Almost all rivers convey silt. Dams on those rivers will retain silt in their catchments, because by slowing the water, and reducing turbulence, the silt will fall to the bottom. Siltation reduces a dam’s water storage so that water from a wet season cannot be stored for use in a dry season. Often at or slightly after that point, the dam becomes uneconomic. Near the end of the siltation, the basins of dams fill to the top of the lowest spillway, and even storage from a storm to the end of dry weather will fail. Some especially poor dams can fail from siltation in as little as 20 years. Larger dams are not immune. For example, the Three Gorges Dam in China has an estimated life that may be as short as 70 years.
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