Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


Leave a comment

The Salton Sea: The Accidental Lake

Dead fish line the shores because of high salinity and lack of oxygen

“The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident.”

By Linn Smith

The Salton Sea controversy was generated most recently by the signing of the Colorado Drought Contingency Agreement, which was mandated to be signed by all states bordering the Colorado River by the end of March 2019. These states were mandated to water cuts by the agreement in an attempt to prevent further dropping of water levels.

The Hoover Dam

Why the water cuts? If Lake Mead continues dropping and reaches below 1,050 ft, the Hoover Dam will stop generating power to millions of people. If it continues dropping below 895 ft. it will become a “dead pool”, where water can no longer be piped out to states along the river border. It is today only 40% full at approximately 1,082 ft, thus the federal intervention demand on cutbacks of water usage from all Colorado River border states.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest holder of water rights in California, was in line to sign the agreement, but only if the Colorado Contingency Agreement granted water to revive the troubled Salton Sea before signing. California signed anyway and the Salton Sea wasn’t included in the agreement.

The Salton Sea

Old structures fall apart on what was once the shoreline.

History of the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea has a lengthy history and has not been sustainable since its beginning. Sustainability is an avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance. The Salton Sea doesn’t meet this definition.

The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident. From 1905 to 1907, water poured out of a poorly built system of irrigation ditches meant to divert water from the Colorado River to the dry, arid farm land in Southern California. The water flooded the Salton basin, developing a 400 sq mile lake named the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. Nicknamed the Salton Riviera in the 1950’s, the lake developed into a tourist destination, with resorts popping up around its edge. The Dept.of Fish and Game stocked it with many types of fish and boaters, yacht clubs and celebrities flocked to its shores.

The Salton Sea

The shoreline has been lost to evaporation and lack of water feeding into it.

The Decline of the Salton Sea

The decline of the Salton Sea began around 1976 with tropical storms, rising salinity due to no fresh water supply to counter evaporation, toxic agricultural runoff and a receding shoreline. Housing prices plummeted! Today, the main attraction is a wildlife refuge on the lake’s shore.

With the recent Colorado Drought Contingency agreement, the Imperial Valley District tried to demand its water rights for the declining sea, stating it has become a health hazard with toxic blowing sand due to agricultural run off, dying fish and abandoned buildings on a shoreline that no longer exists. California signed the Contingency Agreement without the support of the Imperial Valley District, its largest holder of water rights. According to the Washington Post, “The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles, essentially wrote Imperial out of the drought plan to prevent delays in implementing it by taking on Imperial’s pledged water contributions to Lake Mead.”

In Support of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Was the Salton Sea ever sustainable? We can either support our communities who depend on the Colorado River for electricity and agriculture, or revitalize a dying sea that can’t survive and has little purpose today. With climate change everyone has to give for the greater good and for the survival of future generations.

The Salton Sea

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Colorado River: The Redistribution of Water

The Colorado River

The Colorado River is over allocated.

The Colorado River: “It is incumbent for us to safeguard, protect what we have left.”

By Linn Smith
February 6, 2019—The Colorado River has been over allotted from the beginning, as the Law of the River, a compact made in 1922 between the 7 Colorado River Basin states for the river usage, was made during a time of high precipitation. Today the population of states along the river has increased and the river has decreased due to over use and climate change.

Since the development of the compact, California has been using the surplus water that other states haven’t used in the lower basin states that include Arizona and Nevada.

With population growth both Arizona and Nevada are claiming their water allotments and the Upper Basin states have accused CAP, Central Arizona Project, of manipulating its share of water to keep Lake Mead low enough that the upper basin is required to send extra water, but high enough to avoid mandatory cutbacks in lower basin consumption.

#theoceancleanup

Big Solutions for the ocean cleanup

Colorado River: Lower Basin States

The lower basin states and Mexico depend, at least partially, on the water they get from Lake Mead and if the situation called “dead pool” develops, the level of the lake’s surface would fall below the gates of the dam that release the water. In this situation the lower basin states and Mexico would not receive water. To avoid this situation cutbacks are required. In the book “Dead Pool” by James Lawrence Powell, Powell states, “At present, Lake Powell is less than half full. Bathtub rings ten stories tall encircle its blue water; boat ramps and marinas lie stranded and useless. To refill it would require surplus water-but there is no surplus water: burgeoning populations and thirsty crops consume every drop of the Colorado River. Add to this picture the looming effects of global warming and drought, and the scenario becomes bleaker still.” This book was written in 2011. Today Lake Mead stands at 1079 ft, four ft away from the mandatory federal shortage declaration that would mandate cutbacks.

In an attempt to resolve the issue the Federal Government put a deadline on lower basin states to resolve the issues over water rights. The past several weeks have shown an attempt towards resolution. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects an agreement on the drought plan by the end of January, 2019.

Colorado River

Depletion of water for crop irrigation

The Arizona Drought Plan

The drought plan requires Arizona to find a way to reduce its use of Colorado River water by up to 700,000 acre-feet — more than twice Nevada’s yearly allocation under the drought plan. An acre-foot is the volume of water needed to cover one acre of surface to a depth of one foot.

Arizona, the only state that required legislation to take less water from the river, was forced this month to either pass legislation by the end of January 2019 or let the federal government impose water restrictions, which could have meant less water than if state imposed. In Arizona the recent legislation resulted in negotiations between major water users, who agreed to reduce their water usage in exchange for cash or access to groundwater in the future.

Farmers in Pinal County, Az, who have the lowest priority to water rights, will receive restitution which includes $9 million to drill wells and build infrastructure to change from dependency on river water to groundwater. The farmers, who reluctantly supported the agreement, said it would require them to fallow as much as 40 percent of the county’s farmland.

“We inherited as human beings a pristine land with pristine water, and we messed it up as human beings ourselves,” said Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, a Democrat who represents the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona and voted to join the drought plan. “It is incumbent for us to safeguard, protect what we have left.”

See also: https://planetearth5.com/?s=the+colorado+river
https://planetearth5.com/2018/09/11/the-law-of-the-river-the-over-allotment-of-the-colorado-river/