Our Hydropower System’s Many Attributes


The following Information is provided by Northwest RiverPartners:


• Hydropower is the original renewable resource for the Northwest. Dams store water from melting snow and rainfall in reservoirs. The weight of water stored behind the dams creates water pressure. That pressure is put to work when the water pushes past turbines to generate electricity. This flowing water produces energy over and over as it moves downriver through multiple dams.


• Northwest hydropower produces no carbon emissions, thereby significantly reducing the total carbon footprint of the region’s energy production.


• The Columbia and Snake River dams have enabled a 465-mile marine highway that allows for environmentally friendly barging of cargo. Barging on the Snake River alone keeps as many as 135,000 semi-trucks and 35,000 rail cars from transporting goods through the Columbia River gorge annually. 


• Hydropower represents approximately 80% of our region’s carbon-free energy. With bold clean energy goals and the move towards electric vehicles, hydropower has become an even more important part of our future.


• Northwest hydropower acts as a massive, clean battery for wind and solar power. We can store renewable energy (in the form of water) behind the dams when demand is low and then release it when demand is high. In this way, hydropower helps the region add even more renewable power to its resource mix.


• Hydropower helps to stabilize our region’s power grid by providing voltage support in areas where power wouldn’t otherwise flow. This is especially true of the lower Snake River dams, which support the 500-kilovolt transmission lines that run from western Montana to eastern Washington.


• Like wind for wind power and solar for solar power, the water that fuels hydropower is not subject to price fluctuations. This characteristic helps maintain a relatively consistent cost for those who depend on hydropower to provide electricity to their homes and businesses.


• The reservoirs behind dams provide an important source of irrigation for large areas of Northwest agricultural land that would otherwise be too dry to farm. Six percent of the Columbia River basin’s yearly runoff is used to irrigate about 7.8 million acres of Northwest farmland. Northwest farmers make productive use of this irrigation through sustainable agricultural practices.


• Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers provide vital navigation for the barges used by inland farmers to share their goods with the Northwest and the world.


Northwest RiverPartners is an alliance of farmers, utilities, ports, and businesses that promotes the balance of the various benefits of our rivers. These benefits include fish and wildlife, clean and renewable hydropower, energy affordability, economic opportunity, irrigation, flood control, and river commerce.