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.
Agriculture in the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea has a long and sordid past. The Salton Sea is located in the Imperial Valley, a region of California where the dominant economy is the production of crops. In order to create this farming oasis in the middle of the desert, 917,540 million gallons of water a year must be shunted to the Imperial Valley from the Colorado River. This is the beginning of the story of how an agriculture revolution has created and changed the largest body of water in California.
The Salton Sea was originally formed in 1905 when massive rain and snowmelt overwhelmed the dams designed to contain the Colorado River and poured into the empty Salton sink. The dams were repaired quickly, but the Sea had already filled. By the 1930s water levels had noticeably dropped and most believed that the sea would naturally dry up. However, around the same time, cotton farming and the massive water shuttling began in the Imperial Valley , refilling the Sea with agricultural run-off. Continue reading “Agriculture in the Imperial Valley: A Tale of Two Seas”