The controlled river indicates

[Image: Photo by Matt York for the Associated Press (via)].

“A torrent of water was released into the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona on Tuesday, in a disputed effort to improve the environment for fish in the Grand Canyon,” the New York Times reports.
The sheer volume of water released is extraordinary:

The water poured out of the dam as if pumped through a gigantic fire hose, at the rate of 41,500 cubic feet per second – enough to fill the Empire State Building in 20 minutes. This release, which engineers call “high flow,” was meant to scour the river bottom and deposit silt and sediment to rebuild and extend sandbars and create new, calm backwater areas where the fish can spawn.

The BBC adds that “the Colorado river rose quickly after the flood was released.”

[Images: The water guns are opened. Photos by Matt York for the Associated Press (via)].

1) It would actually be quite fun to do that – to fill the Empire State Building with water in 20 minutes. It would be a performance art piece called Modernism after the Flood.
2) These timed releases are also a means of “calibrating” the river to the West’s urban hydroelectric needs: the waters will now “rise and fall for six months in a pattern that the United States Geological Survey is calibrating to match the demand for hydroelectric power in cities like Las Vegas.” The waters will “rise and fall,” that is, not because of lunar tides or upstream rainfall, but because U.S. cities need more hydroelectric power.
So while it may be obvious to this point out, the implication is that the whole river is a machine now – and what appears to be a “river” is really a kind of liquid chart, graph, or diagram from which we can read the electrical needs of contemporary U.S. urbanism.
The river, then, is a sign – it is information-bearing. It is textual, graphic, communicative. The controlled river, with its unnatural floods and valved reservoirs, indicates.

(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: N.A.W.A.P.A.)

8 thoughts on “The controlled river indicates”

  1. It would be more impressive I think to fill the empire state building from the top, than from the bottom. The water might come out of the windows.

    My estimation is that this would cost approx $500 million, not including cleanup, if it were done on cheap real estate. I think the fish would approve, getting them and all that water up there would be tricky though.

    A $500 million budget would be twice the largest ever movie budget , for comparison.

  2. I think it would be more fun to don some kind of protective suit. Cary enough oxygen for a few minutes, Mask duct taped firmly to mouth, and jump into the torrent. Could be a new sport. Just imagine the acceleration. Much better than bungy jumping.

  3. I heard it would have to be done every year to simulate the flooding process and have the desired effect but that they have no plans of repeating it for at least the next 5 years.

    So, does that mean the effect will be null – or temporary? or possibly worse than not doing this at all?

  4. Perhaps it is “obvious to point this out” but you have done so with flair: river-as-(data)-machine, liquid chart, an information bearing system that indicates….brilliant!

    In the absence of shared language, this is how we communicate with the fish.

  5. An amen to what sportsbabel said, and…

    The Columbia River is much the same. It is precisely calibrated to provide hydroelectric energy. However: The calibration is across a national boundary. The Columbia in Canada has been turned into a series of lakes which generate power, but their release timing is set to benefit the US.

    All of this is eloquently stated in ‘Voyage Of A Summer Sun,’ which is a memoir of canoeing the river from the BC rockies to the Pacific coast.

  6. In high school, I spent roughly a month of my life living on and around various segments of the Colorado River, as a result of my involvement with Boy Scouts. Most of these trips, we’d put in about 100 yards downstream from the Hoover Dam, and paddle our canoes/rafts/homemade kayaks 40 miles or so south, and drive back to San Diego.

    One trip, we camped in Boy Scout Canyon, about a mile south of the H-D. As darkness fell, one of the boys went to retrieve something from his raft, and discovered that most of the rafts were gone- increased demand for electricity results in increased flow, causing the river to rise by as much as 10 feet. Every night.

    We got the rafts back, though there were some close calls.

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