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Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

The Hoover Dam is a true engineering marvel that sits on the Arizona-Nevada border and controls the water flow of the mighty Colorado River. This incredible structure took 5 years to build (1931-1936), is 60 stories tall, and is as wide as two football fields. Built to provide power and to control flooding it also supplies drinking water and recreation to as many as 25 million people across the states of California, Nevada, and Arizona. That’s more people than the entire state of Florida!

The Hoover Dam provides significant power and water to millions of people in the western part of the United States.

Lake Mead’s water likely didn’t originate in Arizona or Nevada however, it begins as far away as two hundred miles in the form of just a snowflake making its way down from the Colorado Rocky Mountains through tiny creeks and streams until it reaches the Colorado River before ultimately flowing into Lake Mead that sits behind the Hoover Dam.

Lake Mead
Lake Mead is the largest capacity reservoir in the U.S.

Today, Lake Mead is experiencing its lowest water levels in over 20 years due to climate change and drought conditions. The Lake is currently almost 150 feet below what is considered to be “full” and can visibly be seen by what is said to look like a “bathtub ring” from the mineral deposits left on the shore. If water levels drop too low, the federal government may be forced to declare the first ever official water shortage in Arizona and Nevada. Can you imagine only being able to use water to take a shower, bathe, or brush your teeth on certain days of the week?

As many as 8 million people get their power from the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Less water also means less power since the Dam uses the water flowing through it to create electricity. Dam power creation begins with flowing water that moves across giant propellers, called turbines. The turbine spins while being connected to a generator or the motor that is used to generate electricity.

Conventional Impoundment Dam (Source: Tennessee Valley Authority)

While it may seem like there is an endless supply of water and electricity available for us to use try to remember that it must come from somewhere, just like Lake Mead. One can make even a small difference just by turning off the light switch when leaving a room or shutting off the water faucet in between brushing your teeth or when washing dishes in the sink. If we all pitch in even in small ways such as these, we can continue to enjoy these precious resources for many years to come.

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