This post was submitted by Will B.
During the 2017 Classroom Earth’s quest for knowledge about water issues in the West, the boys visited one of the largest and most controversial dams in the entire United States, Glen Canyon Dam. The Glen Canyon Dam, being 710 feet tall, has generated about $3 billion dollars of electricity, but this positive effect comes with many unfavorable consequences. The museum at the top of the dam revealed all of the endangered species in the river but neglected to mention how the dam affected these poor defenseless animals’ habitats. The dam lets cold water flow through to the rest of the river which hurts the fish who are adapted to the warm waters of the Colorado River. The dam also prevents sediment from traveling downstream which damages the habitats of the creatures who call the Colorado River their home. The dam also slows the flow of the water a considerable amount which causes the sediments the river had been carrying to fall to the bottom of Lake Powell. This sediment build up increases unrelentingly and will cause the dam to be rendered completely useless. The sluggish pace of the river before the dam also allows the sun to evaporate the stagnant water. When you compound this devastating evaporation with the seepage of water into the surrounding rock walls, you create a deadly concoction which kills 6% of the water flow and damages the Colorado River’s slim chances of reaching its delta in Mexico. During my inspection of the museum, I found the dam could not sustain the overwhelming demands that come with increasing populations, and that our water consumption rates assist with this unsustainability.
Although many negative attributes of the Glen Canyon Dam exist, the dam also comes with many positive aspects. The reservoir created by the dam, Lake Powell, racks up huge amounts of money from tourists and water recreation for the city. The dam supplies many places with electricity as water flows through. Inside the dam, there lies a hole that slants downwards towards turbines. The immense weight of the water behind the dam pushes the water with great pressure into this hole, and as the hole slants downwards, the water gains even greater velocity, turning the turbines at a mind-blowing rate. These spinning turbines connect to generators with thousands of electromagnets surrounded by iron coils, and when the iron coils spin around the electromagnets, electricity is created in mass quantities.
It’s quite an opportunity to be able to weigh the pros and cons of our water usage in such a personal manner. I wonder what you think the solutions might be?