In the past few months the Salton Sea has been putting off a worrisome odor with increasing frequency. The smell has been strong enough that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has issued odor warnings to people living in the immediate area. For residents of the Coachella Valley, the key questions here are, “What makes the Salton Sea stink?” and “Is that smell dangerous?”
Much like the Salton Sea, many inland bodies of water suffer from rising salinity, which can harm biota and prevent beneficial water use. This salinization occurs when soil, which contains salts and minerals, is mobilized from clearing natural vegetation or when fresh water is diverted for irrigation.  As irrigation water and drinking water sources become increasingly salty, different solutions become necessary to recover freshwater. Saudi Arabia is the world’s leader in desalination, which is the industrial process of removing salt from water, with 50% of the nation’s drinking water recovered from seawater.  At the Salton Sea, desalination is being explored as a part of habitat restoration efforts. Continue reading “Desalting the Sea: Part 1”
My previous posts have highlighted some of the problems faced by the birds of the Salton Sea. While their struggles are many, and their future seems dim without a coordinated restoration plan, there are ways for the average citizen to help.
The first way is to contact your representatives and let them know that you care about this issue! The dangers to the avian community are symptoms of the larger problems that the Sea is facing. These can only be addressed from political action, which will only happen if the representatives know that their constituency cares.
Here at Salton Sea Sense we have tried to show that despite all the problems facing the Sea, there is hope. Hope that the Sea can thrive for generations to come, providing habitat for wildlife, continued environmental stability, and potentially increased economic opportunities. But, between the growing California population, the demands of agriculture, the historic drought and the needs of the Sea our water resources are being stretched to the breaking point. In order to meet these demands Californian’s have worked hard to find places to cut water use. This idea has spurred many ideas and catchy slogans, such as don’t wash your car and “go dirty for the drought” or let your lawn go “California Golden.” But by far the largest use of water in California is not our lawns or even our almonds; it is our meat and dairy production. Therefore, the best solution to our water scarcity problem is not found in our backyards, but at the end of our forks.
Meat and dairy production in California consumes 47% of our total water use, where as household water use only accounts for 4% and yes that includes those lawns[i]. The main perpetrator of this water use is one of the feed crops used for cattle: alfalfa, which also happens to be the primary crop grown in the Imperial Valley. Alfalfa uses over 5000 acre feet/year of water, nearly twice as much as the next crop, rice (table 2).* The last United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report from the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management emphasized Continue reading “Skip the Steak & Save the Sea”
For a long time now, the Salton Sea has been close to the bottom of the priority list when it comes to water allocations and this has placed the Sea in a very tight spot. We have discussed extensively the consequences of allowing the Sea to dry and the temporary solutions outlined under the QSA. It has been recognized by the many stakeholders that the Salton Sea needs help but not much has been done. The Salton Sea needs a long-term solution that could give it hope for a sustainable future. Given the current conditions of the Salton Sea and the implications of allowing it to dry, perhaps an ambitious solution would be to incorporate the Salton Sea into future revisions of regional water laws. Continue reading “Water Rights and the Salton Sea”
The Salton Sea’s problems are so large that a single person’s desire to help can seem insignificant. But if you believe the Salton Sea needs help, and you want to see action taken quickly, you can do something about it! Your elected representatives are waiting to hear from you on any and all issues concerning their constituents. Their job is to represent the wishes of the residents that live in their districts. So let them know you care about the Salton Sea, and you want it to be a high priority! Start local, with your Assemblymembers and State Senators, progressing on to US Congress Members, and US Senators, and even Governor Brown.
Do you live outside of Southern California, but still care about the Sea? You can write to Governor Jerry Brown, or US Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and let them know that the Salton Sea is such a California treasure that non-locals or even non-residents want to see it made a high priority!
Continue reading “What YOU Can Do!”
Several months ago, the Torres Martinez tribe announced that they will be growing medical marijuana on tribal lands in the near future. The income from this growing operation could provide the Torres Martinez tribe, and the surrounding area, with a much needed economic boost. However, large-scale growing of the water-intensive marijuana plant may pose an environmental risk in an area already gripped by drought.