Commissioned by the Turkish Energy Department to exploit and store floodwater in the upper reaches of the River Euphrates, this was one of the most important engineering works of the time. The concrete gravity arch dam, which became operational in 1988, is 173 metres high and 462 metres long. It has a maximum width of 52 metres at the base and a minimum width of 10 metres at the crest. The reservoir holds 2,000,000 cubic metres of water and the plant has an installed capacity of 1,800 MW. The arch dam has a spillway with ten outlets controlled by vertical gates. The chute extends over the roof of the power plant at the foot of the dam, and leads into the lake below, created by the Ataturk Dam.
The dam is located in the province of Diyarbakir, a Roman outpost in the Taurus massif, a site that is difficult to reach, at 650 metres above sea level and a long way from any inhabited places. The project involved highly efficient organisation of logistics, including the construction of more than 20 km of roads for works traffic, and two villages for the 2,500 local workers and 500 ex-pats, for a total of some 200 buildings: houses, schools, libraries, hospitals, sports facilities. In 1989, for the Karakaya Dam project, the company won the prestigious Ingersoll-Rand Italia Award, an international prize for major construction works in the world.