10 Oldest Dams Still In Continuous Use

Dams have been a pioneering engineering invention from the ancient times. Historically, dam constructions have taken place around 3000 BC. The early dam constructions took place in Mesopotamia and the Middle East. The first and earliest known dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan. Several civilizations around the world started to build dams of various types. Most of the ancient dams are not there today. But, few old dams are still in use from the date they were opened. Which are the oldest dams still in use?

Here is the list of 10 oldest dams in the world which are still in continuous use:

10. Almansa Dam, Spain (16th Century AD)

Almansa Dam

Almansa Dam is a masonry gravity dam in the town of Almansa in Albacete province, Spain. It is the oldest functional masonry gravity dam in the world. The dam work probably began in the year 1578. This dam is on the Vega de Belén River. Construction of the dam completed in 1584. The slender structure is 25 m high and 90 m long. The main purpose of the dam was to control flood and provide irrigation.

9. Moti Talab Dam, India (12th Century AD)

Moti Talab

Moti Talab Dam or Tonnur Kere is one of the oldest dams in the world still operating. The meaning of Moti Talab is “Lake of Pearls”. It dates back to 12th Century AD. Tonnur Kere was built by Sri Asuri Ramanujacharya, a Sri Vaishnava Saint. This 1,000 years old dam is spread over an area of 2,150 acres. Sri Ramanujacharya named the dam as “Thirumalasagara”. It is in the Indian state of Karnataka in Mandya district. The dam was built between rocky hills. Later the place was invaded by the Adilshahis of Bijapur and Nasir Jung, the Mughal Subedar of Deccan renamed it as “Moti Talab” referring to its crystal clear water.

8. Sadd-e Kobār Dam, Iran (10th Century AD)

Qom River

Sadd-e Kobār Dam is on the Kowar River, 28 km south-east of Qom city, Iran. The dam was built in 10th Century AD which is an arch-gravity dam. Since then it is still working and functional. The ancient dam is nearby to Darreh-ye Laq Gazī, Zanbūrak and Kūh-e Zanbūrak. The dam is built using limestone and clay. It serves for the purpose of irrigation and water supply to the city. It is 25 m high and 82 m long.

7. Manoike Dam, Japan (701-704 AD)

Manoike Dam is Near the Islands of Shikoku

Manoike Dam is an ancient dam on the Kagawa Prefecture in Japan. The dam is still in use today. It serves the main purpose of irrigation. The earliest known history of Manoke Dam dates back to around 701-704 AD. The dam is from the Taiho era and is built by Michimori Ason, the lord of Sanuki Province. The dam structure is 329 m in length. In the 881 AD flood, the original dam was destroyed. Since then the dam has been constructed several times. The dam currently can hold water capacity of more than 14 million cubic meters of water.

6. Sayamaike Dam, Japan (circa 7th Century AD)

Sayamaike Dam

Sayamaike Dam is one of the precious dams which extract the amazing Japanese water engineering techniques. It is one of the oldest working dams in the world. The dam is in the City of Osakasayama in the Osaka Prefecture of Japan. It was built around 7th Century AD. The 1,400 years old dam has a museum to give credits and respect. The dam has a capacity of 2.8 million m³. The reservoir impound the Nishiyoke River. The repair works for the dam have been contributed by several historical figures of Japan. Some of these historical figures are Gyoki, a Buddhist priest in the Nara period, Chogen, a Buddhist priest in the Kamakura period, and Katagiri Katsumoto, a samurai in the Edo period.

Originally, this dam was the result of flood control measures during agricultural process. Later, the dam was completely remodeled into a flood control dam. An upgradation of the dam took place in 1996.

5. Kaerumataike Dam, Japan (162 AD)

Kaerumataike Dam is on Yodo River

Kaerumataike Dam is a Japanese earthen dam on the Yodo River. This ancient dam was built in the year 162 AD. It is near the City of Nara. Kaerumataike Dam is one of the oldest dams in the world and in Japan. It is still in use today. The dam stands at a height of 17 m and a length of 260 m. Yodo River is fed by Lake Biwa. It is the source of drinking water and irrigation to the people of Kansai Region. The river also powers hydroelectric generators.

4. Kallanai Dam or Grand Anicut, India (circa 2nd Century AD)

Kallanai Dam

Kallanai Dam or Grand Anicut is the fourth oldest dam which is in use even today. The ancient dam was built by the Chola king Karikalan on the Kaveri river around 2nd Century AD. It is in the Indian state of TamilNadu. This dam is the oldest in India which is still in use. The idea behind the 2,000 years old dam was to irrigate the delta districts for rice cultivation. The dam irrigated an area of 69,000 acres during those times. In 19th century, the dam went in a phase of remodeling by the British. By the 20th Century, the dam was irrigating an area of around 1 million acres. There is an ongoing debate that this dam is older than its estimates.

3. Cornalvo Dam, Spain (1st or 2nd century AD)

Cornalvo Dam

Cornalvo Dam is a gravity dam built by the Romans around 1st or 2nd Century AD. It is still in use since then. The dam is in Extremadura, Spain. It is an earthen dam with stone cladding on the water. The Cornalvo Dam is part of Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. The dam impound the Albarregas (Guadiana basin). It stands at a height of 24 m and a length of 194 m. It was the highest dam outside Italy during that period. The continuously functioning dam is the main source of water supply to the City of Merida.

2. Proserpina Dam, Spain (1st or 2nd century AD)

Proserpina Dam

Proserpina Dam is a Roman gravity dam built around 1st or 2nd Century in Extremadura, Spain. Since then the dam is in continuous use. The dam was built as part of an infrastructure development initiative to supply water to the city of Emerita Augusta. The aqueduct leading to the city fell to decay after the fall of Roman Empire. But, the earthen dam is still strong and in use today. It is on the Las Pardillas (Guadiana basin) which has a length of 427.8 m. Since 1993 the dam is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Lake Homs Dam, Syria (1319–1304 BC)

Lake Homs Dam

Lake Homs Dam in Syria is the oldest functional dam in the world. There are hypothesis that this dam has its origin to the Egyptian ruler Sethi around 1319 to 1304 BC. According to the hypothesis, the dam was expanded by the Roman Empire around 284–305. The Roman emperor Diocletian built the structure for irrigation purpose. It has a capacity of 90 million m³. Lake Homs Dam or Quatinah Barrage was probably the largest reservoir in the Near East. It is remarkable that the dam has had very little silting since then. The two kilometer long dam is a gravity dam which is made by Roman concrete core and basalt blocks. Today, the dam has a capacity of around 200 million m³.


Vinod Suthersan is an young tech enthusiast, Blogger addict, Internet craze and thriving to learn new things on the world of Internet.