Dam constructions for various purposes have been of great importance for the development of the country in the past centuries. The use of dams for regulation and use of the power of the water started during the Middle Ages, in mills for grinding grain, sawing timber and in draining mines and hoisting up ore. During the 17th and 18th centuries, dams played a major role in the development of iron production.
During the 19th century, dam constructions were an important part of the transformation to the industrial society. The development of dam and hydraulic engineering made it possible to utilize the water, partly as a power source for the industry and partly for the transport of raw materials and finished products on watercourses and through channels and locks. Various forms of levees have also been used to gain land and are still constructed to provide flood protection.
During the 20th century, the expansion of hydropower for electricity production was one of the cornerstones of wealth development. For this development knowledge and experience of construction, technology has been crucial. The first large hydropower dams in Sweden were built in the early 1900s, and the development peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Today there are about 200 large dams; most of these are hydroelectric dams while some are tailings dams. Whereas very few large hydropower dams have been built after the 1980s, construction of large tailings dams is still ongoing.