How Many Dams in America: A Dam Inventory by State

People have used dams for centuries to help prevent and control flooding. The ancient Mesopotamians may have been some of the first humans to build dams and used the innovative concept of irrigation by diverting flood waters of the Nile or Tigris rivers to follow pre-determined paths.  How Many Dams in America? 

Initially consisting of about 45,000 dams, the US. now has 92,075 Dams with an average age of 61 years. Since continued & methodical updates have been conducted, data collection has focused on the most reliable data sources, the many federal & state government Dam construction & regulation offices.

In 1850, dams were notably popping up in California more and more. Most development of dams at that time was made to meet the needs of an ever-growing population. This boom in population was a result of the Gold Rush. However, the rest of America was not too far behind in feeling those same growing pains in their populations.

Overview of Dam Safety and the Dam Sector in the United States


Across the vast landscapes of the US, Dams represent an important component of our infrastructure. Both federal Dams and state-regulated Dams serve pivotal roles, offering benefits like hydroelectric power, flood control, and the creation of reservoirs. The Dam safety in place ensures these structures function at their peak and maintain their high levels of performance.

Every dam, regardless of its size or its purpose, is integral in its very own way. Whether it’s a Dam in California, such as the Oroville Dam, or the failure of the Spencer Dam positioned amidst Nebraska’s flowing rivers, each Dam holds its unique story and function.

However, while dams bring numerous advantages, they must be accurately managed and maintained. Case in point, the US has seen some unfortunate instances of Dam failures previously, which highlight the critical need for stringent Dam safety measures to be in effect.

According to FEMA, there is a high risk associated with the potential failure of dams both for individuals living in proximity to them and the environment itself. This underlines the importance of Dam safety programs developed within the US. Today, the United States has over 2,000 hydroelectric power stations that supply 6.4% of the country’s total electrical production output, which is 49% of its renewable energy.

High on the agenda for Dam safety in the US is the extensive inventory undertaken by every Dam. This represents a considerable endeavor since there are so many dams in the country. This effort doesn’t just stop at Federal Dams; it reaches far into the areas governed by state dam safety programs. Whether small or high, every single Dam is part of this mosaic, painting a comprehensive picture of the American Dam sector.

In essence, all the Dams, are vital for everything from producing hydroelectric power to managing flood risk.  This centrality just puts more emphasis on the colossal task of ensuring the complete safety of each dam in the US.

There is also an environmental standpoint to consider. Rivers, after all, are the arteries of Mother Earth, and Dams inevitably play a significant role in these life-giving waterways. The way we navigate the challenges posed by balancing our need for dams with their environmental impact is crucial for the US as we move forward.

The bottom line is that the Dam sector & safety in the US lie at the heart of many communities across the country. With every Dam playing its part, including hydroelectric Dams that bring us essential green energy, the importance of ensuring their consistent safety is evident. With the task of balancing this with the effects on our water, earth, and sky, it becomes even more essential that we continue to strive for excellence in each state’s Dam safety programs.

Detailed Statistics on America’s Dams: A Statista Report


In this detailed statistics report, we offer an in-depth look at America’s Dams as per the most current national inventory Dams, a critical part of our federal infrastructure, play a pivotal role in controlling flood levels, enabling fish migration, and generating energy

Data drawn from comprehensive report cards and databases every year or so reveal interesting insights. For instance, the report shows that over 80,000 Dams exist across the 50 states The capacity varies dramatically from state to state, with a remarkable concentration in the western and midwestern states.



In national terms, we discover that nearly 70 percent of these Dams are privately owned. Substantial energy production potential comes from these structures proving crucial to America’s energy policy. The level of maintenance and threats they pose during extreme weather conditions reveal that significant work remains to ensure project longevity and security.

Our National Dam Inventory further explores each dam’s operational specifics. We classify each day by its risk level, age, and design. Are you keen to read more about this issue? Feel free to sign up for our newsletter or share our report with others!

The national inventory also reveals that a good number of Dams exceed the 50-year lifespan, making them potentially obsolete or unsafe. This observation underscores the need for regular inspections, funding for upgrades, and strategic demolition where necessary.

If you’re in the business sector, you might notice opportunities for advertising tied to Dam locations or activities. Dams draw dredging businesses, fishing and boating recreational enthusiasts, and provide millions with sources of renewable.

It’s crucial to know that the potential for new Dam construction is limited both due to stringent regulations and concerns over environmental impacts on fish migration.

We use this data to identify the potential for potential dams. These are sites with the capacity to house future Dam structures. They also assess their federal viability in terms of energy production, cost, and socio-environmental impacts.

By sharing this report, its aim is to boost awareness about the state of America’s Dams. Armed with this data, we believe that citizens, stakeholders, and policymakers can make informed decisions that benefit all, balancing the need for preservation, modernization, and the inclusion of new, sustainable technologies.

Dams are more than just federal infrastructure. They are an essential part of America’s history and future, a symbol of the nation’s capacity for ingenuity and resilience. By understanding them better, we ensure they continue to serve us well under changing conditions. So, share this report, sit back, and admire the majesty of America’s dams as captured in MyWaterEarth&Sky  comprehensive national inventory.


Dam Safety and the Future: Needs and Public Safety


Dam safety, a topic of critical importance to public safety and security, is a major focus area in the management of American rivers. State Dam Safety Programs work tirelessly to ensure the resilience of our infrastructure and in response to a changing climate, these efforts have become more vital than ever.

The number of Dams in America may come as a surprise to many. Believe it or not, many thousands of Dams are scattered across the country, each carrying its own potential hazard. The largest hydropower Dam facilities account for a significant proportion of these, but no matter the category, all dams require diligent management to ensure the safety of our water resources.

At its core, dam safety management is heavily dependent on accurate information. Regulators and management bodies rely on a comprehensive dam inventory, updated every February, that offers hard data on the number and state of the country’s dams. Much of this information stems from federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is cataloged by the National Inventory of Dams (NID) on their .gov site. This invaluable database helps states to identify any undue risks and develop action plans accordingly.

Despite the fact that many dams are aging, we’ve seen major strides in infrastructure resilience over the past several decades. In part, this is thanks to evolving dam engineering practices, but it also reflects increased public interest in and support for infrastructure development and dam safety. ASCE, the American Society of Civil Engineers, is one such organization dedicated to ensuring that dam infrastructure continues to meet public safety needs.


That being said, no matter how much progress we make, our efforts to improve dam safety and security are perpetually in the face of new challenges of an aging infrastructure. Climate change, for example, is one such obstacle. In an increasingly warm world, water patterns are shifting, and with them, pressures are placed on our Dams. In many parts of the country, particularly those at risk of severe flooding, Dam resilience isn’t just a matter of infrastructure; it’s a matter of public safety.

Apart from climate, funding remains a constant issue in dam safety. Given how many we have, keeping all of America’s Dams in top shape is no small financial feat. Recognizing this, government bodies are taking steps to allocate more funds to Dam safety and to promote more sustainable management of our water resources.

When we think of the future of dam safety, we know that it’s not just about maintaining the American Dams we have now it’s about planning for the Dams of tomorrow. The brand is known for Our government’s commitment to responsibly sourcing information about America’s water resources and passionately advocates for this forward-thinking approach. After all, the management of today’s dams is intrinsically tied to the public safety and security of future generations and the environmental issues around them.



Dams play a vital role in the nation’s overall infrastructure. They contribute to the economic development of the United States and to the social welfare of the American public. Dam infrastructure can be affected by natural hazards, man-made threats, as well as an imbalance between resources invested and a dam’s age. Today, the United States has over 2,000 hydroelectric power stations that supply 6.4% of the country’s total electrical production output, which is 49% of its renewable energy.

The number and distribution of Dams on record throughout the United States is diverse as per the 2023-24 inventory. These structures were built and play vital roles in power generation, agriculture, water supply, and recreation, yet they also pose an array of challenges and threats brought on by an aging infrastructure. The 2023 National Dam Safety Program’s Technical Seminar theme was Managing and Regulating Dams into the Future offers training to bring awareness to aging Dams in America.


JimGalloway Author/Editor


FEMA- National Dam Saftey Program

American Dams-History of Dams


Q: What is the main focus of this article from MyWaterEarth&Sky?
A: The article focuses on providing a comprehensive overview of the United States’ dam infrastructure, highlighting the importance of dams in various aspects, including providing water, power generation, flood control, and more.
Q: How many dams are there in the U.S. according to the article?
A: The article mentions that there are over 80,000 dams across the 50 states of the U.S.
Q: What are the primary functions of dams as described in the article?
A: The article describes the functions of dams as providing hydroelectric power, flood control, creation of reservoirs, and aiding in agriculture, water supply, and recreation.



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