Hydropower 101: Clean Energy, the Northwest Way of Life

A road going through a forest with a lake next to it.Life in the Northwest is shaped by the Columbia River and all it has to offer. From clean energy to clean air, this iconic waterway is forever giving.

It Fuels the Cleanest Power System in the Nation

Dams in the Columbia River Basin produce more electricity than any other North American river. They provide nearly 60% of the Northwest's electricity and 90% of its renewable energy. With no emissions or other waste products, the dams in the Columbia Basin preserve our fresh air and entice Northwest residents to explore the outdoors.

It Makes Deserts Bloom

Six percent of the Columbia Basin’s yearly runoff is used to irrigate almost 8 million acres of Northwest farmland. This once-arid land produces about half of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts—from the grapes that put Oregon’s pinot noir on the map, to the plentiful crops that fill Washington’s roadside fruit stands.

It’s the Cleanest Way to Move Cargo

The quality goods produced in the Northwest, including tons of wheat and other grains, are carried to far-away markets in barges on a marine highway, keeping 700,000 trucks and their carbon emissions off our roads each year.

It Feeds Our Economy

The Northwest’s low-cost, reliable, and clean hydropower attracts manufacturers and businesses, spurring economic development and bringing jobs to communities large and small. The annual income from agricultural products fed from the Columbia exceeds $8 billion, and the cargo transported on the river each year is valued at $20 billion.

It’s Why We Live Here

Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature is an important part of life in the Northwest. Flood control allows us to work, live, and play safely in communities that could otherwise be threatened by rising waters. Beyond the clean air we breathe, the system of dams and reservoirs offers boundless recreational opportunities, from fishing for prized salmon and steelhead, to windsurfing in the gorge. And significant investments by system operators protect and enhance fish and wildlife throughout the basin, reducing the impacts of dams on the plants, animals, and lands we all share.

The mighty Columbia supports an enviable quality of life. It’s why we call it the Great Northwest.