The members of the Cattle and Horse Protective association of New Mexico, composed of men who are naturally deeply interested in a copious rainfall, believe that the Salton sea has given New Mexico a better climate. At any rate they want the matter investigated before Uncle Sam dykes up the Colorado river permanently.
– Albuquerque Journal, March 11, 1907
This came as the Colorado River was pouring through the gap inadvertently created by Charles Rockwood’s undercapitalized Imperial Valley irrigation efforts, turning north to fill the Salton Sink.
Kind of ironic,
The California Development Company and their irrigation efforts had managed to use 90% of the Colorado river water giving them the oldest priority water rights on the Colorado.
The Salton Sea breech created the awareness that the water rights had almost completely flowed out of the upper basin states, It took a few years before Herbert Hoover, or someone in the Commerce department, noticed and raised a red flag.
The Colorado River compact gave water rights back to states that had not been using the water, and forever resetting the “first in use” prior appropriation water rights for the Colorado River. Without the Salton Sea mistake, California’s priority water rights, based on the 1922 SCOTUS rulings, would have gone to the California Development Company (now the Imperial Irrigation District).
The Colorado river would have been a very different river (wilder), newer cities would have struggled for electricity and water (Las Vegas, Los Angeles) and possibly never grown.
The Salton Sea creation remains the event that we should point to for re-making the water rights and usage for much of the southwest.
Las Vegas and Los Angeles never growing? Given what we’re looking at now, that might have been a very good thing?
Yes, might have been a good thing if more water stayed in the river, to be used in the Imperial valley. and not sent to Los Angeles & Las Vegas.
LA had a gangster water rights guy (Mulholland) who would have figured out a way to get some of Colorado River water anyway. (see Chinatown)
Still the Salton Sea mistake remains one of the seminal water events that dramatically changed everything along the Colorado River.