News Deeply –
As the Salton Sea shrinks, California’s problems grow.
The 350 square-mile (900 sq km) saline lake in the southeastern corner of the state contains no outlet and is sustained by irrigation runoff. Inflows have been decreasing for a number of reasons, but since 2003 the biggest factor has been a transfer of agricultural water from neighboring Imperial Valley to San Diego County for urban use.
Decreased flows into the sea mean more exposed, dry lakebed to be whipped around by desert winds, creating health hazards for the 650,000 people who live nearby. Reduced inflows also mean increased salinity, which is bad for sustaining the marine life on which millions of migrating birds depend.
For decades the state and stakeholders have contemplated plans for the restoration and management of the lake. Significant progress was made on November 7 when the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) accepted an agreement on a 10-year management plan. But some observers question whether it will be enough to solve the sea’s ecological and health problems.