Economic Benefits of Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam

Economically, the Glen Canyon Dam has provided many benefits since its 1963 completion. It has provided water supply and power for much of the southwestern United States, and parts of Mexico. The Glen Canyon Dam is part of the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP), implemented mainly to supply power to Native American reservations, Rural Electric Co-ops, government facilities, and municipalities. In total, the CRSP serves about 174 customers in Raton, New Mexico; Beaver, Utah; Center, Colorado; Ely, Nevada; and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. The Glen Canyon Dam is a crucial part in this project, supplying up to 75-85% of the total power generation. Since most of these customers reside in small rural communities with fairly low income, the CRSP is a welcome source of cheaper electricity. The costs of this power are based on covering operation costs, supplying capital towards irrigation projects, and about re-paying the United States Treasury ( Glen Canyon Dam Power Generation , 1998).

In addition to power generation, the Glen Canyon Dam supplies water to several states in the Lower Colorado River Basin. These states, including California, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico receive 8.23 million acre feet of water each year from the Glen Canyon Dam (Glen Canyon Institute , 1998). A small portion of this water supply is directed to urbanized areas of the southwest. The majority of the water however, is directed towards irrigation for agricultural production. Overall, about 85% of the water goes to these irrigation projects ( National Park Service , 1998). With the input of irrigation, the arid regions of these states have become fertile agricultural lands. Because of the high productivity of these areas, many customers in the United States are provided with fruits and vegetables year round. Conversely, these states owe their economic viability largely to these agricultural operations.

Lake Powell, the reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam has also provided many economic benefits. Although the reservoir took 17 years to fill after the completion of the dam ( National Park Service , 1998), today it has a storage capacity of 27,000,000 acre feet, making it one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the country ( United States Bureau of Reclamation , 1998), second only to Lake Mead. Although the Glen Canyon Dam is considered part of the Lower basin, the Lake Powell reservoir provides the storage necessary to maintain downriver flows, while allowing Upper Basin states to draw necessary flows. Under the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the Colorado River was apportioned between the seven user states in both the Upper and Lower Basins. This agreement is responsible for water developments along the Colorado and its tributaries, and also acts to control water flows ( National Park Service , 1998). The original act set forth minimum flow requirements for the downstream community, Lee Ferry, Arizona. Without the storage capacity of Lake Powell, these requirements could not be met due to the water use of the Upper Basin ( United States Bureau of Reclamation , 1998).

In addition to helping maintain required flows, Lake Powell's water supply provided for the development of Page, Arizona . This community was started in early 1957 as the first roads were created to facilitate construction of the dam. Eventually, about 100 homes were built, twelve churches, and temporary metal structures. By 1968-1969, the first of these homes were sold to people interested in residing in the quickly growing community. Finally, on December 17, 1974, the "Town of Page" was formed, and formally incorporated into Coconino County on March 1, 1975 ( Canyon Country , 1998).

In the last 23 years since its formal incorporation, Page, Arizona has grown immensely. It currently has over 8,200 residents. In addition, about 4 million visiting tourists bring in $2.5 million each year (Rubin, Jeff; ABC News Online , 1998). Because of its centralized location, Page hosts tourists en route to many other southwestern sites such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Lake Powell. As a tourist, resort community, Page provides many jobs for its residents. The largest employers are the National Park Service, the Navajo Generating Station, and ARAMARK, a large food and catering service ( Canyon Country , 1998). These enterprises and the precious water supplied by the Glen Canyon Dam feed the continued development of this desert town's economy.

The recreational resources provided by Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell have also contributed economic benefits. Lake Powell is one of the most popular tourist sites in the southwest. With over 1900 miles of shoreline ( United States Bureau of Reclamation , 1998), Lake Powell provides fishing, boating, water-sports, and camping to millions of tourists each year. Downstream, recreational fisheries have been improved (though at an ecological cost ). Non-native trout have done especially well, further attracting tourists to "one of the finest trout fishing sites in the Southwest ( United States Geological Survey , 1998)." These same altered flows provide excellent runs and rapids for rafters and kayakers each year.

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