- Water flows into a generating station, also known as a powerhouse, where energy from the water is converted into hydroelectricity.
- A tube, known as a penstock, carries water to the turbine.
- The water spins large turbine blades.
- The spinning turbine blades rotate a turbine shaft.
- The shaft is connected to a generator that spins.
- The generator rotates and converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
- Water flows back into the river and continues downstream, where it may repeat this cycle many times.
Most dams on the Columbia River system were built between the 1940s and 1980s, and are part of a coordinated water management system, guided by the 1964 Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States, that:
- coordinates flood control
- optimizes hydroelectricity generation on both sides of the border.