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Rethinking Dams in the West

Bureau of Reclamation/NY Times

As the water crisis in the West grows more dire, many officials are realizing that the 20th century’s solutions are not sufficient for a 21st century problem. Many of the West’s big dams, reports The New York Times, are much less effective than once hoped. The massive structures have disrupted fisheries and left taxpayers saddled with debt. And—perhaps the worst part--these dams lose hundreds of billions of gallons of water each year to evaporation and leakage.

Some water advocates believe it’s time to decommission many of the West’s dams. That may include one of the grandest dams of them all, Glen Canyon in southern Utah. After the Glen Canyon was built, it took 17 years for the reservoir to fill. 19 years later, a steady decline began.

Some believe about 180 billion gallons of water would be saved each year by shutting down the dam—more than enough to supply the population of Los Angeles.