watermill of braine-le-château
, belgium (12th century)
interior of the lyme regis
watermill, uk (14th century)
a watermill or water mill is a mill that uses hydropower. it is a structure that uses a water wheel or water turbine to drive a mechanical process such as milling (grinding), rolling, or hammering. such processes are needed in the production of many material goods, including flour, lumber, paper, textiles, and many metal products. these watermills may comprise gristmills, sawmills, paper mills, textile mills, hammermills, trip hammering mills, rolling mills, wire drawing mills.
one major way to classify watermills is by wheel orientation (vertical or horizontal), one powered by a vertical waterwheel through a gear mechanism, and the other equipped with a horizontal waterwheel without such a mechanism. the former type can be further divided, depending on where the water hits the wheel paddles, into undershot, overshot, breastshot and pitchback (backshot or reverse shot) waterwheel mills. another way to classify water mills is by an essential trait about their location: tide mills use the movement of the tide; ship mills are water mills onboard (and constituting) a ship.
watermills impact the river dynamics of the watercourses where they are installed. during the time watermills operate channels tend to sedimentate, particularly backwater. also in the backwater area, inundation events and sedimentation of adjacent floodplains increase. over time however these effects are cancelled by river banks becoming higher. where mills have been removed, river incision increases and channels deepen.