Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type



Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Patricia Limerick

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Chaarles Wilkinson


Through research on the contemporary debates and studies pertaining to Glen Canyon Dam, this paper objectively addressed the proposal to drain Lake Powell. This thesis reaches a conclusion that advocates decommissioning the Glen Canyon Dam. This paper approaches the concise, yet multi-dimensional question of whether or not to drain Lake Powell by most basically weighing the benefits and costs of both keeping and removing Lake Powell through an analysis of the effects on various parties. The areas of interest in which existing empirical data is available in order to sculpt a comprehensive and supported opinion that will simply answer the central question are: logistical feasibility of such a proposition, adverse effects on power generation, sedimentation, water supply and distribution, recreation, and ecology (especially fish). On the subject of hydroelectric power produced by Glen Canyon Dam it is prudent to not decommission the dam, for a clean and cheap power source with peaking capabilities would be eliminated. Because sediment will eventually fill in the lake and is always increasing the time to a restored Glen Canyon, I advocate draining Lake Powell. The use of Lake Powell as a storage facility will not be realized for some time and increased evaporation from the lake also supports the movement to decommission the dam. The fact that recreation will continue in the Glen and Grand Canyons in the absence of Lake Powell aligns with the motion to drain Lake Powell, and the ecological harm that is a result of the Glen Canyon Dam (both within Lake Powell and in the Grand Canyon) is yet another reason to support decommissioning the Glen Canyon Dam. By analyzing the various aspects of the above categories in respect to a proposal to drain the contents of Lake Powell, This paper responds in favor of decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam.