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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ecological transitions at the Salton Sea: Past, present and future

  • Author(s): Bradley, Timothy J;
  • Ajami, Hoori;
  • Porter, Willam C
  • et al.

The condition of the Salton Sea, California's largest lake, has profound implications for people and wildlife both near and far. Colorado River irrigation water has supported agricultural productivity in the basin's Coachella and Imperial valleys since the Sea formed over 100 years ago, bringing billions of dollars per year to the region and helping to feed households across the United States. The runoff, which drains into the Sea, has historically maintained water levels and supported critical fish and migratory bird habitats. However, since 2018, a large portion of the water previously allocated for agriculture has been diverted to urban regions, causing the Sea to shrink and become increasingly saline. This poses major threats to the Sea's ecology, as well as risks to human health, most notably in the noxious dust produced by the drying lakebed. To ensure continued agricultural and ecological productivity and protect public health, management of the Sea and surrounding wetlands will require increased research and mitigation efforts.

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