Downstream Effects of the Glen Canyon Dam

The major socio-cultural effect down river from Glen Canyon Dam is that of water allocation and availability. The Colorado River provides water for more than 30 million people, and without Glen Canyon Dam, a lot of this water would be "wasted." The construction and operation of Glen Canyon Dam allow the Southwest to be developed and populated far more than the pre-dam conditions. Whereas previously there was an unchecked and natural river flowing, now there are millions of people and massive impact on the environment proliferating over the arid desert sands. Marc Reisner, author of "Cadillac Desert" said of this phenomena: "We've put these festering population centers in places where I think, objectively speaking, they have no business being -- but they're there." It is one of the greatest and most complex paradoxes of life: who do we support, the earth or humanity? Compromises are entirely necessary and feasible, and in the case of Glen Canyon Dam, unfortunately Glen Canyon was forever compromised.


It is one of our inherent rights as human beings to have and set aside wilderness areas for the sake of wilderness areas, regardless if we are going to venture into them or not. Every time we build a new dam, establish another road, or construct a new subdivision, we are forever altering the earth. Currently, there is a call by the Sierra Club and environmentalists to have Lake Powell drained, to allow Glen Canyon to return to its natural state. This is quite possible, but is a bit unfeasible because Glen Canyon Dam is nowadays a necessary entity in the American Southwest. The dam literally supports millions of people with the water and electricity that it produces and allocates. If Lake Powell were drained, it is quite possible that this would be a population curbing mechanism, i.e. the resources in the Southwest would literally not be able to support the ever-growing population. Though this would be good to curb the growth of population anywhere, a way of life would be lost with the decommission of Glen Canyon Dam. Significant economic benefits lie in Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, and if the dam were decommissioned, the Southwest’s economy could quite possibly be thrown into turmoil, let alone having to try and apportion alternate routes of electricity and water for the growing masses. The draining of Lake Powell and deconstruction of Glen Canyon Dam would also cost a significant amount of money, and where would this money come from, as the government is already more than a few hundred billion dollars in debt. However, if Lake Powell is simply drained, it will be relatively cost-free, as all that needs to be done is to open the two diversion tunnels and allow the water to flow down the river in a controlled manner.

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