The World’s Tallest Man-made Waterfall
The tallest man-made waterfall in the world is the Cascata delle Marmore, located in the Umbria region of Italy. The waterfall pours down over 3 sections from 541 feet above, making it one of the tallest waterfalls (natural or man-made) in the country. A portion of the Velino river feeds into the Cascata delle Marmore through the Piediluco lake and it empties into the Nera river, which forms a valley below. This waterfall runs on a schedule that is published for tourists and the local electric power plant. Most tourists try to come when the waterfall flow is first turned on in order to witness the first burst of water.
History of the Waterfall
The Cascata delle Marmore dates back to 271 BC, when the Roman consul Manius Curius Dentatus commissioned the construction of a canal. The purpose behind this canal was to drain the stagnant waters of the Rieti Valley wetland, which were fed by the Velino river. According to locals of Rieti, this water was causing illness throughout the community; which historians now believe was probably malaria. The Curiano Trench was built, guiding the stagnant wetland waters to flow over the cliff of Marmore and into the Nera river. This seemed to provide the perfect solution until the Velino river was flooded.
When the Velino river flooded, it sent massive amounts of water through the trench and into the Nera river, which flowed directly to the community of Terni. Terni, threatened with flooding, strongly criticized the canal and the Rieti community. This disagreement became so fierce that in 54 BC, the Roman Senate became involved. Unable to reach an agreement, the canal remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Because the canal was not maintained, the Rieti wetlands began to form once again after centuries. Pope Gregory XII oversaw the construction of a new canal, known as the Gregorian Trench, in 1422. This new canal still did not address the issue of changing water levels and in 1545, Pope Paul III commissioned an improved canal to include a control valve. The project lasted for 50 years and was officially opened in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII.
Flooding of the Nera river continued despite these changes. Andrea Vici, an architect, was hired by Pope Pius VI in 1787 to perfect the design. He added three sections of the waterfall to include pools which are seen today. This addition drastically reduced the problem of flooding. Beginning in the later 19th and early 20th century, steel mills and electric plants began to utilize the waterfall to generate power.
The Waterfall and Hydroelectricity
Today, the Piediluco lake, located above the Cascate delle Marmore, is used as an electric plant reservoir. Its waters are primarily used to generate hydroelectricity. Because of this, the waterfall has only a small amount of water flowing down the majority of the time. In order to attract tourists to the area, the Galleto power plant allows the full force of water to flow over the waterfall at certain times during the day. According to the schedule, which is usually from noon to 1pm and from 5 to 6pm, the company sets off an alarm and then opens the floodgates. Tourists may hike to the top of the falls, where an observation deck provides a view down the waterfall and over the Nera valley. More adventurous tourists may decide to explore the observation deck next to the falls, where they will get wet by the falling water.