The Salton Sea: “treat it as a real place that impacts real people’s lives”

Shorline left by a shrinking Salton Sea.

Salton Sea, June 2019

Imperial Valley resident (and Imperial Irrigation District board member) Jim Hanks:

The Salton Sea is a real place to me and I have always seen it as a lake, because that’s what it is. I also see it as hydrologically, geographically and morally connected to the Colorado River, and I appreciate the effort to place the Salton Sea issue in the context of a broader discussion within the river community, which is where I think it belongs.

“Hydrologically, geographically and morally connected” – that’s a nice bit of business there.


  1. Salton Sea has always been Strategic….The question is : why did IID never mention the
    Salton Sea in DCP negotiations started in 2014. The Sea was a fatal flaw. Was the IID
    handling of this profound issue until the last minute rational?

  2. The only thing the Salton Sea is connected to is human error. Farming in this desert soil requires so much over-irrigation that it kept the SS full regardless of the significant evaporation. The Imperial Irrigation District violates the CA Constitution with this unreasonable water use. The amount of water going to IID should be reduced and the saved water used to repair a true natural resource – the Colorado Delta.

  3. Fill the Salton Sea with seawater from the Pacific. Put saltwater plants and animals in it. Water the Imperial Valley with drip irrigation. Turn SS into an asset rather than a liability. Evaporation should be positive for land to the east of the lake. The SS could be a could source of salt. Also a source of food and edible kelp or other plants.

    Yes, water would need to be pumped. Use solar electricity to pump. The pumps need not run 24/7. Tidal current produced electricity could be used at the intakes.

    This would take pressure off the Colorado River problems and solve the dust problem from the shrinking lake.

    Size the pipeline to keep up with evaporation and enough more to add as much depth as desirable.

  4. from the Salton Sea Authority FAQ:

    “4,000,000 tons of dissolved salts enter the Salton Sea every year. That is the equivalent of approximately 13,500 train cars. The salt comes from agricultural drainage and tail water and the Colorado River itself. The Salton Sea is approximately 60 parts per thousand (PPT).”

    which sounds very high considering not as much water is flowing into it now each year with that water being sent further to the west coast municipalities.

    given that though, i plan that would work would be to build a pipeline to move water in from the sea, but also to make it a bi-directional pipe which can export high salinity water in exchange.

    with gravity generators along the way the electricity used would not be as significant as if you were running a pump only one direction.

    the other aspect is that the area is swamped with solar and geothermal capacity and you could set up solar arrays or another plant to generate any extra electricity needed. when the pumps were turned off and the flow was towards the Salton Sea the electricity generated could be use to run desalinization so that the Salton Sea could be a net fresh water export for the region in time (once you’ve lowered the salinity you can decide how much further you want to go).

    to run the pumps in reverse you can take that higher level salinity water from the desal and put it back in the ocean where it belongs anyways – it is where it would have went if the Colorado had went to the delta.

    the math for exporting a railroad cars worth of salty laden water via a pipeline and all the rest of it should not be that tough.

    this is all technology we have on hand, it works and is improving with time (desal and solar). the cost would not be cheap but the actual amount of fresh water for the region would be potentially millions of acre feet.

    considering they just spent over a billion for a new spillway at Oro and that was just an existing water supply i see no reason to ignore all this potential and plus they’re going to be spending billions anyways to get rid of the toxic dust problem so why not actually spend the money to get a large water fresh water supply instead? that whole area would be loving it.

  5. It seems like this is just compounding an error: an unnatural, accidental lake in the middle of a desert. The evaporation rate itself argues against it. Would it really cost as much to plant salt resistant plants to begin to create ground cover that would keep the dust down? It’s been down hill there since the 50’s when it was trying to be sold as the next California resort destination.

  6. Chris, i think it would be a tragedy to add more salt to the lake without having a plan to remove it safely/economically because then yes, it is just making a big problem worse even more for the future to deal with. spend the money now and pipe it right and then it is done, even if it is only a slight decline in salinity over a year’s time that can add up over many years. so it doesn’t have to be a huge project. the thing is though that we had a really good water year this season and so it seems so sad that they won’t take a fraction of that great water year and give the Salton Sea a boost, but like the Colorado River Delta it is way down towards the absolute last thing in line for the water.

    i am so glad though to see a good water year and have hopes that Mono Lake gets a boost from it after the long drought years… note that Mono Lake actually has a recovery plan in place and they should be doing the same thing for the Salton Sea.

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