Could California be on the Brink of Solving the Environmental Crisis at the Salton Sea?

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

(SALTON SEA, California) Massive flocks of waterfowl like these snow geese rely on the Salton Sea for survival.

The Salton Sea sits roughly 140 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the desert. Measuring close to 350 square miles, it is California’s largest lake. But it is shrinking rapidly and gaining salinity due to a lack of inflowing water. Sediment previously covered by the water is now becoming airborne and creating a public health crisis, and valuable wildlife habitat is being lost.

In 2003 the state of California created the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) which reallocated water from the Colorado River that historically had been used for agriculture around the Salton Sea. It was determined that, starting in 2018, the water would no longer go to the agriculture fields and would instead be used for residential irrigation in several Southern California cities. This caused the main flow of fresh water going into the sea to be cut off, essentially accelerating the pace of evaporation and increases of salinity levels.

(SALTON SEA, California) Gulls and cormorants are losing resources and habitat as the sea levels continue to shrink.

The Salton Sea provides critical habitat for over 400 species of birds, as well as other wildlife. But this ecosystem is beginning to deteriorate because of the shrinking water levels and increased salinity. Tilapia, which is the last remaining fish species in the sea, are struggling to tolerate the rapid changes to the water. Because of this, it has been reported many birds like pelicans which rely on the fish for food have seen a sharp decline in their numbers.

But hope may be on the horizon. Awareness is increasing of the dire situation. For example, a group of students from nearby Indio High School are getting involved in coming up with solutions. They are studying the water and soil to