Monday, March 26, 2007

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam impounds the Colorado River on the Nevada-Arizona border southeast of Las Vegas. Construction was begun in 1931 and completed in 1936. Over 5,000 workers were employed during construction of the dam, which contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete, is 726 feet high, 660 feet thick at the base, and 1244 feet long at the crest. It was the highest dam in the world from 1935 to 1967. Hoover dam generates 4 billion KwH of electricity per year, enough for 1.3 million people.

Lake Mead was created by the Hoover Dam. Water from Lake Mead irrigates farmland in southern California and southwestern Arizona. It supplies municipal water to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and 33 communities in LA area. Lake Mead covers 247 square miles, and has 700 miles of shoreline. It is the largest man-made reservoir in the US.

While the construction of the Hoover Dam was undoubtedly an engineering feat of immense proportions, opinion is split over whether the benefits of the dam outweigh the environmental harm done.

My own opinion (it's my blog, so I guess I'm entitled) is that the benefits are more temporary in nature, while the damage is less so. Population pressures catch up again after a respite of a few decades...look at Las Vegas, which grew phenomenally in the past half-century thanks to the Hoover Dam, but is now constrained again. My thinking is largely influenced by the chapter on the Aswan High Dam in a book I read a few years ago entitled "Something New Under the Sun: an Environmental History of the Twentieth Century World" by historian J.R. McNeill.

Mom and I stopped by here after seeing Susan and Tools off at the Las Vegas airport. We are driving to Flagstaff, Arizona this evening.

Notice how low the waterline is on Lake Mead.

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