Crisis at the Salton Sea: Research Gaps and Opportunities

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Marilyn Fogel , Hoori Ajami, Emma Aronson, Roya Bahreini, Wilfred Elders, Darrel Jenerette, David Lo, Timothy Lyons, Michael McKibben, William Porter, Arun Raju, Kurt Schwabe, Caroline Hung, Jonathan Nye 


The Salton Sea, a hypersaline lake in southern California, USA, is in crisis. A combination of mismanagement and competition between federal, state and local agencies has resulted in stalled efforts to address dropping water levels and unstable lake biogeochemistry. This in turn has led to a growing public health crisis as exposed shoreline exposes potentially toxic dust to local and regional communities, while the ecosystem collapses due to rising salinity and anoxia. Although state agencies in California are making efforts to address this crisis, the lack of a science-based approach to addressing the environmental and human health challenges at the Salton Sea prompted the EDGE Institute and Science 2 Policy programs at UC Riverside to launch a multidisciplinary Salton Sea Task Force (SSTF) to identify the critical research necessary to guide policymakers in making decisions about three potential, realistic scenarios facing the Salton Sea over the coming decade.
In this report, three Scenarios have been considered: (1) Business-as-usual, where lake levels decline without intervention; (2) Mitigation, where current plans such as wetland restoration and dust suppression are implemented and some water is diverted back to the Sea; and (3) Water importation, where water from the ocean or local freshwater sources are brought in to stabilize, and possibly increase, lake levels. The SSTF, an interdisciplinary and independent group, has assembled this report for policymakers at local, state and federal governments. The report addresses the outstanding challenges and knowledge gaps related to human health, air quality and dust, hydrology and water resources, ecology, biogeochemistry, minerals, and energy aspects of the Salton Sea. We recommend that California’s Salton Sea programs, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, set aside a portion of the funding allocated to mitigation and restoration efforts for a competitive research program open to university and NGO researchers so that action may be informed by ongoing and complementary scientific inquiry.



Atmospheric Sciences, Biogeochemistry, Chemistry, Climate, Earth Sciences, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Public Health, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Geochemistry, Geology, Geomorphology, Hydrology, Medicine and Health Sciences, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Public Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences


Aerosols, Dust, Adapative managment, Ecosystems, Habitat, Public health, Geothermal, Saline


Published: 2021-03-04 07:54

Last Updated: 2021-03-04 15:54


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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