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Power produced by a stream of water as it turns a wheel or similar device. The waterwheel, probably invented in the 1st century BC, was widely used throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times for grinding grain, operating bellows for furnaces, and other purposes. The more compact water turbine, which passes water through a series of fixed and rotating blades, was introduced in 1827. Water turbines, used originally for direct mechanical drive for irrigation, now are used almost exclusively to generate hydroelectric power.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on waterpower, visit Britannica.com.