8in x 12in
Located on the north end of California’s Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea was once a booming tourist destination. Today, the state’s largest lake is the site of a looming environmental disaster. Due to evaporation and a decrease in agricultural runoff into the lake, the Salton Sea has been shrinking for decades. In 2018, the expiration of a water transfer agreement with San Diego sent the lake into a nosedive.
Residents of the communities surrounding the Salton Sea face the imminent threat of toxic dust. As the lake shrinks it is expected to reveal at least 75 square miles of exposed lakebed. As the soil dries and the winds stir, the dried-up shores will begin to emit dust laced with industrial runoff from the surrounding farms containing PCB’s, pesticides such as DDT, and heavy metals including arsenic and lead. If the shoreline is allowed to recede at the current rate, up to 100 tons of lung-damaging dust could blow off the lakebed daily by 2045, pushing the area’s air quality crisis from bad to dire. The Salton Sea is a dust bomb that has already begun to explode.
Those who live near the lake are already feeling the effects: asthma in Imperial County is rampant. More children are admitted to the emergency room here for asthma-related cases than anywhere else in the state; almost 1 in 5 children suffer from the condition. The most recent State of the Air report by the American Lung Association gave Imperial County an “F” due to the amount of particle pollution in the air.