Half an hour outside of Las Vegas, nestled comfortably between Arizona and Nevada, is one of the world’s largest dams. Once upon a time, it was the world’s largest dam, when construction was completed in 1935.
The Hoover Dam is famous because of popular myth and the sheer scale of the project. The surrounding reservoir is still the largest in the world, though the Dam itself is no longer the tallest. Once the dam was complete, an entire city had grown up around it.
The Hoover Dam was a monumental undertaking and involved the workplace fatalities of 95 people. The hydroelectric station constructed there supplies 4 billion kilowatt-hours annually. That covers homes and businesses across a massive swath of real estate in three, different states.
The Size of the Hoover Dam
When it comes to size, its not just the Hoover Dam we’re referring to, but also the surrounding area. A project of that magnitude has a contributing effect to the area around it, whether its in terms of costs or growth.
In the case of the Hoover Dam, it was growth. By the time the Hoover Dam was completed in 1935, an entire city had grown up around it—Boulder City. Of course, the city owe’s its beginning to the necessity of housing over 5,000 workers and contributors to the dam.
At first, the city was under complete control of the federal government or, more specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In 1960, The feds allowed the city to become an officially incorporated town, with the government ceding control.
Volume of Concrete
The amount of concrete that went into the Hoover Dam was so massive, that you could spread it out and stretch a major highway from the western coast of the United States to the Eastern coast, directly through the heart of America.
According to most estimates, the Hoover Dam used a total of 1.11 million cubic yards of concrete and an additional 3.25 million cubic yards just for the dam. The amount of concrete that went into the project was staggering and there has rarely been a project to equal it since.
The Hoover Dam was Designed for More Than Hydroelectric Power
The Hoover Dam is known for having one of the world’s largest hydroelectric plants. However, that’s not all it’s known for. Its original design wasn’t even focused on that. Prior to the dam’s existence, the Colorado River was prone to flooding, which was very problematic for cities along its route.
The Hoover Dam put a stop to that, which was almost entirely the reason for its construction. The dam was also used to divert water where it was needed. In fact, hydroelectric power was one of the last things on the list the dam was constructed for.
Back then, the hydroelectric power produced by the Colorado River and later harnessed, didn’t need to supply the levels of power that it does today. While there were plenty of towns and even cities along the Colorado River back then, they were nowhere near the size they are today, nor as heavily populated.
In 1936, the hydroelectric plant constructed there produced its first spark of power and has continually produced power since that year.
The Importance of the Hoover Dam
While those who don’t live anywhere near the Hoover Dam simply attribute its name to Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, the Hoover Dam is more than just a symbol or a name.
Hoover didn’t even show up for the name dedication. The importance of the Hoover Dam cannot be understated and even Nazi Germany tried to lay out plans for its destruction prior to World War II.
The threat was credible enough that strategic plans were drawn up to defend and protect the Hoover Dam, including heavy restrictions on boaters and employees who worked near or on the Hoover Dam.
Destroying the Hoover Dam would have crippled the economies, power, and air capabilities in three states. The power the Hoover Dam supplies is crucial to so many and in such a large area that a successful attack would have been devastating.
Unique Features of the Hoover Dam
Hydroelectric power that comes from the Hoover Dam is harnessed in two ways, unlike most dams that only harness it in one way. The Hoover Dam is built as an “arch-gravity” structure. This means the dam can draw power from the Colorado River in two ways—an Arch Dam and a Gravity Dam.
Both of these construction types are designed to displace water pressure. Though they are of two different designs, they both displace water in their own ways. That displacement process is the beginning of the converting water into power process.
Other Benefits of the Hoover Dam
Water is life and there are those who decided to take advantage of the Hoover Dam and its capabilities. Farmers have set up shop in an area that was once far too arid an environment for successfully farming the land.
The Hoover Dam’s existence helps supply water to nearly 30 million homes as well. Thanks to the Hoover Dam, millions are fed from the produce that comes out of the region. The destruction of the Dam would have an enormously negative impact on the food economy, creating ripples that would be felt across the world.
Las Vegas is what it is today, thanks to the Hoover Dam. So are the surrounding cities, including Boulder City. Three states take immediate advantage of what the Hoover Dam offers. Its easily the largest reservoir in the United States and millions upon millions get their water from it.
All Things Considered
The impact of the Hoover Dam cannot be understated. It was an enormous undertaking and one that took place during a time when such things were thought impossible. The Hoover Dam was built during The Great Depression and it took a combination of six companies and the federal government to see it through.
While 95 people officially lost their lives building the dam, its estimated that it was well over 100. Today, there would be no Las Vegas, no Boulder City, and produce in the US would be severely diminished without the existence of this massive dam and reservoir.