A dam is a barrier that stops or restricts the flow of surface water or underground streams. Reservoirs created by dams not only suppress floods but also provide water for activities such as irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability. Hydropower is often used in conjunction with dams to generate electricity. A dam can also be used to collect or store water which can be evenly distributed between locations. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees (also known as dikes) are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. The earliest known dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan, dating to 3,000 BC.
Early dam building took place in Mesopotamia and the Middle East. Dams were used to control water levels, for Mesopotamia's weather affected the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The earliest known dam is the Jawa Dam in Jordan, 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the capital Amman. This gravity dam featured an originally 9-metre-high (30 ft) and 1 m-wide (3.3 ft) stone wall, supported by a 50 m-wide (160 ft) earthen rampart. The structure is dated to 3000 BC.
The Ancient Egyptian Sadd-el-Kafara Dam at Wadi Al-Garawi, about 25 km (16 mi) south of Cairo, was 102 m (335 ft) long at its base and 87 m (285 ft) wide. The structure was built around 2800 or 2600 BC as a diversion dam for flood control, but was destroyed by heavy rain during construction or shortly afterwards.During the Twelfth Dynasty in the 19th century BC, the Pharaohs Senosert III, Amenemhat III, and Amenemhat IV dug a canal 16 km (9.9 mi) long linking the Fayum Depression to the Nile in Middle Egypt. Two dams called Ha-Uar running east-west were built to retain water during the annual flood and then release it to surrounding lands. The lake called Mer-wer or Lake Moeris covered 1,700 km2 (660 sq mi) and is known today as Birket Qarun.