Man-made lakes or reservoirs are usually created by constructing dams over a river, and as water accumulates behind the dam, it forms an artificial basin. They can be used for agricultural irrigation, flood control, recreation, drinking water supply, or hydroelectric power generation. According to the National Aquatic Resource Surveys, there are 53,119 man-made lakes in the world, and they differ in surface area and nominal volume or capacity.
List of Largest Man-Made Lakes
1. Lake Kariba
Situated along the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is Lake Kariba, which is the largest man-made lake by volume in the world. This reservoir built on the Zambezi River is over 223 km long, up to 40 km width, and has an area of 5,580 sq. km with a storage capacity of 185 cubic km. When the artificial lake was being filled between 1958 and 1963, it was believed to have caused over 20 earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 5 on the Richter scale. As of late December 2019, the water levels had fallen significantly due to drought causing as much as 18-hour blackouts per day in the region.
2. Bratsk Reservoir
This man-made reservoir named after its largest adjacent city was constructed on the Angara River in Irkutsk Oblast, Russia. It has a surface area of 5,470 sq. km and can hold 169.27 cubic km volume of water, making this the second largest in terms of volume but sixth in surface area. The dam that is 125 meters high and 4,417 meters long was completed in 1967. This hydroelectric reservoir has the electrical power capacity of 4,500 MW.
3. Lake Volta
Ghana’s Lake Volta is considered the largest artificially created lake in the world based on surface area, which is 8,502 sq. km, as it covers 3.6 percent of the land area of the country. It is the third largest in terms of volume size. The reservoir formed by the Akosombo Dam constructed from 1961 to 1965 can hold 124,000,000 acre-feet of water with the primary inflows or source of water coming from White Volta and Black Volta rivers. This provides the majority of the country’s electricity.
4. Manicouagan Reservoir
The construction of the Daniel-Johnson dam between 1959 and 1970 impounded or held back the Manicouagan River, which caused the Manicouagan crater to fill, forming the Manicouagan reservoir. It has a surface area of 1,950 sq. km with a maximum depth of 350 m and average depth of 85 m that can contain 142 cubic km of water. This reservoir is in Central Quebec, Canada, and it is considered the fourth largest in the world in terms of volume holding capacity.
5. Lake Guri
One of the largest man-made blackwater lakes in the world, Lake Guri, has a surface area of 4,250 sq. km and a total capacity of 109,446,281 acre-feet. It was created with the construction of the Guri dam from 1963 to 1969 on the Caroni River in Bolivar State, Venezuela. The hydroelectric power generated is used to supply most of Venezuelan’s electricity. In 2010, rolling blackouts were imposed by the government due to low water levels brought by prolonged droughts. Then, in March 2019, the facility failed, causing nationwide blackouts.
6. Lake Nasser
This man-made reservoir is located in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Lake Nasser only refers to 83 percent of the lake that is in Egyptian territory; the smaller portion located in Sudan is called Lake Nubia. Lake Nasser is 550 km long and 35 km at its widest point covering a total surface area of 5,250 sq. km with a storage capacity of 132 sq. km. It was formed when the Aswan High Dam was constructed across the Nile between 1958 and 1970.
7. Williston Lake
Located in the Northern Interior of the British Columbia, Canada is the Williston Lake, which was created in 1968 when W.A.C. Bennett Dam was constructed along the Peace River. It has a maximum length of 251 km, maximum width of 155 km, average depth of 42 m, and a surface area of 1,761 sq. km. It can hold 60,000,000 acre-feet of water, making it the seventh largest reservoir in the world in terms of volume capacity. There are eight rivers and two creeks that flow into this lake.
8. Krasnoyarsk Reservoir
This artificial lake in Russia, also called Krasnoyarsk Sea, has a surface area of 2,000 sq. km with an average depth of 37 meters and a maximum depth of 105 meters. The total length of the reservoir is 388 km and the width is 15 km at its widest point. The primary inflows or source of water comes from Tuba, Sisim, Biryusa, and Yenisei. This lake was created with the construction of the Krasnoyarsk Dam.
9. Zeya Reservoir
The concrete gravity dam in Russia that was built from 1965 to 1975 on the Zeya River created the Zeya Reservoir. This man-made reservoir has a surface area of 2,420 sq. km, maximum length of 225 km, maximum width of 40 km, and a maximum depth of 93 meters. It has a total capacity of 68.4 cubic km. It is the ninth largest man-made lakes in the world in terms of volume, but 20th largest in surface area.
10. Robert-Bourassa Reservoir
The Robert-Bourassa Dam built across the valley of the La Grande River in northern Quebec, Canada created this man-made lake, which is the tenth largest in the world. It has a maximum surface area of 2,835 sq. km, maximum depth of 137 m, and an average depth of 21.8 m; it can hold 61.7 cubic km volume of water. The dam was built from 1974 to 1978 mainly to provide water for the Robert-Bourassa Generating Station. It is now considered as the world’s largest underground generating station with a power-generating capacity of 7,722 MW.
There are many great benefits to having dams and man-made lakes, but it comes at a price. The building of large dams especially in flat basins caused flooding of the land, which displaced people living in the area, destroyed habitats, and disrupted ecosystems. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recommends that governments should make use of technologies that would provide water and energy without destroying the natural environment.
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