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The Salton Sea Essay

5525 words - 22 pages

The Salton Sea


The Salton Basin , a below-sea-level depression which extends on the north from Palm Springs , California, to the Gulf of California , in the south. The Salton Sea has undergone historic cycles of filling with water and later drying up. The most recent predecessor to the Sea, that being Lake Cahuilla , last filled this area between 300 to 500 years ago and at one time had a surface elevation above sea level. In 1905 the flooding of the Colorado River was accidentally diverted into the Salton though and thus the Salton Sea was born. When the Colorado River floods retreated in 1907, the surface elevation of the Salton Sea slowly began to drop until the 1930�s when agricultural drainage from the Imperial and Coachella Valleys sustained its level. Soon after , this Sea was turned into a state recreation area, wildlife refuge and a sport fishery. To this day, agricultural drainage and run-off is the major source of water inflow to the Salton Sea.

When it was Healthy

When the Sea was healthy it, drew recreationists from all around and was a popular sport fishing site. The marine level of salinity made it a great place to race boats and allowed for the introduction of salt water marine life. With all this attention the north side shore line soon became the Salton Sea State Recreation Area . Not only was this area attractive to people , but it was soon populated by birds and turned into a critical link for flocks of migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. As a result , the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge was established on the south end of the Sea in the 1950�s.(The Salton Sea Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation , 1997)

Current Conditions

Today the Salton Sea contains 7.3 million acre-feet of water and has a water surface level of 227 feet below sea level.(The Salton Sea Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation, 1997) Its dimensions are 35 miles wide by 15 miles long , and it has an average depth of 29.9 feet. (Salton Sea Symposium, 1998) However , the condition of the Sea has drastically changed and so has the amount of healthy living organisms in the Sea. By the 1980�s the water level rose greatly and gave way to abandoned businesses, deteriorating structures and empty beaches. The above was due to the fact that evaporation is the only outlet to the Salton Sea , in fact 1.35 million acre feet of water is lost each year , thus increasing its salinity even more. The salinity of the Salton Sea has increased to 45,000 parts per thousand or 45 PPT; the Pacific Ocean is currently 35 PPT.

Along with this devastation, the New River which is the "most polluted waterway in the nation " (due heavily to its raw sewage content, agricultural drainage water and powerplant effluent ) that flows from Mexico and dead ends (literally) into the Salton Sea.(Salton Sea Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation, 1997) These two factors mentioned above are the main cause for the massive fish die off ,...

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