​Water Conservation and the Salton Sea

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​Water Conservation and the Salton Sea

The question is, is this a disaster of our own design?
August 5, 2015, 6:46pm

From the column 'Photos From Beyond'

Humans have a history of engineering landscapes to fit our purposes, sometimes with disastrous results. The Salton Sea is California's largest lake. With prolonged drought, the water level in the sea is dropping, the salinity of the lake is increasing, and thousands of dead fish are piling up along the shore. The question is, is this a disaster of our own design?

Historically, large seas have cyclically formed and dried over time in the basin due to natural flooding from the Colorado River. The current Salton Sea was formed when the Colorado River floodwater breached an irrigation canal being constructed in the Imperial Valley in 1905 and flowed into the Salton Sink. The Sea has since been maintained by irrigation runoff in the Imperial and Coachella valleys and local rivers.

Along the seashore, in the 50s and 60s, Bombay Beach was a popular resort destination in the desert but now the almost abandoned town looks like a dried up wasteland. Many scientists in the area warn that if we allow this lake to dry up, we will be facing an environmental health disaster of epic proportions.

Melon fields near the Salton Sea lie in ruin after one of the worst droughts in California history.

A melon wastes away as the owners were not able to secure enough water to finish growing this year's crop.

The fine dust left by the receding waters has been proven to cause significant respiratory problems to those exposed for extended periods of time.

A dilapidated trail runs along the water in the nearly-empty Bombay Beach, formerly prime waterfront property.

The low water levels have exposed the remains of docks that used to accommodate weekend tourists.

Highway 111 used to feed tourists to the many campgrounds and hotels that dotted this stretch of road along the north east shores of the Salton Sea.