SPS River Dam Construction

How to Dam a River

Do you wish to build a dam but have no clue where to start? This article will guide you with in-depth instructions on how to build a dam.


  1. Divert the river.Typically you can do this by digging/blasting out a series of trenches leading from well-upstream of the dam site to somewhere downstream. If you do this correctly, the place where you want to put the dam will no longer be in the path of the river. Ensure that the diversion channels can be closed after the dam is completed - you can do this by making sure that there is a closable gate between the beginning of each channel and the river itself.
    • How much water are you thinking of holding back behind your dam? You need to make sure there is enough space to hold it all - dig/blast out a reservoir in the newly-dry area between the dam site and the place where the river enters the diversion channels.
  2. Lay the foundations for the dam.If you're just using rocks, you need to put the biggest ones down first, and you need to put them downstream of the rest of the material, i.e. you build the dam FROM downstream TO upstream.
  3. Add material until your dam is the height you want it to be.A wedge-like cross-section is best, with the thin end of the wedge pointing downstream. You can only do concave-curved downstream-surfaces with huge, government-scale dams, huge crews and millions of dollars.
  4. Reinforce the downstream side of your dam with heavy canvas, nets, timber, girders, etc (depending on the size of the river) - this helps to prevent it shifting and/or collapsing under the weight of water it's gonna have to take.
  5. If you've got concrete, concrete all over the dam and reinforcements, and let it dry.If you haven't got concrete, you'd better have done step fourreally well, and you'd better cover the dam with a thick layer of earth and pack it down.
  6. Carefully close off the first diversion channel.Wait until the water level behind the dam has stabilized before closing off the second. Repeat the opening/waiting for the rest of the diversion channels.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    What materials are the strongest for this purpose?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Very large boulders for most of the dam, and pack a lot of dirt on top of that. If you really want the dam to be waterproof, then you can lay a sheet of tarp on top of the dam.
  • Question
    When damming a small creek, how do I keep the sides from blowing out and the creek going around the dam?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You should dig out a big reservoir and then build a wall surrounding the reservoir.
Unanswered Questions
  • If iv purchased a piece of property with a 20 acre lake and is supported by a ( earthy grass on top) damn. How can be sure this constructed correctly and safely?
  • 1. Must carry out environmental impact assessment before damming a river? 2. Which part of river is more suitable to dam, narrow or wider part?
  • How to overcome problem of water supply?
  • Please give me a sample project report on reinforced cement concrete dam?
  • Where on a river should a dam be constructed?
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  • Be patient - if you build the dam too fast, without paying attention to the quality of the job you're doing, it will most likely fail when you've closed off the diversion channels. Depending on the size of the river, you could lose all the material you put into the dam.
  • Bring food, water, and possibly a tent + camping supplies - dam-building is thirsty and energy-consuming work, and even with the smallest creek, it's unlikely you'll get it done in a day - if you're using concrete then it's impossible to do in a day.
  • Choose the site for your dam carefully. Narrow parts of the river are tempting candidates but remember that it is here that the river typically flows fastest; also, more work will be required to create the upstream reservoir basin if the existing river bed is narrow. But wider river sections will require more work and more material to successfully dam. You have to compromise between width, depth, potential reservoir capacity, diversion feasibility, ease of access (particularly when bringing materials in), and river flow rate.
  • Bring all your materials and tools to the waterside before starting step 3.
  • Make sure you have the right tools - the absolute bare minimum (if not using concrete) is a spade, an axe, a sledgehammer, a pick-axe, and a bucket.


  • Moving big rocks/cutting down trees - use your brain, these activities are dangerous, take appropriate precautions.
  • Dam-building can be dangerous!
  • Make sure someone knows what you're doing and where you're doing it - if camping out when working far from anywhere, call someone at least once a day at a pre-arranged time. Take a solar panel or other charging device to charge your phone if you're gonna be gone a long time. The last thing you want is to get injured by a big rock and not be able to get help or not have anyone come looking for you.
  • Concrete - if you don't know how to use it, don't use it.
  • Dynamite - if you don't know how to use it,don't use dynamite. Don't even think of it!
  • Safety gear- first aid kit, cell phone, hard hat, gloves, safety goggles, fluoro jacket, proper work boots - the list is practically endless.

Video: HOW IT'S MADE: The Glen Canyon Dam

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Date: 05.12.2018, 11:11 / Views: 84381