|Photo taken on Oct. 26, 2010 shows the Three Gorges Dam and the reservoir (on the right side of the dam) after the water level reached 175 meters, its designed maximum, at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province. The 175-meter mark, a milestone in the construction of the gigantic reservoir, would enable the project to fulfill its functions of flood control, power generation, navigation and water supply to the fullest extent. (Xinhua/Cheng Min)
YICHANG, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The water level at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest water control and utilization project, reached its designed highest mark Tuesday.
The water level hit 175 meters at 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Cao Guangjing, chairman of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), the developer of the project.
The 175-meter mark, "a milestone in the construction of the gigantic reservoir," will enable the project to fulfill its functions of flood control, power generation, navigation and water diversion, Cao said.
The new level does not mean complete success for the project. It does, however, allow for testing of various issues, Cao said.
The 185-meter-deep reservoir, built on the upper middle-reaches of the Yangtze, China's longest river, began to store water in 2003.
Its water level was lifted to 172.8 meters in 2008. In September, it started holding more water back and discharging less.
The water level-raising process allows experts to observe, research and validate the dam's original design, according to Cao.
So far, monitoring shows the dam is operating smoothly.
The water level will be maintained at 175 meters for about two months and then be allowed to drop. In the future, the water level will be kept at between 145 meters and 175 meters, depending on flood control needs.
That water-level fluctuation corresponds to 22.15 billion cubic meters of water.
The embankment on the Jingjiang section, the most flood-prone section of the Yangtze, which previously could withstand only a once-in-a-decade flood, will now be able to withstand a once-in-a-century flood.
A higher water level expands the navigable course of the reservoir 150 kilometers and raises ship-passing efficiency four times, cutting navigation costs by at least one third.
From now on, the power plant will be able to realize the designed annual power-generation capacity of 84.7 billion kwh.
"All Chinese should feel pride in the dam," said Cui Bangjian, a villager living close to the dam who likes to take walks along its embankment after meals.
"The whole scene is becoming more beautiful, and more ships come and go as the navigation area expands," the 60-year-old man said.
The Three Gorges Project was launched in 1993 with a budget equivalent to 22.5 billion U.S. dollars.
It is a multi-functional water control system - it consists of a dam, a five-tier ship lock, and 26 hydropower turbo-generators.
By 2012, six more hydropower turbo-generators will be installed.
The project was constructed in three phases, and storing water at the 175-meter level was a requirement once the last phase of construction was complete.
After nearly 16 years of construction, work on all the main sections of the project was completed last month.
Some 1.24 million residents in Chongqing Municipality and Hubei Province were relocated to make way for construction of the dam.
The electricity the dam generates supplies many regions in central, eastern and southern China.