Hoover Dam’s cobwebbed spillway*

Erika Moonin, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s engineering project manager for construction of the agency’s new Lake Mead intakes, showed me a picture yesterday of water pouring over Hoover Dam’s spillways in 1983, the last time the reservoir spilled. When she was a youngster, her dad took her out to see the spectacle. Looking at it today, it’s hard to imagine. Current lake level is 137 feet below the 1983 peak.

I was trying to take pictures earlier this week that might illustrate the big empty. Here’s what the spillway looks like today:

Hoover Dam spillway, Nevada side

Hoover Dam spillway, Nevada side

* I didn’t actually see cobwebs. It’s literary license.
** It also “filled and spilled” in the late 1990s, but didn’t rise to the level of needing spillways, just moved excess water above and beyond downstream water users’s needs through the dam’s normal release system.


  1. The late ’90’s is about when the Feds came to the realization things were in a downward trend. Mexico was starting to question their share, and Minute 319. More importantly, as other Lower Basin States started using closer to their full allotment, the Feds were likewise were forced to start seeing that they would have to limit California to their full allotment only. Not all the water they could handle.

  2. Note that every time the spillway has been used there has been major damage to it. Likewise the Glen Canyon spillway where the rock in which it was cut was badly eroded by spillway use.

Comments are closed.