Facts Are In: Removing Glen Canyon Dam Makes Economic and Environmental Sense

An important new study commissioned by the Glen Canyon Institute concludes that, if Glen Canyon Dam stopped generating hydropower, it would have only a negligible impact on the western power grid, would have a minuscule impact on residential customers of hydropower, and would actually save tens of millions of dollars each year in taxpayer subsidies and wasted water.

The study, led by Dr. Thomas Power, a respected economics professor emeritus at University of Montana, investigated the claim by water and power managers that the loss of hydropower generation at Glen Canyon Dam would have catastrophic impacts on the customers that currently get at least some of their electricity from the dam.

The claim is just not true.

The study found that:

  • the average annual value of Glen Canyon Dam’s electric energy represents less than one half of one percent of the sales value from electric generation in the western grid, and that the grid could readily absorb the loss of hydropower from the dam;
  • the total impacts would be an increase of $16.31 million in electricity costs for consumers of Glen Canyon Dam power, but because they would be spread among 3.2 million customers, the individual impacts would be miniscule; and,
  • average rate increases would be only $.08 per month for residential customers, $.59 per month for commercial customers, and $6.16 per month for industrial customers of Glen Canyon Dam electricity.

More important, Dr. Power found that discontinuation of Glen Canyon Dam operations could have substantial offsetting economic benefits.  Eliminating hydropower production at Glen Canyon could result in savings of up to $35 million annually in management costs and increased earnings of as much as $40 million annually due to expanded hydropower production at Hoover Dam.  Water supplies in the Colorado would be improved because of seepage from Lake Powell would be reduced and less water would be lost to evaporation.

This is an important study because debunks the flawed rationale to maintain the status quo at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.  The report shows that even if Lake Powell were completely drained, the loss of hydropower would have a minimal impact on the vast majority of consumers of this power, and it would be good for water management throughout the basin.

The time has arrived to seriously consider removing Glen Canyon Dam and allow the water currently in Lake Powell to flow downstream to fill Lake Mead.  The specious arguments used by the Water Nobility to continue the status quo at Glen Canyon just don’t hold water.