Hoover Dam: one of the greatest hydro-electric generating stations in the world

Situated on the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada, in the United States, this amazing project gives water and hydro-electric energy to a great part of that region, taking advantage of the great power generated by the Colorado River. This incredible structure was built in the American great depression period, between 1931 and 1936, however, it was built two years before its scheduled construction time. It cost was $49 million dollars. The dam was initially named Boulder Dam, but it changed its name to Hoover Dam in honor to president Herbert Hoover, who did a great effort for the building of this mega project. Width 221 height meters, 379 length meters and more than 35.000 Km3 of capacity, this construction could generate more than 4,2 billion kWh2 per year.

The lake formed in the dam is called Lake Mead and at its maximum water volume level, it could be the largest water reservoir in the United States. Currently, the Hoover Dam is managed by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and it is considered one of the most amazing places to visit in the country.

Image courtesy of Ralph Arvesen at Flickr.com

The construction

Due to the constant flood of the Colorado River over agricultural regions located under this river and a growing water need in the state of California, the U.S. Government thought in the construction of a dam to prevent these agriculture affectations and to generate enough water for the country southwest area.

One of the biggest problems for the construction was the partition of the Colorado River water between seven states where its water passed (California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming), so in 1922 a commission integrated by a government figure, which in that moment was the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, and a deputy from each of these seven states, negotiated the Colorado River division and settled an agreement for the dam construction. In 1928, former president Calvin Coolidge officially approved the dam project and in 1930 with Herbert Hoover as the United States president the construction of this structure began.

The dam construction contract was adjudicated to the Six Companies, Inc. For its construction, the Colorado River had to be deflected through four tunnels, each one of them with 17 diameter meters. For the construction of the dam wall, the rocks where the wall would be located had to be removed with dynamite. After the rocks removal and two years later of project starting, the construction company began with the concrete emptying for the wall formation. In the construction of the Hoover Dam, 112 people died. Deaths were related to the high heat in that area, carbon monoxide poisoning, dynamite explosions, among other reasons.

Lake Mead

As mentioned above, the lake Mead is the greatest water reservoir in the United States. At its maximal capacity, the lake has 112 miles long, 759 shoreline miles, 532 depth feet and the capacity of 26, 12 million acre-feet of water.

Lake Mead provides water to the states of California, Nevada, and Arizona, serving more than 20 million people and agriculture zones. This incredible site not only works as a water reserve, it also gives the opportunity to do a lot of entertaining things to visitors, like fishing, swimming, boating, among other stuff.

Image courtesy of Dave Herholz at Flickr.com

Hydro-electric system

Inside the wall of the dam, is located the engines room. It has 17 generators that produce all the energy; 16 of them are large generators and there are two generators that work as a single generator. These last ones are used to provide hydroelectric energy to small communities.

The generated energy of the dam is allocated in 15 areas. Southern California is the biggest consumer with 28% of the created energy, followed by the State of Nevada with 23% and the State of Arizona with 18%. The dam also provides energy to Native American tribes located in the area.

Dam architecture

Initially, the dam design would have a modern look, but for functional reasons, the design changed and the dam would be adorned with a gothic-inspired balustrade and eagle statues, but this proposal was rejected by many people, so the dam was redesigned with an Art Deco style. At the Hoover dam’s top, there are two roads for automobiles that cross the Colorado River.

Additionally, there is an arc bridge at the front of the dam called the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. This is an extraordinary structure and it was opened in 2010 and has four automobile lanes, 1,900 length feet, and 1,500 height feet.

Related: Some of the longest bridges in the world by Kenny Slaught

The Hoover Dam is an astonishing structure of this time. It is able to provide energy for more than 1 million homes in different areas like California or Nevada, it also has the capability to irrigate more than 2 million acres for farming. Furthermore, the dam receives more than 7 million visitors per year and the lake Mead more than 10 million people. For these mentioned reasons and much more, in 1994 the Hoover Dam was designated as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders and is considered a National Historic Landmark.


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