Hydraulic Dam: How Do They Work?

Feb. 02, 2024

The hydraulic dam stands as a prominent solution for power generation while being a renewable energy source. Addressing the challenge of runoff has been a crucial aspect of human development, with early recognition of the need to control fresh water. Today, with advanced systems, we not only manage the flows and masses of fresh water but also harness different types of energy through hydraulic dams.


The history of hydraulic dams dates back to around 3500 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. Initially constructed for storing or diverting water for consumption and agriculture, these dams also served as vital maritime defense structures. It wasn't until the 19th century that hydraulic dams found expanded use for purposes such as land reclamation, facilitating ship traffic, and electricity generation.


What is a Hydraulic Dam?


A hydraulic dam is essentially a structure built along the perimeter of a river or lake to either divert or impound water. Typically constructed from concrete, these dams take advantage of natural water basin closures or gorges. They enable the utilization of retained water to generate electricity and provide control over water through various drainage mechanisms.


Hydraulic Dam

Key Terms and Components:


1. Reservoir: Refers to the total volume of water stored and held back by the dam.


2. Dam: The section of the structure responsible for halting the water flow, which can occur naturally or be created artificially.


3. Nozzle: The delimited area, whether closed or not, where the dam is constructed.


4. Spleen: The land surface functioning as a reservoir, containing the entire volume of water.


5. Spillway: A hydraulic structure within the dam designed to eliminate excess water volume from the reservoir.


6. Bottom Drain: A structure responsible for maintaining an ecological water flow below the hydraulic dam.


Classification of Hydraulic Dams Based on Operation


Hydraulic dams can be categorized into three types based on their operation:


1. Reservoir Dam:


This type stores water in a reservoir, releasing it through a rotating turbine. The flowing water activates a generator, producing electrical energy. Reservoir dams are common, allowing flexibility to meet changing electricity needs and regulate reservoir levels easily.


2. Diversion Dam:


Constructed in the middle of a river's flow, diversion dams differ from reservoir dams. They do not retain a water reservoir but instead redirect water to a channel with various uses, including passing through electric generators to produce energy.


3. Pumped Storage Dams:


Functioning like a battery, pumped storage dams store electricity generated externally by pumping water uphill to a higher reservoir. When electricity is needed, the water is released from the reservoir to drive the electricity-generating turbines.


Classification of Hydraulic Dams Based on Size


Hydraulic dams vary in size, and their classification is closely tied to electricity generation capacity:


1. Giant Hydraulic Dam:


Facilities with a capacity exceeding 30 MW.


2. Small Hydraulic Dam:


Dams capable of generating around 10 MW.


3. Micro Hydraulic Dam:


Microelectric plants with a capacity of approximately 100 kW. These small energy systems cater to supplying electricity to private properties.


Today, hydraulic dams are integral to global energy production systems and are considered the most significant form of renewable energy production worldwide. They currently fulfill around 20% of the world's electricity demand. While highly advantageous, their primary drawback lies in their dependence on weather conditions.




Hydraulic dams, as advanced engineering structures, offer solutions for clean energy and water resource management. However, a delicate balance must be struck between their benefits and the environmental and social impacts they may pose. In the continually evolving field of engineering, we anticipate seeing more sustainable and environmentally-friendly hydraulic dam constructions.


If you are seeking further information about hydraulic dams or looking for a reliable supplier, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Hydraulic Dam

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