Didion on Water

Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive.

When I was visiting Hoover Dam in October, the folks who were showing me the stilling wells inside the dam took me on a side trip out onto the walkway outside the power plants at the bottom of the dam.

We stood for a long time watching the water boil up into the dam’s tailrace, where the Colorado River renews its trip downstream after its quiet impoundment in Lake Mead and its frenetic trip through the dam’s penstocks and enormous generators.

It was mesmerizing.

I was reminded of that visit today via OTPR’s link to a Joan Didion essay on water:

I can put myself to sleep imagining the water dropping a thousand feet into the turbines at Churchill Falls in Labrador. If the Churchill Falls Project fails to materialize, I fall back on waterworks closer at hand — the tailrace at Hoover on the Colorado, the surge tank in the Tehachapi Mountains that receives California Aqueduct water pumped before — and finally I replay a morning when I was seventeen years old and caught, in a military-surplus life raft, in the construction of the Nimbus Afterbay Dam on the American River near Sacramento. I remember that at the moment it happened I was trying to open a tin of anchovies with capers. I recall the raft spinning into the narrow chute through which the river had been temporarily diverted. I recall being deliriously happy.

One Comment

  1. The tailbay view at Hoover is very impressive and beautiful. You actually see the power of the water as it pushes equally from both the Arizona and Nevada powerhouses. The water is exceptionally clear and brilliant. Looking at it always reminded me of a Coors Beer Ad. The best view in my opinion, is from the Nevada side and in the early afternoon. The color is a combination of green and blue. Sometimes, under certain conditions small bubbles form in the discharged water and that changes the character of the water. Always beautiful.

    Water, elsewhere on the river has a different character. Some places it is gray and stark. Further down river the clear waters seen at Hoover become more translucent.

    You appreciate the beauty for what it is.

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