Posted on 08/24/2013

Photo taken on August 13, 2013

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Parker Dam
Lake Havasu
Metropolitan Water District
Colorado River

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Parker Dam

Parker Dam
Parker Dam (with boat for a size reference).

Located on the California / Arizona border 12 miles (19.3 km) northeast of Parker, Arizona and 155 miles (249 km) downstream of the Hoover Dam, it is the deepest dam in the world. After removing the Chemehuevis Indians from 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of their traditional lands construction, by the Bureau of Reclamation, ensued from 1934 to 1938. Chemehuevis homes and graves are at the bottom of the lake. The dam was put into service, in 1942. It is 320 feet (98 m) high. 235 feet (72 m) of it resides below the riverbed. That’s 73% of the dam. Its primary functions are to create a reservoir (Lake Havasu, which backs up behind the dam for 45 miles, 72.4 km) and generate hydroelectric power (at a capacity of 120 kw, although downstream river conditions limit output to between 104 – 108 kw).

Half of the dam’s electrical output goes to utilities in Nevada, Arizona and California. Because the Metropolitan Water District advanced the construction costs, the other half is perpetually reserved by them to help pump water along the 242 mile (389.4 km) Colorado River Aqueduct (serving Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties in California). In places, it requires pumping uphill. This isn’t surprising since the dam (and aqueduct) were created in an era where those in positions of power thought nothing of rearranging nature to suit their interests (in this case the expansion of Southern California). The excesses involved in making water run “uphill” were merely viewed as personal successes of human ingenuity. With today’s concerns over power generation the amount of electricity it requires to move water along the aqueduct is viewed as a liability. In 2017 the Metropolitan Water District will be losing 5% of the pumping electricity it receives from the Hoover Dam. Much more expensive electricity, purchased on the open market, will have to replace it. Currently it receives a “lion’s share” allocation of 28.5393% of Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric output (while the entire city of Los Angeles receives 15.4229%).

Lake Havasu has a capacity of 647,000 acre feet (798,000,000 m³). The Metropolitan Water District’s W.P. Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant (for the Colorado River Aqueduct) is located 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the dam on the shore of Lake Havasu.

Lake Havasu is also a recreational lake. In fact hydroelectric generation is limited by a requirement that the lake be kept at specific levels to allow recreational watercraft to operate there. One of the problems (and there are many) with allowing boating in a reservoir used for drinking water is that the vehicles, when used in multiple locations, can introduce invasive pests from other bodies of water. Currently the Metropolitan Water District is dealing with the pipe clogging quagga mussel (which is native to the Great Lakes). Watercraft also leak oil and fuel into the reservoir.

Lots of good information here. The Rube Goldberg machine of California water is one of my pet fixations.

The quagga mussel is actually invasive to the Great Lakes, too. It's native to the Dnieper River in the Ukraine, and was introduced into the Great Lakes through the dumping of ballast water in cargo ships in the 1980s. It's become a big problem here, too, though oddly enough it's also turned the lakes startlingly clear, so that on a sunny day they look an amazing blue. This has a downside, though, in that the water is clear mostly because the mussels remove huge amounts of phytoplankton, which is the base of the Great Lakes food chain.
5 years ago.