September 14, 2002
11:36 PM   Subscribe

This LA Times article will get you clued in to some recent developments. But what is the most responsible course of action to deal with the Salton Sea? It's part of a complex hydrologic system and has a pretty unusual history. To me, this seems one of the best reminders that ecological issues are among the trickiest we face.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia (7 comments total)

don't let irrigation canals break?

"The present Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when the Colorado River burst out of its man-made irrigation canal and flooded the dry alkaline basin of the Imperial Valley. "
posted by badzen at 2:20 AM on September 15, 2002

i was watching these time lapse multi-spectrum satellite shots of the aral sea over the last few decades on the NASA channel one time and i think it stands as a warning for what could happen to the salton sea.

the Department of the Interior has threatened a mandatory reduction.

does this mean rationing?

i think when dealing with any public resource, there's a danger of overuse (tragedy of the commons). hence, game theory modeling on how to structure incentives to reach desired outcomes becomes increasingly useful. maybe coupling data on the system with usage assumptions could provide simulations that yield valid planning scenarios helpful in reaching a consensus? like i was thinking a transims type module, but for water demand! of course there's always plain ritual :)
posted by kliuless at 6:34 AM on September 15, 2002

so. let me get this straight - the 'salton sea' is a brown, reeking, salty, stagnant leftover puddle from a flood 99 years ago. yeah, THAT's a high priority. who is going to hug all those redwoods while we're busy saving THIS toilet?
posted by quonsar at 8:12 AM on September 15, 2002

Yep. And to save it, they are going to raid a natural aquifer.

I think they need to get their priorities straight.. Yes, a lot of birds have come to rely on it, but it won't dry up overnight. They will have time to adjust.
posted by benh57 at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2002

Can't they try some type of desalination process?
posted by redhead at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2002

I think desalination will inevitably come to occupy an important place in our global water strategy. The technological hurdle still to be overcome is dealing with the hyper-saline brine effluent, which could produce Carthaginian catastrophes dwarfing the Salton Sea.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 3:42 PM on September 15, 2002

This actually looks like a smart solution to a thorny problem. Of course the Salton Sea is fragrant (indicates life) and salty (so is the sea, numbnuts). It's not a natural sea but it has come to occupy a place as a briny wetland habitat. The East Mesa aquifer is too briny for farming; that means it's WAY too briny to be used by humans. If it's used to supplement the agricultural inflows in the right proportion, the Sea can remain in place for many years to come without sacrificing water that is needed by humans.

badzen: In fact, the Basin has a history of periodic flooding; it was only the scale of the 1905 accident, and continued farming runoff, that created a permanent lake. At other times the entire valley has been flooded.

In googling for that, I found this wonderful Lake Cahuilla timeline, which seems reasonably accurate ... up to a point, as the author diverges from what really happened to create an alternate history for the California region, beginning with a gold rush in 1749, when it was all still part of Mexico. But you can see a map of the flooded valley with the real Salton Sea and major roads outlined.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on September 15, 2002

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