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Open-File Report 2008–1241

Geographical Overview of the Three Gorges Dam and Reservoir, China—Geologic Hazards and Environmental Impacts

By Lynn M. Highland


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The Three Gorges Dam and Reservoir on the Yangtze River, China, has been an ambitious and controversial project. The dam, the largest in the world as of 2008, will provide hydropower, help to manage flood conditions, and increase the navigability of the Yangtze River. However, this massive project has displaced human and animal populations and altered the stability of the banks of the Yangtze, and it may intensify the seismic hazard of the area. It has also hindered archeological investigations in the reservoir and dam area.

This report, originally in the form of a Microsoft PowerPoint® presentation, gives a short history and overview of the dam construction and subsequent consequences, especially geologic hazards already noted or possible in the future. The report provides photographs, diagrams, and references for the reader’s further research—a necessity, because this great undertaking is dynamic, and both its problems and successes continue to evolve. The challenges and consequences of Three Gorges Dam will be closely watched and documented as lessons learned and applied to future projects in China and elsewhere.

Version 1.0

Posted September 2008

For additional information contact:
Lynn Highland

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Highland, L.M., 2008, Geographical overview of the Three Gorges dam and reservoir, China—Geologic hazards and environmental impacts: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008–1241, 79 p.


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