Also known as reservoirs, the biggest man made lakes are phenomenal feats of engineering and an integral part of our global infrastructure. Essentially, when dams are built, including the world’s biggest dams, they create artificial lakes, and the water behind the dam accumulates to create these vast bodies of water.
There are thousands of man made lakes around the world and there are two main ways to determine their size. By surface area (square kilometres) or by volume of water in cubic kilometres.
For the purposes of this article we are measuring the biggest man made lakes in the world by volume. To compare, at the end we’ll give you a list of the largest artificial lakes in the world by surface area.
Country: Venezuela | Volume: 135 km3 | Surface Area: 4,250 km2
The Guri Dam, also known as the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, impounds Lake Guri, one of the biggest artificial lakes in the world and the largest body of freshwater in Venezuela. The dam, which opened in 1978 and was at one time the world’s largest in terms of installed capacity, and the lake – Embalse de Guri – are on Venezuela’s fifth longest river, the Caroni.
Country: Canada | Volume: 142 km3 | Surface Area: 1,973 km2
Manicouagan Reservoir is arguably the most fascinating of the biggest man made lakes on this list. Its origins are as a result of a meteorite impact around 214 million years ago. The reservoir in its present form was created in the early 1960s. The construction of the Daniel-Johnson Dam, which held back the Manicouagan River, filled the meteorite crater with billions of litres of water, thus creating one of the world’s biggest artificial lakes.
Country: Ghana | Volume: 148 km3 | Surface Area: 8,500 km2
Lake Volta is contained behind the Akosombo Dam, which opened in 1965. After the Volta River Basin flooded, lake Volta became the largest man made lake in the world by surface area. It’s also one of the longest artificial lakes in the world. Its northernmost tip is near the town of Yapei and the southernmost tip is at the Akosombo Dam, 520 kilometres away.
Countries: Egypt & Sudan | Volume: 157 km3 | Surface Area: 5,200 km2
Lake Nasser is named after Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt who initiated one of the world’s most famous dam projects – the Aswan High Dam. It’s not the world’s largest man-made lake, but it’s very close. It has a maximum length of 550 kilometres and a maximum width of 35 kilometres. The seventeen percent of the lake in northern Sudan is known locally as Lake Nubia. Today, Lake Nasser is very popular with tourists visiting the Abu Simbel temple complex and is one of the last surviving habitats of the dwindling population of Nile crocodiles.
Country: Russia | Volume: 169 km3 | Surface Area: 5,470 km2
The second-largest man made lake in the world was completed in 1967 by damming the Angara River in Irkutsk Oblast in southeastern Siberia. The Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Station is one of the world’s biggest dams, and the reservoir is used for commercial fishing, water transport, forestry and as a water supply to the local towns.
Countries: Zambia/Zimbabwe | Volume: 180 km3 | Surface Area: 5,580 km2
Lake Kariba, along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is the largest man made lake in the world. Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River was flooded between 1958 and 1963 during construction of the 579-metre long Kariba Dam. With a maximum width of 40 kilometres and a maximum length of 223 kilometres, the lake holds so much water – approximately 180 billion tons – it has caused earthquakes – officially seismic activity – reaching over five on the Richter scale.
Biggest Man Made Lakes in the World By Surface Area
Now you know which are the biggest artificial lakes in the world by volume, here’s a list of the top ten artificial lakes by surface area –
- Caniapiscau Reservoir | Country: Canada | Size: 4,318 km2
- Rybinsk Reservoir | Country: Russia | Size: 4,550 km2
- Lake Nasser | Country: Egypt | Size: 5,200 km2
- Bratsk Reservoir | Country: Russia | Size: 5,470 km2
- Bukhtarma Reservoir | Country: Kazakhstan | Size: 5,490 km2
- Lake Kariba | Countries: Zambia/Zimbabwe | Size: 5,580 km2
- Kuybyshev Reservoir | Country: Russia | Size: 6,450 km2
- Reindeer Lake | Country: Canada | Size: 6,500 km2
- Smallwood Reservoir | Country: Canada | Size: 6,527 km2
- Lake Volta | Country: Ghana | Size: 8,502 km2