Media Tip Sheet: Impacts of Severe Drought Conditions and Climate Change on Hydropower

December 6, 2022

Glen Canyon Dam

Officials are continuing to sound the alarm on the severe drought conditions impacting the American Southwest and Colorado River. According to a report by The Washington Post, further receding water levels at the Glen Canyon Dam of Lake Powell could threaten the hydroelectric dam’s ability to produce power, amid other impacts to the river and region.

GW's Caitlin Grady

If you would like more context on this matter, please consider Caitlin Grady, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering at the George Washington University. Her areas of expertise include water, food and energy management as well as adaptation to climate change.

If the Glen Canyon Dam stops producing power, it's going to impact people unequally,” Grady says. “The power it generates goes to serve not just investor-owned utilities, but also Native American tribes and rural cooperatives who will need to find power elsewhere, at a much higher price.”

She adds that the drought status of the Glen Canyon Dam only scratches the surface on the complexity of managing hydropower into the 21st century.

“We have 2000+ hydropower facilities in this country that might be experiencing management challenges due to climate change,” Grady says. Those facilities play an important role in the electric grid. “Hydropower, broadly, is super important to the reliability of our electric grid. Even though it only generates six to seven percent of total power in the U.S., it is used for peaking and ramping power, and represents about 40% of our current black start resources.”

If you would like to speak with Professor Grady, please contact GW Media Relations Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].