Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water
The Salton Sea, a man-made freshwater hypersaline lake in Baja California, is a popular tourist destination. It is estimated that more than two million people visit the water each year. A recent study, however, suggests that the lake is becoming increasingly contaminated, as the amount of agricultural wastewater pumped into it is increasing. (File Photo)
The state of California is taking legal action against a group of states based in Arizona to attempt to stop the release of water from the Colorado River that has historically gone, to the north, to California. Specifically, the state is challenging the Arizona diversion of water from the Colorado River to support the state’s growing population, in particular its agricultural industry.
The state has also filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking recovery from the Colorado River Basin Management Act (CRBMA), a federal law that gives states authority to manage water rights in the Colorado River.
A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey, which was paid for by the California Department of Water Resources, argues that the state is suffering from an “unprecedented” salinity problem and that the water from the Colorado River has become increasingly contaminated, to the point where the water is actually less usable. The report concludes that “California’s growing population and agricultural activities is contributing to the problem.”
The report says that the amount of agriculture-related wastewater pumped into the Salton Sea, which is a man-made freshwater hypersaline lake in Baja California, has increased from 10,000 to 40,000 acre-feet since 1995. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has also detected “significant increases” in species of toxic algae in the lake. The state has estimated that the lake’s salinity problem may be the worst in its history.
The report goes on to argue that the Salton Sea’s problems are the