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For Immediate Release
April 23, 2022
Save The Colorado
Contact: Gary Wockner, 970-218-8310
Can Elon Musk Save the Colorado River and the Southwest U.S.?
Glen Canyon Dam, AZ: Over the past week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the seven states of the Colorado River basin have jumped into “dire emergency” mode for how to protect Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell from plummeting water levels. Three problems arise as the water level drops:
- The Dam provides hydropower to a swath of the Southwest U.S., and if the water level drops near or below the hydropower turbines, electricity generation stops and the turbines may be severely damaged when air is spun, rather than water, through the turbines.
- Page, AZ, has a water supply intake pipe that pumps water out of Lake Powell near the Dam, and as the Lake level drops, Page’s intake will start sucking air rather than water.
- As the Lake level drops past “power pool” (where the hydropower turbines exist), the water can only pass through the “outlet tubes” which are steel structures at the base of the dam. These tubes were not intended to be used as the sole outlet for water, and there is extreme concern that by using the outlet tubes, the dam could be severely damaged and water restricted from being delivered downstream through Grand Canyon to Lake Mead. At present, this problem is generally stated as the main driver for the fed/state “dire emergency”.
We prescribe three solutions to the three problems:
- The Bureau of Reclamation can purchase electricity on the open market to make up for the electricity generated by Glen Canyon Dam. It’s generally recognized that these market purchases will be more expensive than the super-cheap, government-subsidized electricity produced by the hydropower facility at Glen Canyon Dam. If Congress and the President believe that the increase in electricity costs are not justified, then Congress and the President can subsidize that expense.
- The federal government needs to immediately step in and help Page, AZ, lengthen its water supply intake farther down into Lake Powell near the base of the Colorado River. Doing so may also require additional pumping capacity.
- There are at least 4 ways to get water from one side of Glen Canyon Dam to the other as the water level drops below the turbines:
- Pump water over the top of the dam.
- Siphon water over the top of the dam.
- Bore a large hole through the dam.
- Bore a large hole around the dam.
First, pumping water up and over landscapes is a common water supply technique. The “Colorado River Aqueduct” in southern California uses multiple large pumping stations that could serve as an example for getting water out of Lake Powell and over Glen Canyon Dam.
Second, siphons can be effective methods for moving water up and over landscapes without the use of pumps, and siphons are used for that purpose in other areas of the Colorado River basin. Engineers could potentially design a siphon system to get the water out of Lake Powell and up and over Glen Canyon Dam.
Third, because boring a large hole through Glen Canyon Dam would likely irrevocably render the dam useless, it may not be considered until there is a long-term plan for decommissioning the Dam.
Fourth, boring a large hole through the sandstone around the dam is a highly possible option. As an example, Las Vegas bored the “Third Straw” underneath Lake Mead for this exact purpose — to get water out of Lake Mead as the water level in the Lake fell lower. Our understanding is that the boring firm, “Vegas Tunnel Contractors”, has already given thought to the Glen Canyon Dam boring project.
In addition, the wonderkind, Elon Musk, owns a boring firm called “The Boring Company” that digs massive tunnels for transportation purposes. Musk’s company is already involved in a tunneling project under Las Vegas. Further, his ambition for high-profile engineering projects may make “Saving the Colorado River and the Southwest U.S.” a priority. We encourage the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to contact Musk and begin the conversation.
The immense irony of Glen Canyon Dam is that the entire purpose of the structure was to stop and then control the water that flows in the Colorado River, but now the entire economy, electricity supply, and water supply of the Southwest U.S. is threatened by that exact same purpose. As boring as it seems, to save the Southwest U.S., we must let the Colorado River flow freely.