California - Salton Sea

State: California
Description:
Water levels in the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, have been reduced due to declining water transfers from the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Imperial Irrigation District has sent the final mitigation water from the Colorado River to the Salton Sea. Starting this year, the lake will shrink more quickly. It's projected that nearly 100 square miles of dry lakebed will be exposed within a decade. This will expose the dry lake bed underneath which contains heavy metals, small particulate matter, and pesticide residues. When dry, these materials become available to be blown on the wind throughout the Coachella Valley and surrounding communities. A potentially poisonous atmospheric phenomenon resulting from the exposure to the compromised soils could pose a huge health hazard to workers in the area and to consumers of this food.
Loss of water also threatens over 400 bird species that call the Salton Sea home as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway. This area (the Imperial Valley) supplies approximately two thirds of the vegetables consumed during winter months by Americans. Farmers also produce alfalfa and Bermuda grass hay, which is used as dairy feed in the U.S. and abroad.

Communities and government need to come together proactively to find solutions to avoid any negative impacts.