SALTON SEA:
DRYING v. REVIVAL

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WHAT ARE THE COSTS, CONSEQUENCES, AND POSSIBILITIES OF REVIVNG THE SALTON SEA AS OPPOSED TO DRYING IT?

In October 2019, officials in Imperial Valley declared a State of Emergency for the Salton Sea. This is not because of an unpredictable natural disaster, but because of inaction by state officials in allocating funds to help the Sea. It has been known and predicted for the past two decades that the drying of the sea will have detrimental environmental, health, and economic consequences akin to California’s Owens Lake in the early 20th century. Owens Lake has decimated life and economic growth in the eastern Sierra Nevada as well as costing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power $1.8 billion in dust control measures in Owens Valley. It’s also been known that the Salton Sea has a chance of revival—environmentally and economically—like the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan that was brought back to life but not after a significant loss of GDP and a $86 million loan from the World Bank.


︎LAKE HISTORY

The history of the Salton Sea is abundant and riddled with misinformation. It is true that the lake is toxic due to environmental and political mismanagement of the New River which feeds into the Salton Sea from the border of Mexico. However, the sea is not man-made—water from the Colorado followed its natural course after flooding and breaking dams and levees to flow into an ancient sea bed, and the second lowest point in continental US known as the Salton Sink, to form what we now know as the Salton Sea.

In 2003 there was an agreement made with the Imperial Irrigation District to send "mitigation water" from its canals into the Sea through 2017. At the end of 2017, the flow of water was cut off, and the water receded at a significant rate. Over the next 30 years, there are projections that the sea is expected to continue to shrink to two thirds of its current size.

In 2014, Pacific Institute, a water issue think tank, reported that without a major initiative to address the issues caused by the sea's drying out, over the next 30 years the cost could easily range from $20 billion to $70 billion dollars. These long-term costs include spiraling healthcare costs from related illnesses, lost GDP from lack of tourism and agriculture, workers' compensation, lost labor, high mitigation costs and compounding lower property values.


︎COSTS OF INACTION 

The Imperial Valley is known for the agricultural community that lives and works there. Much of this population consists of immigrants, farmworkers and Hispanics. It has been well-documented that Imperial County has the highest rate of childhood asthma-related emergency room visits in California. While the average for Asthma-related emergency room visits for children ages 5 to 17 per 10,000 children for the entire state of California is 73.9, Imperial County more than doubles that number at 154 children.

The contaminated air that the surrounding communities are forced to breathe is filed with dust and toxic chemicals coming from the dried seabed; this includes high levels of DDT and heavy metals that have accumulated over several decades from farm run-offs. These pollutants are also increasing rates of asthma, lung cancer and cardiac disease in this population. The Pacific Institute has estimated that unchecked windblown dust on public health could reach as high as $37 billion by 2047.

As climate change continues to shrink valuable resources, one would consider the significant ramifications of the dying and drying of bodies of water globally and what our environmental future might be as a result. Inaction is just as devastating as misuse and ecological loss. There is only so much time before the damages that we have made is irreversible.


︎HOW CLOCKSMITH CAN HELP WITH FASTER AND MORE ACCURATE DECISION-MAKING

Below, Clocksmith algorithms were trained on only 10 years of data from the North Shore of the sea to predict the effects on wildlife from increased water levels versus complete drying out as planned.

With full-access to the platofrm, you can do further analysis to geo-engineer various environmental futures of the region to see the effects of sea, sediment, and air pollutants on the wildlife and local communities. These visualizations are backed with data analysis to generate environmental reports and roadmaps of action to know how, when, and if an enviormental vision can be attained. 




Generated by the Clocksmith engine. Using existing environmental data and prediction models, our engine predicts and visualizes the effects of the drying of the Salton Sea.



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