Business, Economics and Jobs

Salton Sea: Drying up for good? (PHOTOS)


A boat oddly stuck in the ground, right next to the marina on the west coast of the Salton Sea, California, on June 13, 2010.


Tobias Deml/Gentle

California's Salton Sea was once hailed as a "miracle in the desert," according to BBC News, but its increasing level of salt is making it dry up, possibly for good.

The once-thriving sea in southeastern California is now in danger of disappearing, making it an environmental disaster, reported Yahoo News. It's massive for an inland sea, stretching 376 square miles, and has caught the eye of many festivalgoers, as it is located close to the land Coachella calls home.

But this isn't the first time the Salton Sea has gotten media attention. In 1905, it was created accidentally when the Colorado River flooded the area and filled a low-lying basin, according to the International Business Times. It has now become a major stop for migratory birds and is home to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex. 

It was also once a hotbed for rich vacationers, reported the BBC News, but the towns along its shore now have some of the highest unemployment rates in the United States.

But in March 2012, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported a decision by the California state Supreme Court to uphold a water transfer deal that has been challenged by many parties, all who think the deal will spell disaster for the region's environment.

Known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement, it calls for the diversion of up to 200,000 acre-feet of water from Imperial Irrigation District farmland to San Diego County, according to the Huffington Post. One acre-foot is 326,000 gallons, "enough to supply two single-family households of four for a year," said San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) literature.

The SDCWA plan could drain the Salton Sea in a matter of years, reported NPR. And that drying could release harmful elements like selenium and arsenic from the lakebed, possibly spreading clouds of toxic dust across southern California, according to BBC News.

In fact, the California Audubon Society has already this is happening.

"As water has been siphoned off or agricultural and urban use, dust emissions have increasingly threatened public health," the society's website states.

More from GlobalPost: Photo story: Death of the Colorado River