Construction began in 1960. The High Dam, as-Sad al-'Aali, was completed on July 21, 1970, with the first stage finished in 1964. The reservoir began filling in 1964 while the dam was still under construction and first reached capacity in 1976. The reservoir raised concerns from archaeologists and a rescue operation was begun in 1960 under UNESCO. Sites were surveyed and excavated and 24 major monuments were moved to safer locations (see Abu Simbel) or granted to countries that helped with the works (such as the Debod temple in Madrid and the Temple of Dendur in New York).The Aswan High Dam is 3,600 m in length, 980 m wide at the base, 40 m wide at the crest and 111 m tall. It contains 43 million m³ of material. At maximum, 11,000 m³ of water can pass through the dam every second.
There are further emergency spillways for an extra 5000 m³ per second and the Toshka Canal links the reservoir to the Toshka Depression. The reservoir, named Lake Nasser, is 550 km long and 35 km at its widest with a surface area of 5,250 km² and holds 132 km³.
The dam powers twelve generators each rated at 175 megawatts, producing a hydroelectric output of 2.1 gigawatts. Power generation began in 1967. When the dam first reached peak output it produced around half of Egypt's entire electricity production (about 15% by 1998) and allowed for the connection of most Egyptian villages to electricity for the first time. The dam mitigated the effects of dangerous floods in 1964 and 1973 and of threatening droughts in 1972-73 and 1983-84. A new fishing industry has been created around Lake Nasser, though it is struggling due to its distance from any significant markets.