7 Best Table Difference Between Dam and Barrage

Nov 20, 2023
Why is Difference Between Dam and Barrage

Dam and Barrage: Barrages and dams are barriers constructed across rivers or natural watercourses to divert water for irrigation, supply or electricity generation purposes. This article will examine their differences despite their similar appearances.

What is Dam?


A dam is an engineering structure built across a river to block water flow and form a reservoir, with the aim of creating a deep storage facility.

Spillways are designed to prevent excess water from overflowing onto them. At designated levels, spillways are installed to allow water to flow; this water may then be used for irrigation, hydroelectric production, flood control or artistic purposes.

What is Barrage?

Figure-no-2: Barrage

By upgrading weirs with adjustable gates that can adjust water levels, cable-controlled gates allow water levels to be easily managed.

Such dams can make rivers navigable, measure the discharge of water, and control floods. Furthermore, they can raise water levels a few feet and divert its flow in a controlled fashion.

Importance of understanding the difference between dam and barrage

The difference between a dam and a barrage is important for several reasons:

  1. Purposeful Construction: dams are typically constructed for water storage, hydropower generation, flood control and irrigation purposes. Understanding their differences is vital in selecting an apt structure to meet specific goals and needs.
  2. Water Resource Management: Dams and barrages play an essential role in water resource management. Dams are used to store water, providing reliable access for agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses as well as hydropower production – with renewable sources of energy like hydropower being generated through dams. Barrages help maintain optimal river levels in order to prevent floods or droughts as well as diversion or diversion for irrigation – understanding their operations can facilitate more effective water management practices.
  3. Environmental Effects: Barrages and dams have different impacts on ecosystems and environments. Dams can alter aquatic habitats and contribute to biodiversity loss while altering natural flow patterns; barrages cause less disruption but still affect fish migration, breeding and sediment deposition – understanding these environmental impacts is vital to making informed decisions and taking preventative steps that reduce ecological consequences.
  4. Engineering and Design: Barrages and dams both employ varying water control mechanisms and structural designs, with dams being solid barriers comprised of concrete, rock-fill, or earth-fill material with valves or gates to release water when desired; while barrages have series of gates constructed of either steel or concrete that can be adjusted to control flow of water. Understanding these engineering elements will aid in planning, designing, and building these structures more efficiently and safely.
  5. Examples and Case Studies: Gaining knowledge about notable barrages and dams around the globe is crucial to effective water resource planning. Gaining an appreciation for iconic dams like Hoover Dam in the US or Three Gorges Dam in China – or iconic barrages such as Thames Barrier or Farakka Barrage in India can increase knowledge about their functions, impacts and benefits by studying specific examples such as these structures from around the globe.

Understanding the differences between a barrage and dam is vital for water resource management. Knowing their differences will allow you to make more informed decisions regarding water infrastructure projects, take environmental impacts into consideration and plan effectively. Understanding their structure helps select appropriate structures while mitigating any negative consequences and ensure sustainable resource development.

Purpose and Functions

The purpose and functions of dams and barrages are as follows:

  • Dams:
  1. Water Storage and Provision: Dams are constructed to create reservoirs that store and impound water for purposes such as irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses. As water storage facilities they help ensure an uninterrupted supply of freshwater for purposes such as these.
  2. Hydropower Generation: Hydroelectric dams contain turbines and generators which use the energy stored in water to produce electricity, providing renewable and clean energy sources for electricity generation.
  3. Flood Control: Dams can help control river flow during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, helping reduce downstream flooding by storing flood waters before slowly releasing it back out into rivers.
  4. Irrigation: Dams are often used to divert water for agricultural use and ensure an uninterrupted supply to irrigation systems.
  5. Recreation and Tourism: By creating large reservoirs, they create ideal water sports environments suited for water skiing, sailing, and fishing – as well as offering scenic beauty and amenities to draw tourists in.
  • Barrages:
  1. Barrages for Diversion of River Flow: Barrages can be built to divert water flow from streams or rivers into canals or channels for irrigation, water supply, or any other purpose. They provide an effective means of redirecting flow.
  2. Water Level Regulation: Barrages can be used to effectively regulate river and estuarine waters by raising or lowering gates to maintain desired water levels during low flow or high tide periods. They provide the ideal way of controlling flow without disturbing natural habitats.
  3. Sediment Control: Barrages provide an effective method of sediment control in river systems, helping prevent erosion and buildup in downstream ecosystems while protecting navigation channels from buildups of sediment.
  4. Navigation Facilitation: Barrages typically feature locks or sluice gates to assist ships and boats in navigating rivers and waterways by controlling water level fluctuations. This allows vessels to safely traverse them.
  5. Flood Protection: Barrages can provide protection from flooding in certain situations. Used as barriers, they may prevent coastal or low-lying areas from flooding.

Dams and barrages serve various functions, including water supply, energy production, flood control, navigation, and environmental protection.

Structure and Design

Below are the characteristics of barrages and dams with respect to their structure and design:

  • Dams:
  1. Long Wall Barrier: A dam can be defined as any structure built across a watercourse or river to hold back water for storage purposes while being capable of withstanding hydraulic pressure from this water stored behind its wall.
  2. Construction Materials: Concrete, rock-fill, and earth-fill materials can all be utilized when building dams; their choice will ultimately depend on factors like availability, cost, and engineering requirements.
  3. Reservoir Creation: Create reservoirs by damming up the water behind barriers. Reservoirs can then be used for various purposes such as water supply, irrigation, hydropower generation, and flood control.
  4. Spillways: Dams feature spillways designed to safely release excess water when there is an increase in rainfall or heavy downpour. Spillways prevent their dam from overflowing while also permitting controlled release downstream.
  5. Works of an Outlet: Dams typically feature outlets – gates, valves, or tunnels that release water from within them – which serve to regulate downstream water levels and control flow. These outlets serve both regulatory and monitoring functions to manage the flow.
  6. Foundation and Seepage Control: Dams require a stable base to support both their weight and the water being stored within. To control seepage and ensure dam stability, measures such as grouting or cutoff walls may be implemented to manage seepage.
  • Barrages:
  1. Series of Gates or Barriers: A barrage consists of multiple gates or barriers which span a river and can be raised and lowered to regulate water flow.
  2. Construction Materials: Barrages made of concrete or steel provide strength and durability against water pressure and environmental elements.
  3. Adjustable Gates: Barrages feature gates that can be adjusted to regulate water flow. These can be controlled manually or automatically to control levels and flow rates accordingly.
  4. Locks and Sluice Gates: Some barrages include locks or sluice gates to facilitate navigation of boats or ships through them, by adjusting water levels in their navigation channels to permit passage. These structures permit vessels to pass over these structures with relative ease.
  5. Weir Structures: Within certain types of barrages (such as linear barrages), weir structures may be utilized to control water flow and maintain desired levels.
  6. Culverts and Canals: Barrages often include culverts and canals to divert water away from its primary channel and into irrigation canals or other forms of distribution networks.

The structure and design of barrages and dams are tailored specifically to their functions and purposes, to ensure optimal management and control of water resources.

Water Control Mechanism

A water control mechanism can help maintain stable levels and manage the flow for improved environmental sustainability.

Below are examples of various water control devices:

  • Dams:
  1. Gates and Valves That Can Be Controlled: Dams have gates or valves which can be opened and closed to regulate the outflow of water from their reservoir, either manually or automatically through an automated system, for precise flow rate regulation. These controls may be manually or remotely activated allowing precise flow rate regulation.
  2. Spillways: Dams are equipped with spillways that safely discharge excess water when there is an unexpected high inflow or heavy rainfall event. Spillways may include gates, crest gates or other controls to regulate how much water is released into the environment.
  3. Outlet Works: Dams feature outlet works, such as gates, valves, or tunnels that allow water to exit their reservoirs and flow outward. These outlets can be adjusted in order to maintain desired downstream levels and manage flow rates as necessary.
  4. Intake Structures: Dams can feature intake structures to extract water from reservoirs for use as drinking water or hydropower generation, while screens or gates may also be included to regulate its flow.
  • Barrages:
  1. Barrages with Adjustable Gates: Barrages contain adjustable gates which can be raised and lowered to regulate water flow. The mechanical or manual operation may be utilized for gate operation in order to achieve this goal.
  2. Locks or Sluice Gates: Some barrages feature locks or sluice gates that can be opened and closed to allow ships or boats to pass through, helping regulate water levels in navigation channels. These gates help regulate how quickly ships move.
  3. Weir Structures: In some types of barrages (such as linear barrages), weir structures regulate water flow by controlling its height on weirs or crest gates.
  4. Culverts and Canals: Barrages consist of culverts and canals which divert water away from main river channels, often using gates or valves to regulate its flow.

Dams and barrages rely on water control mechanisms to regulate flow and level. These mechanisms control the release, diversion, or retention of water. This enables efficient resource management as well as meeting specific needs such as flood control, irrigation, or hydropower generation.

Impacts on Environment and Ecosystem

Barrages and dams can have different impacts on ecosystems and environments in different ways.

Here are a few key points for each type of structure:


  1. Alteration of Natural Flow Patterns: Dams are structures that alter natural flow patterns by impounding water in reservoirs and diverting its flow away from natural channels, altering downstream processes such as sediment transport, nutrient distribution, and ecological systems. This may impact their downstream effects such as sediment transport or dispersion processes and ecological systems.
  2. Aquatic Ecosystem Disruption: Dam construction may lead to fragmentation or loss of aquatic habitats, while reservoirs behind dams may submerge them and displace aquatic species thereby upsetting ecological balance and altering ecological equilibrium.
  3. Changes in Water temperature and quality: Dams can play a vital role in altering water temperatures by altering timing and volume, while reservoir formation and altered flow patterns may cause changes to dissolved oxygen or nutrient levels as well as change to flow patterns.
  4. Dams can hinder fish migration patterns: Dams may prevent free flow in rivers that they depend on for accessing feeding grounds or spawning sites, which in turn will have an impactful impact on reproductive success and population dynamics.
  5. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation: Flooding caused by dams can destroy terrestrial habitats like forests, wetlands, and farmland, while fragmentation of rivers by dams may limit wildlife movement as well as gene transfer.
  • Barrages:
  1. Fish Migration and Breeding: Barrages have the ability to disrupt fish migration routes when they restrict or block water flow, creating problems for species relying on migration for breeding or reaching their spawning grounds.
  2. Changes in Sediment Deposition: Barrages may impact sediment transport and deposition patterns in rivers. Altering flow regimes could result in changes in accumulation that would impact downstream ecosystems as well as river channels’ stability.
  3. Disruption of Estuarine Ecosystems: Barrages placed within estuaries may alter their delicate ecosystems by altering water flow and level changes that alter saltwater/freshwater mixing and thus alter species distribution and change the composition of estuarine environments.
  4. Salinity and Water Levels: Barrages that regulate water levels have the ability to alter both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, altering salinity in estuaries, coastal wetlands, or other bodies of water thereby changing plant and animal communities that have adapted to certain levels.
  5. Effects on River Morphology: Barrages have an immediate and long-lasting effect on river morphology, including changes to sediment transport and erosion rates as well as riverbank formation. Such effects have profound consequences for the physical and biochemical characteristics of river ecosystems.

Planning and overseeing barrage and dam projects require taking environmental effects into consideration and mitigating them where possible. Environmental assessments, habitat restoration plans, fish passage solutions, and flow management techniques can all serve to lessen negative consequences while increasing the sustainability of these water control structures.

Table Difference

Barrage Dam
It has adjustable gates, which are operated by cables. It has gates, spillways, and sluices to allow water to flow and prevent spillage and floods.
This level of water gets adjusted, over the weirs in order to maintain the surface of the water at different times and levels. It is a deep reservoir that is designed in such a way that extra water cannot flow over it.
It is an upgraded version of the weir with gates and a type of small dam. It has a large and massive structure.
It does not store water as it is made to raise the amount level of water by some feet and to divert the flow of water. It is made to store water.
It is a kind of artificial obstruction, constructed across the flow of the river. It is used for multiple purposes apart from water storage such as controlling floods, irrigation, production of hydroelectricity, and artistic purposes.
It is not waterproof. It is waterproof.
Its gates are located entirely at the height of the structure. Its gates are located on top of the intake structure.


Applications and Examples (barrages and dams)

  • Dams:
  1. Water Storage: Dams can serve a number of functions, from municipal water supply and irrigation for agricultural and industrial uses, to municipal wastewater disposal. Two iconic examples include Aswan High Dam and Hoover Dam.
  2. Hydropower Generation: Many dams feature turbines and generators that produce electricity using hydropower, such as China’s Three Gorges Dam or Brazil and Paraguay’s Itaipu Dam on their borders. These dams produce electricity via turbines utilizing hydropower as examples of such generation.
  3. Flood Control: Dams located in areas prone to flooding are constructed as flood defense measures in order to control water flow and mitigate downstream flooding. Examples of such dams are Oahe Dam, on the Missouri River near United States border, and Tarbela Dam located in Pakistan.
  4. Irrigation: Dams are used to divert water for irrigation systems, with examples including Narmada Dam (India) and Asahan Dam (Indonesia).
  5. Recreation and Tourism: Dams create reservoirs that offer recreational opportunities like fishing, boating, and camping – like Lake Powell in Utah behind Glen Canyon Dam or Lake Mead located behind Hoover Dam in Arizona in the United States.
  • Barrages:
  1. Water Flow Regulation: Water flow can be managed and controlled on rivers and watercourses using barrages, such as London’s Thames Barrier which was constructed to protect London against tidal waves while simultaneously controlling river flow. As an example of their usefulness for this purpose is illustrated by their construction in England to regulate Thames flow – another great use case would be used on reservoirs, such as in China or Australia where there may be excessive surface water flow that needs managing or controlling.
  2. Navigation Facilitation: Barrages with locks or sluice gates facilitate navigation by allowing boats and ships to pass through them, like the Saint-Louis Barrage in Senegal which helps regulate water levels while simultaneously aiding navigation.
  3. Sediment Control: Barrages are used to manage erosion and sedimentation in river systems, including Farakka Barrage in India which diverts water away from the Ganges River to maintain navigation channels and manage sedimentation.
  4. Estuarine Management: Barrages are an effective way of controlling water flow in estuaries, such as the Haringvliet Barrier located in the Netherlands which helps manage levels and saltiness within Haringvliet Estuary.
  5. Flood Protection: Barrages can be effective flood-protection structures along coastal areas. Maeslantkering, a Dutch storm surge barrier that protects Rotterdam against North Sea storm surges.

These examples demonstrate the many applications for barrages and dams. From water storage, hydropower production, flood control and navigation. Each project varies based on regional objectives and needs.


Barrages and dams are water management structures that serve different functions. Dams are massive solid barriers that are constructed in order to hold water, produce hydropower, and control the flow of water for irrigation and consumption. Barrages are, on the other hand are smaller structures commonly used to regulate river flow as well as to create reservoirs and manage the water levels. While dams are large and permanent, barrages tend to be more flexible and are often temporary. Knowing the distinctions of these two structures are essential to ensure effective management of water resources and ensuring sustainable development within diverse regions.