IntroductionThe Salton Sea (Sea) is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future. The Salton Sea Authority is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) empowered to revitalize the Salton Sea in consultation and cooperation with state and federal governments. Boons or boondoggles : An assessment of the Salton Sea water importation options. USGS (2018). Imperial Irrigation District v. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Declining water levels expose previously submerged soils – playa – which are linked to increases in respiratory illnesses. It is shrinking and becoming more saline with significant impacts on the region’s health, wealth and environment. Lucia Levers runs the numbers and discovers considerable differences between the options. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the trough, known as the Salton Sink, where the lake surface is 236.0 ft (71.9 m) below sea levelas of January 2018. The Imperial Irrigation District. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill meant to accelerate the distribution of money for Salton Sea restoration. Damages are not limited to habitat. Estimates of the cost of these damages are $US11 to $US70 billion over the next 30 years10. Its latest incarnation began at the turn of the 20th century, when the second lowest point in the United States was flooded by Colorado River water being brought into California for irrigation. To avoid this potential outcome, water users on the Colorado negotiated the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), which consists of voluntary usage cuts, allowing more water to remain in the reservoir—preventing the water level from dropping5. Over time, urban centers eyeing the Imperial Irrigation District (IID)’s water for their growing populations led to out-of-region transfer agreements, the most notable of which is the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), a federal-state-local agreement that allowed the transfer of a large amount of irrigation water from IID to urban users in Southern California8. Levers LR, Skaggs TH, Schwabe KA (2019). The one hold out of this plan? Southern California's Salton Sea has lost much of the appeal it once enjoyed with tourists. This paper has examined SB 277 the Salton Sea Restoration Act, which was intended to provide sustainable solutions to the many challenges. Searching for a ‘fix’ While importing ocean water has additional concerns (particularly damages to the fragile Sea of Cortés), it could theoretically be a source of large volumes of water if combined with expensive desalinization. 2. State of the Salton Sea—A science and monitoring meeting of scientists for the Salton Sea. However, they were not expecting California’s largest urban water user, Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Water District, to bypass the Imperial Irrigation District’s objection by agreeing to provide the Imperial Irrigation District’s share of water if needed. But California independent voters are starting to receive a lot more attention these days and much of that is due to the California Independent Voter Project (CAIVP). In response, the Imperial Irrigation District has filed suit against the Metropolitan Water District, arguing in July of this year (2020) that their actions were politically motivated, and as the environmental impacts of their potential additional water storage were not evaluated, in violation of the California Environmental Protection Act13. Endangered and Threatened Species. By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. One way under consideration consists of importing ocean water from the Sea of Cortés via transnational conveyance. Metz S (2018). September 4th, 2020. i) Flooding. Available from: Lakhan N (2019). The emphasis on expediency is particularly ironic, as two years has already passed since Secretary Wilcox’s statement. 19STCP01376. An alternative option is to pay growers to allow more Colorado River water to flow to the Sea: growers would be paid for unused water by fallowing fields, by using more efficient irrigation methods, or by using less water in whatever way they deemed best (fallowing, irrigation improvements, deficit irrigation or a combination of the three). California’s Salton Sea is a fertile oasis in the hostile desert of southeastern California, adopted by millions of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. This will sustain natural habitats, further reduce salinity levels, and reduce the draw demand on the Colorado River. At the same time, endangered environmental and ecological resources represent a third sector, non-market, but not non-valuable. The Salton Sea is about to shrink drastically. Its intent, in the words of then executive director, Tom Kirk, was to “direct and coordinate actions related to improvement of water quality, stabilization of water … The Salton Sea is one of few wetland habitats remaining in California. The 10-year Phase I Plan will guide early investments at the Salton Sea to protect public health and ecosystem wealth as the Sea recedes and meet goals set forth by the Governor’s Salton Sea Task Force and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) executed on August 31, 2016, and amended on January 18, 2017 by the Department of Interior (DOI) and the California Natural Resource Agency (CNRA). The plan includes the construction of up to 30,000 acres of wetlands and bird habitat on the lake’s north and south ends, … Construct water treatment plants powered by existing "Renewable Energy" sources (Geothermal, Solar & Wind) to provide both clean sea water as well as desalinated water to the Salton Sea. Hanak E, Lund J, Dinar A, Gray B, Howitt R (2011). This number tops 80% is some arid systems, including the state of California, and the Colorado River2,3. The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, will die unless the state throws a staggering amount of resources at it in the next decade or so. Such agreements, along with their implementation, can take significant amounts of time, and can be quite contentious, often requiring the federal government (ie, the QSA) and/or the court system’s intervention. Without an expensive reshaping, or even with, a central and controversial issue is from where the water is going to come from to maintain the Sea. We estimate the annualized costs for importing water from the México to range from $US223 to $US908 million, with a few assumptions regarding interest rates and pipeline longevity. Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, California state agencies are advancing projects at the Salton Sea to improve air quality and provide critical environmental habitat for birds along the Pacific flyway. Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plans. The Species Conservation Habitat Project (SCH) is designed to reduce wind-borne dust on each side of the … While the agreement also mandated that the Imperial Irrigation District send fresh water to the Salton Sea —through 2017 —the Sea has been both shrinking and becoming more saline. (760) 399-5955. Copyright 2017 © The Salton Sea Authority, Restoring Sea Access via North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, SB 272 Section 6270.5 Enterprise System Catalog, Meet a short-term goal of 9,000 acres to 12,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects, and. The views expressed in this article belong to the individual authors and do not represent the views of the Global Water Forum, the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance, UNESCO, the Australian National University, or any of the institutions to which the authors are associated. The Salton Sea Community Outreach, Education & Engagement Program (COEE) has been created to help children, students, school personnel, parents, local leaders and community-at-large learn about the Salton Sea, be aware of its current situation, understand the impacts it has on their health, be more participative in the decision making process and be aware of the short-term … Our more recent work1 compares the costs of these two importation schemes: importing water from the Sea of Cortés and transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. Worldwide, irrigated agriculture accounts for two-thirds of freshwater withdrawals. But the leading contender for a fix may prove to be only a short-term solution. Buying water for the environment: A hydro-economic analysis of Salton Sea inflows. The Salton Sea’s problems are symptomatic of problems across the Colorado River basin. Regardless, importing water from México would be quite expensive and – given the history surrounding Colorado River flows14 – nowhere near a certainty. Here she describes how she and colleagues assessed the Salton Sea water importation options and what’s at stake. Solutions? The Salton Sea is home to more than 400 species of resident and migrating birds, including several endangered species, and is an important stop on the Pacific flyway, the north-south path for migrating birds in North America. The FFAP is a living document providing a blueprint to create a smaller but sustainable sea in a manner that is realistic, feasible, affordable, and achievable. Even México agreed to potential reductions in deliveries, provided the DCP was adopted. Dr Lucia Levers is an environmental scientist and economist at the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. Agricultural water transfers, on the other hand, do have a history in the region, as well as the benefit of requiring no new infrastructure—physically, it would be a simple as letting the water flow. If the Salton Sea is to be rehabilitated, it will require a concerted effort by all interested parties. But ultimately the $8.9-billion plan failed, too. But renewed attacks over the water transfer, and its effects on the Salton Sea, helped sink Kuhn’s bid for a fifth term in 2020. By next year (2021), the Sea will likely become too saline for fish populations. Hold outs and hurdles This plan would take years to become viable, even if implemented today. Imperial Irrigation District wants $200M for Salton Sea in exchange for Colorado River drought plan OK. Petitioner Imperial Irrigation District’s Opening Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Mandate (2020). The most expensive and comprehensive of these suggested re-engineering the shape and size of the Sea, allowing it to be sustained with lower flows. The Lost River: Mexicans fight for mighty waterway taken by the US. Agriculture Economics Environment. While threats posed by conditions at Salton Sea are significant, solutions are neither easy nor inexpensive, and are clearly beyond the capabilities of local entities along. The state of California has generated several, as of yet unfunded, proposals to fix the Sea. The GWF also provides open access resources, courses, and tools to help to understand water challenges. Set a medium-term plan to construct 18,000 acres to 25,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects. The region has hosted vast amounts of water in different forms over the years. The Salton Sea is Highly Saline, Gradually Shrinking. Read more about the 10-year Phase I Plan here. The deepest point of th… Population growth, drought, and climate change have led to increasing tension among agricultural, municipal, and environmental users of water in many regions. July 12, 2003. Salton Sea State Recreation Area Update (Dec. 7, 2020): California has issued a Regional Stay at Home Order to stop the surge of COVID-19 cases and prevent a strain on the health care system. Chief among these are importing water from the Sea of Cortés and transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. Responding to growing public pressure to restore the Salton Sea, a multiagency government committee was created in 1993 known as the Salton Sea Authority to initiate, aid, and oversee restoration efforts. For equivalent water flows, we estimated both the pipeline construction costs over the almost 300 kilometer distance between the two Seas (using values provided to the State of California) and the costs to generate equivalent flows from agricultural users, using the hydrologic-economic model developed in our earlier work11. Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) and technology partner Lilac Solutions (Lilac), have joined forces to extract lithium from one of the world’s largest known geothermal resources at the Salton Sea in Imperial Valley, California, according to a release by the companies today.. Property values and recreation are decreasing. Lucia Levers, University of Minnesota, US. Brine shrimp will instead thrive for a time, but eventually the salinity will reach levels too high even for them9. The mighty Colorado has continued to sustain agriculture, providing irrigation for over 5 million acres annually in the US5, while allowing only a fraction of its flow to reach its historical destination—the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California). And in February the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it would … The levels of the main reservoirs on the Colorado have been dropping—and getting closer to triggering impressive water delivery cuts via agreements made during a time with less demand and more supply. Add 110°F temperatures and 90% humidity and you have the perfect recipe for stink-soup. Improving Conditions at California’s Salton Sea. Over the last century, while California and northern México lost 90 percent of their wetlands, the Salton Sea endured, courtesy of agricultural drainage water, and became critical habitat for millions of migratory birds, and year-round habitat for endangered and sensitive species, including the desert pupfish, Yuma clapper rail, and burrowing owl6,7. Managers and stakeholders are seeking solutions to the decline of the Sea and have turned to the scientific community for answers. Although solutions for the Salton Sea appear daunting and extremely expensive, the panel gave stakeholders the opportunity to review two practical small-scale projects designed to help maintain habitat for waterfowl and other birds. TRC is a global construction and engineering consulting firm that provides technology-enabled solutions to the power, oil & gas, environmental and infrastructure markets. Now, with no more mitigation water, the decline has hastened. Wilson J (2019). The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is in decline, mainly due to ever decreasing water flows. The main source of this water is the Imperial Valley of California, an agricultural powerhouse with the greatest stake of Colorado River water rights – more than the total entitlements of Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico – which it uses to nourish half a million acres of crops. The costs for a similar quantity of water if purchased from agricultural users would be around $US28 million per year. The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when a nearby irrigation canal carrying Colorado River water breached and water overflowed into the lakebed for nearly two years. Please see the Global Water Forum terms and conditions here. A smaller Salton Sea likely means more dust, dangerous pollutants. letting the sea die will cause significant harm to both public health and wildlife in Southern California and beyond. 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