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That feeling is truly something very special, but rarely do we take a moment to reflect on why it is so special while we are in the middle of it. Yet we start to reflect later when we are longing for those days because the current project is the exact opposite.

Being on a high performing team is a memorable experience. In many cases, that experience will have a profound impact on how we judge and shape future project teams.

What is it that made that team so special? The answer can be elusive if real thought and analysis is not applied to find out why. Determining not only the answer, but how that can then be repeated on a consistent basis can provide numerous benefits personally and for your organization such as career growth, improved employee retention, increased efficiency and client satisfaction to name just a few. I believe that you need to have seven skills and qualities in place to consistently transform a group into a high performing team. Those seven skills are:

Leadership

Purpose

Innovation

Focus

Accountability

Communication

Responsiveness 

Leadership on a high performing team starts with the project manager. The role of the project manager is central and critical as they are the glue, the voice, and the face of the project. They are by no means the most important member because that would defeat the purpose of a team, but every team needs a leader.

Many times leadership for the project manager manifests itself in many different ways and from different angles. It is critical though, for the team to flourish, that the project manager creates and fosters an environment that values the individual and allows for others on the team to possibly lead. Team members are more apt to actively participate because they feel encouraged to think creatively, voice opinions, and as a result have input on decisions.

The respect that is placed on individuals begins to create the foundation for shared team values: Values that help further bond team members as well as get passed on to future team members. These values range from respect, trust, responsibility, openness, but what is important is that the values are shared. From these shared values, the team begins to form its own identity. No longer is the team a collection of individuals from different areas or different organization, but rather they view themselves as members of this project and this team. They have a primary focus to support each other in order to succeed at meeting the project objectives.

As a project manager, not only is it important to help define the key values as well as provide a solid example of them, but you also need to take that focus and continue to shape it and keep it centered on the future. The future of what the world will be like once the project is successfully delivered.

As the team becomes focused, they will also begin to determine their purpose as a team as well as individually. Purpose in this case is more than just executing on the tasks assigned. The purpose is really more holistic to the project in terms of being able to have a clearly defined vision, set of goals, objectives, and metrics that together provide the foundation to shape, direct, and manage the project. The purpose further helps to bond the team around a united identity, but it also provides the reasons for the how and why team members individually are playing crucial roles on the project.

The project manager influences greatly the purpose as they must be able to successfully define and articulate to the team the vision, objective, goals, and metrics in practical terms especially if they are coming from management and may not be tangible to the project team. The ability for the project manager to be able to align the goals of the organization, the project, and the individual is a critical link to creating a high performing team. That success in creating the link will enable each team member to be more self directing because they not only understand the purpose as it relates to both the project and themselves, but they buy-in and own it.

I realize that is a major burden to place on the shoulders of the project manager especially when they are not the people manager of most if not all the resources. In some cases, management may be helpful and provide assistance, but don’t wait for help just do it because the tie in is that important. That extra effort will by big dividends for the project manager as the project goes on.

It is important to point out that the project manager must constantly keep the purpose front and center with the team in order for it and the team to stay focused. If that is not the case, not only will the work collect dust it will also lose relevance. We all know things change on a project and so those changes need to be factored back into the purpose to keep it current at all times.

Now that a solid foundation of leadership and purpose has been laid, it is time to focus more on individual team members and their environment. I realize that it is rare that a project manager can hand pick their team members. In most cases, you might have some influence, but the reality is that you need to bring the best out of those that have been assigned to the project. I believe that you need to focus on the environment that the team will work within from a cultural perspective more so than the physical layout in order to spark and cultivate innovation of thought.

Projects are always being confronted by obstacles that require creative ways to approach and solve them. As a project manager, you need to create an environment that encourages freedom of ideas, opinion, and that welcomes constructive conflict while respecting the talents and experiences of each individual.

Team members will pick up quickly that they are being asked to contribute more than just to execute on tasks. They will appreciate the fact that they are being empowered to influence the project. This goes hand in hand with a clear decision making process that is known and bought into by the team because it needs to be well understood that input is just that. At the end of the day, decisions are made that may or may not take that input into consideration, but in an open environment decisions are not only better understood they are institutionalized faster.

In Part II, Ron will explore the concepts of Focus, Accountability, Communication and Responsiveness.

You're reading The 7 Habits Of High Performing Teams, Part I

A Comprehensive Marketing Operations Model: An Essential Part Of The Cmo’s Toolkit

A marketing operations model integrates people, process and technology across the ecosystem, enabling the marketing organization to deliver the right message.

I’ve been working in the Marketing Operations field for almost 15 years now, helping CMOs build operating models to allow their teams, agencies, and martech vendors to work in a coordinated way, leveraging technology and data, complying with policies, and operating within efficient and effective standards.

Indeed, such a model integrates people, process and technology across the ecosystem, enabling the marketing organization to deliver the right message to the intended audience in a multi-channel world. It provides a common framework to deliver the marketing vision and strategy, by breaking down the silos – across departments, functions, business units and geographies.

To achieve the necessary alignment across people, process and technology, key ingredients must be present:

Clear communication of the objectives and benefits of the model.

An environment where all stakeholders across and outside the organization are joined up.

Changes in behaviour to progress from the status quo to a more efficient and effective modus operandi.

Based on the various projects I have personally worked with, and based on the many use cases that are available across the marketing industry, these models exist and there is enough proof that they work well. However, they are not as widespread as you might expect them to be.

The weakness in existing marketing operations models

I was quite surprised recently by a few marketing operations leaders stating that they only focus on rolling out and supporting MarTech platforms, and managing data flows and processes. They further indicated that they do not take on the responsibility of defining marketing processes, policies or change management programs. Why is that? Surely the term “operations” in marketing operations is not purely about the tech stack, right?

As I explain in my eBook Marketing Operations Strategy: Improving the effectiveness of your multichannel marketing programs, and as you can find out by doing a quick online search on the term “marketing operations”, it is defined as the function that coordinates People, Process, and Technology, to enable efficient and effective marketing.

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Based on these definitions, while they are clearly expected to support and maintain the MarTech stack and the data flows and processes, marketing operations teams are also responsible for developing and managing the processes and policies to ensure smooth operation of strategic planning, financial management, marketing performance measurement, marketing infrastructure, marketing and sales alignment, and overall marketing excellence.

In addition, marketing operations teams are responsible for managing learning and development programs to their marketing colleagues, educating them not only on how to use the tools but also on the operating model that has been put in place to optimize performance.

In a nutshell, marketing operations is about providing structure to the marketing organization to deliver programs efficiently, effectively, and within policy. Such alignment requires changes in behaviour, not a very easy remit to deliver on, but an absolutely necessary one.

When the marketing operations team limits its deliverables to rolling out and maintaining the MarTech stack, and they shy away from improving the ways of working and managing change, they end up missing out on the opportunity to optimize the use of the stack. Which is one of the reasons CMOs are often disappointed with their decision to adopt one platform over another.

However, their disappointment is misplaced: while they blame the platform itself, the lack of optimization is often because the team missed out on the opportunity to go through the tough exercise of auditing their processes, identifying areas of improvement and putting in place a plan to change the ways of working.

Market research and trends in the field of marketing operations

These observations are supported by Gartner’s latest report: The Annual CMO Spend Survey 2023-2024 Research where CMOs have reported that they struggle to effectively manage their marketing technology stack. Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents said that marketing technology strategy, adoption, and use is one of their top three weaknesses in their company’s ability to drive customer acquisition or loyalty. More than 25% blamed weaknesses in their martech strategy on insufficient budget, resources or capabilities.

Fixing the issues around marketing operations are top of mind for CMOs and a key focus in the next 18 months. According to the same research from Gartner, while competitive insights and analytics are the two most important capabilities supporting the delivery of marketing strategies, marketing operations is on the rise with 30% of CMOs identifying this area as vital in supporting their strategy.

Most Vital Capabilities Supporting Marketing Strategy

In addition, CMOs estimate that they will spend 12.6% of the marketing budget on Marketing Operations, well ahead of brand strategy/brand building, or sales support/enablement.

Marketing program/operation area spend breakdown

The evolving scope of marketing operations

Gartner’s research clearly shows the importance of marketing operations: planned expenditure areas for 2023 indicate that the function will grow beyond the traditional responsibilities of budgeting, planning and MarTech stack management, to also include skills and capabilities development, ways of working and stakeholder management across a comprehensive ecosystem that will bring together internal teams from across the business as well as external vendors and partners.

This is quite an expansion of the Marketing Operations remit, and the transition to a new operating model may prove challenging to achieve, both in terms of the existing team’s readiness to drive such change, as well as changing the hearts and minds across the ecosystem.

Indeed, the new responsibilities that marketing operations has to take on, require people to change behaviour, how they work, and how they interact with each other, with the ultimate objective of creating an environment that is more transparent and accountable. And how do people react when faced with such changes? They object and refuse to adopt the new practices.

So what’s the solution?

How to build a best-in-class marketing operations function

It’s important to acknowledge upfront that developing and implementing a successful marketing operating model is an effort that will involve stakeholders across the marketing ecosystem, including colleagues within the business, as well as agencies, martech vendors and other partners.

While the marketing operations team may own the framework, they need to collaborate with various stakeholders to define, develop and implement it. However, when introducing change at scale, issues are bound to arise.

As a starting point, be clear on what you want to achieve and get the necessary executive backing

Define your vision, objectives and success metrics.

Get senior executive support to drive transformation – top down support is essential to drive the vision across all levels: while Marketing leadership is a pre-requisite to drive the change, you should also get executive leadership buy-in of other key stakeholders in the marketing process, including Sales, IT, Finance, Procurement, Legal, etc.

Be clear on roles and responsibilities during the change phase and beyond, when the model is fully operational.

Communication is a key ingredient to ensure continuing support

Define your internal communications strategy early on so stakeholders at all levels are kept informed of progress.

Foster a sense of community and knowledge sharing (e.g. success stories) to keep stakeholders engaged.

Manage expectations along the way… success may come in small wins rather than a big bang.

Create an environment of transparency and accountability

Report on progress on a regular basis and an agreed frequency both to the executive team, the change team, key stakeholders and the rest of the organization.

Be honest when things go wrong.

Run post-mortem analysis at major milestones and at the end of the program to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them at the next stage.

It’s about collaboration, not hierarchy

Engage with and involve stakeholders across the organization.

Use social tools to create a sense of community across all stakeholders.

Upskilling and continuous learning are essential

One core skill the Marketing Operations team will need is to be not only tech enablers but also change agents so make sure the existing resources can take on the challenge of defining and implementing the new framework; where they lack skills, identify opportunities to improve their capabilities.

Upskill the wider marketing team, and other contributors to the marketing process.

Share best practices so colleagues continuously learn and develop.

There are only a handful of recommendations to help CMOs get started on the organizational transformation journey. There are more detailed guidelines in my eBook Marketing Operations Strategy: Improving the effectiveness of your multichannel marketing programs which I hope you will find helpful.

How To Build The Best High

When building a PC for your specific needs, there are many different things to consider – the purpose of your new machine, your budget, the compatibility of your parts, and so on. There’s a lot to consider, no matter what you are trying to optimize your machine for. When it comes to a high-spec machine, you have to be particularly mindful of your budget as high-performance parts tend to be on the pricier side, so you can hit the limits of your budget much quicker than with other types of PC builds.

Step 1: Make a List of What You Need

To get started with your new high-spec PC build, you’ll want to start by making a list of all parts you’ll need. Especially in a high-spec PC, you won’t be able to cut costs anywhere, as any part could end up limiting performance for the whole system. You’ll probably need to shop for good deals to not have to compromise on any of your selected parts.

Within the scope of your budget, you can and should still optimize for the specific use you want to put your machine to – whether it’s for gaming, video editing, or office work. Or something else entirely, focus on the parts most important for your build first, and then find other parts that compliment the core of your build without holding you back – and then, when you have it all worked out, you can look at assembling it.

First though, work out your final budget and start penciling in the individual parts you’ll need! Be sure to leave just a small bit of a buffer in your planning if you need to swap out a part for a pricier one or can’t get the deal you’re after when it’s time to buy.

Step 2: Finalize the Budget, Pick the Parts CPU

In most cases, the CPU (the RAM and GPU) will be the most essential part of your PC. It works as the brain of your machine – and it’s one of the most important parts to get right. The two main manufacturers are Intel and AMD, both of which make quality hardware. AMD makes cheaper CPUs better at multithreading processes, while Intel’s more expensive CPUs tend to have better single-threaded performance. Regardless of what fits your PC better, both brands make great CPUs – for a top-spec machine, you’ll want to look at a minimum of a Ryzen 7 5000 series or an Intel i7 12k series and potentially a Ryzen 9 or i9. Depending on your expected workload, you may want to go for a workstation or server CPU such as the Threadripper and EPYC lines from AMD.

Be aware that your CPU selection will affect other things, such as your motherboard and CPU cooler selection, as motherboards come with separate sockets only suitable for either AMD or Intel CPUs!

CPU Cooler Motherboard

Your motherboard options will be determined and influenced by your CPU choice. Most motherboards are available in different versions – one fitting AMD CPUs and one fitting Intel CPUs. Which it is should be made clear on the box or in the description – and often, also in the name. Motherboards whose sockets fit AMD CPUs almost always have X570 in the name, while those suitable for Intel CPUs have Z690 in the name instead. These numbers are the chipset identifier; the ones above are the current high-end chipsets for both manufacturers.

Brands such as ROG, MSI, and Asus offer their motherboards in both versions. There might be minor price differences, so keep an eye on that – but more importantly, make sure that you buy the correct Motherboard for your CPU, or you won’t be able to even assemble your machine!

Case

Your case is mostly a cosmetic decision – as long as it has good fan placements and airflow and is the right size for your motherboard and parts, you have pretty free reign to pick whatever you like. Make sure the case fits your motherboard size, but that is it – whether you want a case made of glass or plastic, in black, red, or something else is entirely up to you. Pick whatever you fancy that fits into your budget!

Tip: While this is an area you can save on your budget, you might want to double-check that the case you wish to have enough connectivity at the front. Suppose you absolutely need a Thunderbolt 4 port at the front. In that case, you must make sure your motherboard supports that and your case actually has a compatible front port.

GPU

A good GPU will set you back a pretty penny – along with the CPU, this will likely be an extensive section of your overall budget. In fact, if you are building a gaming PC, you’ll probably want to look for a 30 series Nvidia card such as a 3070 or 3080 – if you can find one. These cards are in high demand and currently have a low supply, so they are often sold out in most stores. If you come across a good deal, you may want to snatch up the card immediately. There are a lot of scammers and scalpers as well, so when it comes to buying a good GPU, you’ll need to do your due diligence to make sure that you don’t get scammed and can get a card when it’s in stock somewhere.

RAM

Be sure to always buy matching RAM sticks – for example, 2x16Gb sticks or 4x8GB sticks, rather than 1x8GB and 1x16GB, for instance, as mixing them can cause issues – the same goes for their speeds. Make sure all sticks are, for example, 3200 Mhz, as otherwise, your slowest stick will throttle the rest down to its level! Ideally, buy all of your RAM at once rather than adding more in the future. Unfortunately, any subtle difference in RAM timings can cause stability or performance issues.

Storage

You’ll likely want to pay a small premium for SSD storage no matter what you are doing with your machine. The increased speeds are well worth the price, and if it fits into your budget, you may want to invest in one or more NVMe drives either instead of or in addition to a regular SSD. Both types of the drive will massively improve the performance of your new high-spec PC!

PSU

If you are going for high-performance builds, you’ll definitely need to ensure that your PSU can keep up with the parts you’re installing. Use an online calculator to calculate your power needs and then select a PSU roughly 30% above what you need. So for example if your power draw is about 543, go for at least a 600W PSU – realistically, you’ll want to look for a minimum of a 650-750W PSU, or above.

Step 3: Hunt for deals

When purchasing parts, it’s often a good idea to shop around for the best deals. While you’re likely to find the best deals online, it’s generally good to look in local physical stores. If you don’t mind waiting for a little, you can often find good sales around commercial holidays.

Tip If you are near the end of your budget, consider adjusting your plan a little. As mentioned, shopping around for a good deal could save you a surprising amount of money. Sometimes you might even find that a variation on the part you wanted is on sale. if you’re fortunate, you may find that an upgrade is on sale for less than planned.

Step 4: Assemble

Once you’ve bought and received all of your parts, it’s time to put them together. You can build it yourself; there are plenty of online guides. If you don’t have the confidence to do that, you can probably find a local computer shop that will put it together for you, for a price of course. Local computer shops can also be beneficial for troubleshooting issues if you have no idea why something might not be working right.

Conclusion

A high-spec computer is going to command a high price tag. You’ll do well to work out where you can save a bit if it means that your key components can be that little bit better. Make sure to do your research and plan your build; it will be a big disappointment if you spend a bunch of time and money only to realize they don’t work together.

Precise Technology Behind The S Series High

A monitor with outstanding visual quality isn’t just for looks. For people who work at a computer most days, it can make work more comfortable and effective.

Here are the key features of the 2023 and 2023 series, available across some or all of the monitors:

Advantages of high-resolution monitors

With high dynamic range 10 (HDR10) technology, the new high-resolution monitors reveal all the visual details in extra dark and extra bright scenes — details that are often lost on lower-quality monitors. Besides enhanced color, HDR also reveals details in high-resolution imaging, enabling better-informed business and design decisions.

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With USB-C support available on some of the S Series monitors, users can power their external devices and transfer data with a single cable, turning their monitor into a docking station and USB hub — also removing the cost, clutter and complications that tend to come with peripheral devices.

The DisplayPort Out feature on some of the S Series models allows for daisy chaining, which lets power users connect a series of monitors with a single output from a PC, to create a streamlined multi-screen desk setup.

S Series monitors support 1.07 billion colors, paired with the standard red green blue (sRGB) spectrum, ensuring every on-screen visual is vivid and accurate. Most of the monitors in the S Series also feature in-plane switching (IPS) panels technology, which produces the best possible colors and viewing angles. The QLED technology of the S95UA monitor produces a wider range of colors than ever before.

The LED backlights that illuminate LCD displays are controlled by local dimming, intelligently lighting and dimming the arrays zone by zone. The LEDs light up to display bright and colorful elements but remain off in parts of the screen where the visual elements are dark. This may reduce energy usage by as much as 10 percent, while boosting contrast levels. For the color black, the LEDs turn all the way off, so you get true back instead of a muted gray.

The S Series has four classes:

S6 monitors come in 24-inch, 27-inch and 32-inch versions, with quad high-definition (QHD) resolution (2560×1440) and support for USB-C, LAN and daisy chaining on some models.

S65 is a 34-inch curved monitor with a 1000R curvature rating and wide quad high-definition (WQHD) resolution (3440×1440), with added support for USB-C and LAN.

S7 monitors support ultra-high-definition (UHD) resolution, better known as 4K (3840×2160), and are available in 27-inch and 32-inch versions.

S8 monitors also support UHD, with added support for USB-C on some models.

S95UA is a 49-inch curved monitor that features dual QHD resolution, QLED technology and a 32:9 super ultra-wide screen for astonishing detail and colors.

Monitors on the job

Beyond their visual benefits, the minimalist design of the S Series helps declutter desks, clearing up valuable space in your office or shared workspace.

At first glance, desktop monitors might seem like commodities that differ little beyond their shape and size. But the right hardware can make a big difference in optimizing both your workspace and your daily work experience.

Still unsure which monitor to go for? It’s not a decision you should rush into. You can find the right monitor for your needs with this free assessment. Or, browse all the versatile, innovative options available in Samsung’s desktop monitor lineup.

How To Use Microsoft Teams

What is Microsoft Teams?

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Microsoft Teams is a productivity and collaboration tool that integrates into the larger Microsoft 365 platform. It has features for communicating with organizations, private chats with individuals and groups, video meetings and conferences, etc.

Is Microsoft Teams free?

How to download the Microsoft Teams app

How to create a Team

Nick Fernandez / Android Authority

The first thing you need to do (unless you’re joining an existing team) is creating a team. Even if you are joining a company team, you may want to make another one to chat with groups of friends.

Open the Teams tab on the left-hand side.

Choose whether to Build a team from scratch or pull in contacts from an existing group or team.

Select privacy settings: Private, Public, or Org-wide.

Enter a name and description.

Once in the team, you’ll see the main team chat with a list of channels below. Channels are group chats around a single theme. You can also have private chats with individuals or groups.

How to start and pop out a chat

Channels are great for sharing information with your entire team, but chats are the better option for quick questions to colleagues. They’re private, easy to keep organized, and much more likely to get a response than a channel post.

Here’s how to start a Microsoft Teams chat:

Open the Chat tab on the left-hand side.

Enter the person’s name and write your message.

Hit the send arrow.

Open the Calendar tab on the left-hand side.

Enter the details of your meeting.

You can also create a meeting from a channel, automatically inviting all channel members. If you’re having trouble finding a suitable time, you can check the scheduling assistant tab at the upper part of the screen to see the invitees’ schedules. You can create and share a Teams meeting link if you like.

Open the Calendar tab on the left-hand side.

Adjust your video and audio settings.

How to share your screen in a meeting

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Sharing files in a Microsoft Teams channel is great, but you need to share your screen in a meeting if you want to run through it in person. Teams make it easy to do this. It even has built-in integration with PowerPoint for easy business presentations.

Select the screen, window, or document to share.

A red border appears around the content you’re actively sharing.

How to change your Teams meeting background

Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

In the current era of telecommuting and working from home, it’s likely that your home office isn’t exactly the most professional environment. This is usually fine, but you might want something discreet for client meetings or video conferences with your boss. That’s where Microsoft Teams virtual backgrounds come in.

There are two ways to change your Teams meeting background: One with a simple blur or one with a background image. Both take just a few seconds to set up. Not all hardware supports this, so you may need to upgrade your camera if the option doesn’t appear.

You can change your background before or after a meeting starts, but the steps are pretty much the same:

Select Show background effects.

Choose a blurred background or virtual background image.

If you add your own image, make sure it’s sufficiently high quality, or it may look too blurry. For business use, you should also avoid using copyrighted photos or imagery.

FAQ

Yes, Teams is HIPAA and GDPR compliant, but administrators may need to take some extra steps. An Office 365 E5 business subscription includes access to the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center, which provides a host of tools for data management. Learn more here.

Yes, Teams has a few trivia games available as apps. A few popular options are Kahoot! and Quizlet. You can also play Pictionary using the whiteboard feature.

Yes. You can find both Debian (.deb) and Red Hat-based (.rpm) distributions on the official download page.

Yes, but you need to set it up in Outlook. Your Out of Office status will carry over to Teams, but your message will appear under your profile instead of an email reply.

Yes, Teams is a part of Microsoft 365 and is included in all subscription plans.

All Microsoft Teams meeting recordings are stored on OneDrive and SharePoint.

Lake Powell’s Drought Is Part Of A Growing Threat To Hydropower Everywhere

The entire point of renewable energy is that it comes from a source we can’t use up. Just take solar and wind—the sun won’t stop shining, nor will the wind stop blowing. (If they did, we’d have much bigger problems than figuring out how to power our appliances.) As long as we set up these energy technologies where nature can do its best work, sources like solar and wind give us functionally limitless power without the atmosphere-warming greenhouse gasses emitted by fossil fuels. 

But some renewable energies are a little bit trickier—and climate change could make our favorite renewable resources a lot harder to harness. A recent uptick in droughts shows us just how devastating this could be for our use of hydropower. 

You can theoretically harness the kinetic energy of rushing or falling water without using up the water itself, so it’s not a limited power source like fossil fuel. In 2023, it generated about 260 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in the US, which amounted to around 6.3 percent of the country’s total utility-scale output. It’s the second-most used renewable energy source across the country, and produces more than twice as much power as solar. 

“Hydropower is a really essential part of the renewable energy portfolio for this region and for many regions around the world,” says Dave White, director of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation. 

But the required dams can have a negative impact on the environment. Closing off lakes and reservoirs can hurt aquatic life, and can even lead to an uptick in greenhouse gas emissions by trapping plants and other organic materials as they decompose. 

It also requires a fair bit of water in one place—which is becoming a problem in the age of climate change. We’re already seeing this happen on the West Coast, but as droughts get more dramatic across different corners of the world, the future of how we manage water for drinking, agriculture, and hydroelectric power will eventually need to shift. 

“Without planning and investment, a hellscape will be upon us,” says Rich Sorkin, CEO of climate risk analytics firm Jupiter.

The hydropower dilemma at Lake Powell

The Western US is currently experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years, triggering everything from wildfires to extreme snow loss to the emergence of old corpses from ever-emptier bodies of water. Now Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the US, is on the brink of running dry. 

The giant reservoir’s water powers the Glen Canyon Dam, which provides electricity for around five million people across many states, but is currently sitting at about a quarter of the water level necessary to support that much energy production. Not to mention, Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam are part of the Colorado River system, which provides water to 40 million people (or over 10 percent of the US population) and upholds billions of dollars worth of agriculture. Over a quarter of the river is currently in “extreme drought” conditions, meaning crop and pasture losses are considerable, as well as water shortages and restrictions. 

“It’s almost hard to imagine how important a huge water reserve reservoir is in Arizona, one of the most arid places in the country and in the world,” says Mona Tierney-Lloyd, head of US Public Policy at clean energy group Enel North America. “But that’s one of the primary places for providing electricity to almost seven states.”

[Related: Climate change is blowing our predictions out of the water, says the IPCC.]

Earlier this month, officials announced a plan to hold back releases of around 480,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Powell that typically go to Arizona, Nevada, and California, something that Tanya Trujillo, the US Bureau of Reclamation’s assistant secretary of water and science, says could keep hydropower going for another year or so. “We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River basin, but conditions we see today and the potential risks we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action,” Trujillo told the Associated Press. 

According to White, this problem is not only because water is drying up faster. Demand for water is also increasing as the drought persists. 

“We have these intersections of the environmental conditions, the megadrought, the climate change impacts,” he says. “And then on the sort of demand side, we have increasing demand. We are simply using more water in the region than the river is able to provide. And our historic strategies for managing that predominantly through infrastructure like dams and reservoirs and delivery systems are now sort of inadequate to the challenges that we face.”

How does hydropower work?

Hydropower has been used since the 1800s, when it first powered a single lamp in England before moving into the big leagues four years later in Wisconsin. By the 1900s, it was everywhere.

The technology itself is quite simple: water in the reservoir gets pushed through an intake valve, which keeps out debris. Next, water funnels through a big pipe, the force of which spins a turbine at a fish-safe speed. This whirling makes a generator shaft turn coils of copper wire in a ring of magnets, creating an electric field—and bam, you’ve got electricity. This is then transformed into a higher voltage and sent through the grid. The water ends up downstream in a river, where it can theoretically be reused for other purposes. 

But for such a system to work, there needs to be enough water coverage to actually push liquid into those intake valves, says Tierney-Lloyd. “My understanding is that now, because of those water levels being as low as they are, the turbines are not generating as much electricity as they otherwise could,” she says. “And it’s just the physical nature of not having enough water to push the water.”

When this happens, we stand at a conundrum—do we funnel water from downstream back into the reservoir to keep power going, or do we use the runoff for other crucial purposes like drinking and agriculture and allow the reservoir to run dry?

“The highly managed Colorado River will be a test case to see if society can reevaluate its priorities and adapt management rules for the entire basin,” says Jan Polcher, hydrologist at the LMD lab of the CNRS, École Polytechnique in France. “Some water rights will have to be abandoned in favor of more critical water uses.”

Future droughts and hydropower

Although the Western drought is a prime example of how finicky hydropower can be, it is hardly the only place in the world that will face this issue in the future, and it isn’t the only place in the world that will see hydropower take such a hit. Zambia has experienced electricity shortages for similar reasons, as have Brazil and China. 

When hydroelectric power isn’t reliable, people typically turn to fossil fuels, says Brian Tarroja, an energy researcher at the University of California-Irvine.

“You do want to build new assets, more renewable energy, more storage, more flexibility and all that stuff,” he says. “But that takes time. If you have a shortfall right now, the marginal resource is usually natural gas.”

[Related: How AI could help bring a sustainable reckoning to hydropower.]

As we shore up our infrastructure, Tarroja adds, we’ll need to figure out new engineering techniques that can handle droughts and other climate change impacts. That could mean plants that work with lower amounts of water. Even more crucial, he says, is making sure that other renewable energy sources are built up as well. Otherwise, shortcomings in hydropower will continue to mean sliding back into fossil fuel use. 

White adds that regions should start talking about water rights and priorities as well. Whereas we once may have been able to cover all sorts of needs, climate change is changing how much water we can expect to access. If we don’t work on fairly prioritizing where to limit usage first, marginalized groups could end up shouldering the burden. 

“When we decide to invest our financial and natural resources into producing one type of social benefit, like economic productivity, environmental conservation, or recreational amenities, we need to balance that sort of portfolio,” White says. “And that is something that will require a transition, because water scarcity affects this region and other regions around the world. We need to be prepared to have a dialog about how we prioritize these benefits, especially when we’re not able to produce all of those social goods simultaneously.”

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