Hoover Dam, A Symbol of the Modern West, Faces An Epic Water Shortage

Hoover Dam towers more than 700 feet above Black Canyon on the Arizona-Nevada state line, holding back the waters of the Colorado River. On top of the dam, where visitors peer down the graceful white arc of its face, one of its art deco-style towers is adorned with a work of art that memorializes the purposes of the dam.

In five relief sculptures by Oskar Hansen, muscular men grip a boat’s wheel, harvest an armful of wheat, stand beside cascading water and lift a heavy weight overhead. Words encapsulate why the dam was built, as laid out in a 1928 law: FLOOD CONTROL, NAVIGATION, IRRIGATION, WATER STORAGE and POWER.