The Hoover Dam was and is a marvel of engineering, a 700-foot wall of concrete holding back the Colorado River. Its 17 massive power turbines supply electricity for southern California and a chunk of the U.S. Southwest. But in the space of a year, the Hoover power plant will have essentially shrunk in half, from about 2,100 megawatts of generation capacity in early 2014 to about 1,200 megawatts this spring, all because of the impacts of drought caused by climate change.
“In some areas, climate change could really compromise the practicability of using hydropower as an energy source,” said David Michel, director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center. “It’s not a question of an apocalyptic, rivers-are-running-dry scenario, but the tradeoffs with other demands for water could call many projects into question.”