Why pumping water from the ocean to save the Salton Sea is a bad idea

Brandon Loomis, in an excellent recent piece on the problems of the Salton Sea, quoted a resident along the troubled inland California lake who thinks the answer to its decline is straightforward:

Rod Jeffries, a 64-year-old urban refugee from San Francisco, is confident the state will act….

His favored solution is to pipe seawater from the gulf, since the water is already so salty.

This idea has lingered for generations, but it’s a really terrible idea. The reason the Salton Sea is so salty is because the water flowing in currently, from Imperial and Coachella ag runoff has only a modest amount of salt, but evaporation leaves all that salt behind. If you add ocean water, which is much saltier than the current ag inflow, the evaporation would make the sea way saltier. So you’d have to not only pump salt water in from the ocean, but also pump salty water back out from the Salton Sea. The amount of water involved, and therefore the energy and infrastructure costs, are staggering. Michael Cohen at the Pacific Institute has put together a helpful video that explains all this:


Cohen has posted more useful info on the problems with “sea to sea” schemes here.