The Glen Canyon Dam blocks the flow of the Colorado River with a soaring wall of concrete nearly the height of two football fields. With this massive dam blocking the flow of water the river is turned back on itself, drowning the plasma-red gorges for up to 200 miles, creating a lake of flat, smooth water, which is the nation’s second-largest reserve, Lake Powell.
Glen Canyon Dam came with the promise of bringing water to the American West, fixing its greatest handicap, which is the shortage of water. This is back in the middle of last century. After The Glen Canyon Dam there were other dam projects set out for the American West. They would bring those wild rivers to heel, produce power that was cheap and clean and stockpile that water and use as necessary as the desert economy thrived. Remotely located and rarely questions, these dams were once thought as monolithic wonders of engineering.
But these days there is a different story, or no story all together, as the promises of the dams to come have run their course and the great dam there today is doing more harm than good. The West is being altered by climate change. Now as it becomes hotter and drier there is less water to store and no more remaining good sites for new dams.
The big dams in the West that were supposed to elevate the area into the ultimate environment have shown to be less efficient as well as less effective than the champions have hoped. They also left ecosystems altered in a negative way and disrupted fisheries while taxpayers were left saddled with debt.
They also failed at doing their most important job, save water. The reservoirs the dams created had billions of gallons sucked out from them due to evaporation or had the water go the way of underground leakage. Quite an egregious failure indeed for system supposed to conserve water. The loss of over a billion gallons of water under any longstanding benefits and might be making the West’s water crisis even worse.
Glen Canyon is the best example of the lesson learned from this yet people still want to push forth new dam projects, not grasping the fact that 20th-century solutions cant help the challenges of our 21st-century drought.
Decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam could offer a solution. It is proposed that a cheap, immediate and significant new source of water could be put where it is definitely needed by combining Lake Mead and Lake Powell. By doing this, 179 billion gallons could be saved which is enough to supply the population of Los Angeles.
While many do not want to rid of Glen Canyon Dam, many experts weigh and agree with the decommissioning/lake combining idea, some even saying that with so few options it is a no brainer. Although there are critics, chief executive of Denver’s water utility is one. He says that it would involve a lot of work; they would have to get Congress to act, get a new agreement among seven state legislatures, revise the treaty with Mexico and a federal environmental impact analysis which would no doubt be lengthy. Suddenly the simple idea has gotten complicated.
“A half a million acre feet sounds like a lot of water, but I don’t think it’s significant enough, frankly, to justify going through all of that.”