Can California Farmers Save Water and the Dying Salton Sea?

The Salton Sea, the largest lake in California and one of the most heavily used bird habitats in the country, is in danger of drying up.

Standing atop a rocky outcrop on the southeastern edge of the Salton Sea in southern California, Bruce Wilcox pointed to the wooden ruins of a boat dock that dates back to the 1960s, when the region was a marina that attracted sport fishermen and celebrities. On a sunny day last December, the dock sat hundreds of feet from the water, rendered obsolete by the shoreline’s steady withdrawal. No boats were visible anywhere on the shimmering blue water.

“The marina’s been dry for the last five or six years,” said Wilcox, 60, the environmental manager for the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which manages water and energy in California’s Imperial Valley and has energy customers in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Covering nearly 350 square miles (900 square kilometers), the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. It was created in 1905 when heavy rain and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell and overtake headgates along the Alamo canal. It was largely sustained by agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley, but since the late 1990s the sea has been steadily shrinking, partly because the runoff has dwindled due to a combination of the ongoing California drought, more efficient irrigation methods, and changing crop patterns.

The sea’s decline will accelerate dramatically in 2018, when the IID must stop sending “mitigation water” to the lake as part of a pact known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement, or QSA. Signed in 2003, the QSA was a deal between the U.S. Department of the Interior, California, and various water agencies in the state that placed California on a Colorado River water diet and transfers some of the river’s flow to San Diego and other cities, where water is scarce.

Read the full story here.


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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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