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The Grande Dixence dam, at the head of the Val d'Hérensmarker in the canton of Valaismarker in Switzerlandmarker, is at 285 metres (935 ft) high one of the world's tallest dams and the highest in Europe. It holds back a lake, the Lac des Dix, around 4 km (2.5 mi) long. When full, the lake is up to 284 metres (932 ft) deep and contains 400 million m³ (100 billion gal) of water.

Lac des Dix
Map
Construction steps, 1953 - 1961
The top of the dam is at an altitude of 2,365 metres (7,759 ft) in a steep mountain valley. Tunnels bring the water to three power stations in the Rhône valley over 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) below.

The dam is situated on the relatively small Dixence river, but collects a large amount of water thanks to a system of water supply tunnels over 100 km (60 mi) long bringing water from other rivers and valleys. Most of the water comes from glaciers which melt during the summer. The lake is usually full of water by late September, and is allowed to empty during the winter, reaching its lowest point around April.

The first Grande Dixence Dam was constructed between 1929 and 1935. A second dam that would flood the first was built between 1951 and 1965, and was filled on July 17, 1957. The first dam can still be seen when the water level is particularly low.

From 1993 to 1998 a high-pressure pipeline was built to considerably increase its peak capacity. It transported water 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) down to an additional power facility. The pipeline was welded using a new type of steel; it is out of service since it burst in December 2000, with the flood wave killing three people. Work on a replacement pipeline has recently started, with use of a more common steel and additional safety measures.

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