Dam Lake Keban Dam Euphrates  Turkey 1971 31.5 [1]
38 Volgograd Reservoir Volga Hydroelectric Station Volga River  Russia 1958 31.5 [1]
39 Sayano-Shushenskoye Reservoir (ru) Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam Yenisei River  Russia 1990 31.3 [1]
40 Lake Sakakawea Garrison Dam Missouri River  United States 1953 30.22 [1]
41 Lake Kossou Kossou Dam Bandama River  Ivory Coast 1961 30 [1]
42 Iroquois Dam St. Lawrence River  Canada 1958 29.96 [1]
43 Lake Oahe Oahe Dam Missouri River  United States 1966 29.11 [1]
44 Lake Itaipu (pt) Itaipu Dam Paraná River  Brazil and  Paraguay 1983 29 [1]
45 Rybinsk Reservoir Rybinsk Dam Volga River  Russia 1941-1947 25.4
46 Sanmenxia Reservoir Sanmenxia Dam Yellow River  People's Republic of China 1962 16.2 [1][2]
47 Mingachevir reservoir Mingachevir Dam Kura River  Azerbaijan 1953 15.73
48 Merowe Dam Nile River  Sudan 2009 12.50 [6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap B. F. Chao; Y. H. Wu; Y. S. Li (2008). "Impact of Artificial Reservoir Water Impoundment on Global Sea Level". Science. 320 (5): 212–214. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1154580. PMID 18339903. Compiles a database of world dams using the International Commission on Large Dams database.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Avakyan AB, Ovchinnikova SP (1971). "Foreign experience and techniques". Hydrotechnical Construction. 5 (8): 773–777. doi:10.1007/BF02403626.
  3. ^
  4. ^ name=salinides>"Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project". Salini. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Hydroelectric Power DA SERRA MESA (1.275MW)" (in Portuguese). Eletrobras Furnas. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  6. ^ "Merowe Dam: Structure".