The reservoir was constructed during 1955-1956, during the Soviet era. It provides water to Narva Hydroelectric Station (installed capacity 125 MW, located on the Russian side and owned by the power company TGC-1) and cooling water to the Estonian Narva Power Plants. Its surface area at normal headwater level of 25 metres (82 ft) is 191 square kilometres (74 sq mi), of which 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi) belongs to Estonia. Its drainage basin is 55,848 square kilometres (21,563 sq mi).
The overall water exchange rate is high (about 30 times year), with some almost stagnant areas. The ecological status is estimated as "good" (as of 2007).