I want to build a deep fortress downwards multiple levels and I want to have water accessible on almost all levels. Optimally, I'd like to build a misting waterfall that falls down my entire fortress. I'm doing this by diverting a river to my fortress.

However, how do I get rid of all the water flowing down after it has reached the bottom? Are there any creative ways other than building a huge pump tower that brings it back to the surface again.

Any sort of enclave is likely to get full after a while. Chasms do not exist as such anymore I hear. It was said somewhere, that making a tunnel to the edge of the map will allow the water to flow "off-map" and disappear but that's almost cheating.

So, any ideas?

  • 5
    Why is allowing the water to flow off map "cheating"? That's what happens in the real world (water flows somewhere else).
    – C. Ross
    Aug 13, 2010 at 21:23
  • 3
    If enlarging the map by one tile, there is no place for the water to go to. It's just an artifact caused by the fact that Dwarf Fortress maps are fixed in size, instead of infinitely scrollable.
    – Nakedible
    Aug 14, 2010 at 11:39
  • 1
    i'm with C.Ross- who cares where the water is once it's off the map? In my mind, it's not cheating to allow it to flow off the side. I just didn't know it was possible by carving a fortification on the edge. Totally awesome.
    – Epaga
    Aug 24, 2010 at 7:07

4 Answers 4


Well you can't tunnel off the side of the map because the edge tile is never diggable, so that's out anyway. So it turns out you can turn an edge tile into fortifications which will drain water. First smooth it, then carve fortifications. (Thanks Nakedible!)

However, for those who consider this cheating or who are using a non-infinite water source, the only way is, indeed, a pump stack. This, while time consuming, isn't as terrible as you might think. (You'll probably have to do this later to bring magma up from the deeps, anyway.) The wiki has a description of optimal pump stack construction.

This will allow you to build a stack of mechanically operated pumps without putting extra machinery on each level. You only have to power one of the pumps in the stack. (Assuming that power source provides enough power for the whole stack.) Combine this with the (somewhat cheating) dwarven water-wheel reactor and you have a relatively painless pumping solution.

I like to put two gears between the power source and the pump stack and attach a lever to the gear nearest the pump stack. This allows me to turn the whole thing off if chaos ensues for any reason or I need to do maintenance to the system.

The alternative is of course a genuine water wheel setup or windmill setups, but these options will force you to be more choosy about where you locate the construction. Any axles or gears that lead from your power source to the pump stack consume power!

You might want to try building a smaller pump stack before going for one that spans 50 levels or more. Keep in mind it's very easy to flood your fortress with Fun!

  • 7
    Tunneling to the side of the map works by putting a fortification at the very last tile.
    – Nakedible
    Aug 14, 2010 at 11:40
  • Thank you for the fortification glitch, I want only to add that you have to do it with the "d" key and not "b" (build) as I initially tought. This trick for me is necessary to avoid the huge amount of lag, that drops of water cause in already-discovered caverns.
    – user36550
    Nov 5, 2012 at 10:51

From what I understand, if you divert the water into a pre-existing infinite water source underground (such as lakes in caverns and aquifers) the water will basically be eaten as fast as is can path in. This isn't as much "cheating" because these natural sources of water are often already open at the map edges, so you can think of the water as flowing off the map rather than disappearing into source blocks of water. Good luck! (And I would say "have fun!" but that's more of a curse than encouragement in this game... :P)


I tried doing the same thing but I drained it into the first cavern levels without any problems other than flooding part of the caverns. I seem to recall that there was water leaving the edge of the map in one part of the caverns that provided convenient drainage.


Well, I suppose the only way besides using a pump is to make a small fort on the edge of the map. It wouldn't have to be very big: beds for two or three dwarves, an armory, and it would probably be wise to exploit any resources there you don't have anywhere else, and always, if you have dwarves there, have a way for them to escape. But, if you think that's cheating, then I suppose you could have a way for it to be pumped up into a river and naturally flow back to the fall.

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