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A Look At The Incredible Shrinking Salton Sea

The valley that is home to the Salton Sea sits below sea level. It has been flooded and dried multiple times on a historical geological scale. The current lake was born of a construction accident that pierced an irrigation canal in 1905. The damage was not repaired for 18 months, allowing the low-lying area to flood.

Lake levels are expected to drop at about a foot and a half a year, exposing tens of thousands of acres of lake-bottom.  Imperial county officials worry that will dry out and the dust will be picked up by desert winds.  That could exacerbate air quality problems that are among the worst in the state.
Erik Anderson
Lake levels are expected to drop at about a foot and a half a year, exposing tens of thousands of acres of lake-bottom. Imperial county officials worry that will dry out and the dust will be picked up by desert winds. That could exacerbate air quality problems that are among the worst in the state.

Lake levels are expected to drop at about a foot-and-a-half per year, exposing tens of thousands of acres of lake-bottom. Imperial County officials worry the land will dry out, and the dust will be picked up by desert winds. That could exacerbate air quality problems that are among the worst in the state.

The Salton Sea used to have a thriving sport fishing industry.  Increasing salinity has pushed many of the lake’s aquatic species to the brink of survival.  If the fisheries collapse, that could also hurt birds that see this as a stopping point on the pacific flyway.
Erik Anderson
The Salton Sea used to have a thriving sport fishing industry. Increasing salinity has pushed many of the lake’s aquatic species to the brink of survival. If the fisheries collapse, that could also hurt birds that see this as a stopping point on the pacific flyway.

The Salton Sea used to have a thriving sportfishing industry. Increasing salinity has pushed many of the lake’s aquatic species to the brink of survival. The collapse of the fisheries could also hurt birds that see this as a stopping point on the migratory path known as the Pacific Flyway.

Farming is a major economic driver in the Imperial Valley and it will continue to provide water for the Salton Sea.  However, the amount of water flushed off farm fields is not nearly enough to keep the current lake level stable.
Erik Anderson
Farming is a major economic driver in the Imperial Valley and it will continue to provide water for the Salton Sea. However, the amount of water flushed off farm fields is not nearly enough to keep the current lake level stable.

Farming continues to be a major economic driver in the Imperial Valley and it will continue to provide water for the Salton Sea. However, the amount of water drained off farm fields is not nearly enough to keep the current lake level stable.

California officials hope to build shallow ponds that serve two purposes.  The ponds would create wildlife habitat that would make the environment appealing for both fish and birds.  And the ponds would cover exposed lakebed and control possible dust emissions.
Erik Anderson
California officials hope to build shallow ponds that serve two purposes. The ponds would create wildlife habitat that would make the environment appealing for both fish and birds. And the ponds would cover exposed lakebed and control possible dust emissions.

California officials hope to build shallow ponds that serve two purposes. The ponds would create wildlife habitat that would make the environment appealing for both fish and birds. The ponds would also cover exposed lakebed and control possible dust emissions.

The skeletal remains of a dead fish in the Salton Sea, Dec. 7, 2017.
Erik Anderson
The skeletal remains of a dead fish in the Salton Sea, Dec. 7, 2017.

The state has committed to spending $80 million on restoration. They hope to find another $300 million, some of that from a possible water bond initiative, for the first 10 years of the restoration effort. But funding for Salton Sea restoration remains as uncertain as the ecological future of California’s largest lake.

The state has committed to spending $80 million on restoration.  They hope to find another $300 million, some of that from a possible water bond initiative, for the first ten years of the restoration effort.  But funding for Salton Sea restoration remains as uncertain as the the ecological future of California’s largest lake.
Erik Anderson
The state has committed to spending $80 million on restoration. They hope to find another $300 million, some of that from a possible water bond initiative, for the first ten years of the restoration effort. But funding for Salton Sea restoration remains as uncertain as the the ecological future of California’s largest lake.

For more on the shrinking Salton Sea, read the full story: The Shrinking Salton Sea Endangers Region’s Health

I focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.