The Three Gorges Dam began on Thursday to increase water flow by 400 cubic meters per second to feed the thirsty middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
"The increase will make the water that flows into the dam reach 4,800 cubic meters per second and ensures 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours more electricity is generated," said Yuan Jie, a senior engineer with the project.
"The water level in the Three Gorges reservoir will fall by four meters from the current 155 meters," Yuan said.
The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River have been experiencing a sharp fall in the water level, affecting the navigation and water supply for both industrial and agricultural use.
The worst drought in half a century to hit the upper reaches of the country's longest river last summer is believed to have contributed to the drop.
The average water flow at the dam was only 2,950 cubic meters per second last year, down 33 percent compared with previous years, according to Yuan.
The replenishment program will be completed by the end of February.
A similar water replenishment operation at the dam was carried out between late last December and mid-January, which released an additional 300 million cubic meters of water into the lower reaches.
Begun in 1993 at a cost of an estimated 180 billion yuan (US$23 billion), the Three Gorges Project on the middle reaches of the river will have 26 generators upon completion in 2009 and be able to generate 84.7 billion kwh of electricity annually.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2007)