reservoir (rĕzˈəvôr, –vwär) [key], storage tank or wholly or partly artificial lake for storing water. Building an embankment or dam to preserve a supply of water for irrigation is an ancient practice; India and Egypt have many old and large reservoirs. In building artificial lakes for a municipal water supply it is necessary to consider all the aspects of a catchment area, including the amount and distribution of rainfall, evaporation, runoff, soil or rock conditions, and elevation (for its effect upon precipitation and upon the pressure in the conducting pipes). The ground of the reservoir may be naturally impervious enough to prevent excessive seepage, or a clay or other lining may have to be built. The embankments or retaining walls may be of earth, loose rock, or masonry. Earth forms a good embankment but must be sealed by a core of clay, and the face must be covered with masonry or a similar substance to prevent erosion. Distributing reservoirs in towns are sometimes built of masonry or of reinforced concrete. They serve to cope with fluctuations of demand and with interruptions of supply from the source. Reservoirs are also built on the headstreams of or along the courses of rivers to aid in flood control, on canals to maintain water level for navigation, and to ensure water supply for hydroelectric plants. Some reservoirs are built on the tributaries of large rivers to act as catch basins for silt. In addition to seepage, the major loss of water from a reservoir is by evaporation; chemicals that form a film on a water surface are used to minimize such losses. Covered tanks made of prestressed concrete are used for limited local water supply.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.