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Salton Sea and its troubles: Polluted lake in California could prove hazardous

Drying up of the lake has led to a concentration of salt and chemicals in the little water that remains in the Salton Sea

California’s most polluted lake, named the Salton Sea, is proving to be the ground zero of a catastrophe waiting to happen. The Salton Sea has been pinned down by loss of water, and it has been estimated that over the past 25-year period, the lake has lost almost a third of its water.

The dying out of the water flow from the Colorado River has been attributed to this situation. This however has proved to be a major problem that could invite much worse conditions for people living around the Salton Sea.

What has been happening is that the drying up of the lake has in turn led to a concentration of salt and chemicals in the little water that remains in the Salton Sea. With water drying up fast, fish and birds that depend on the lake for food have also been reported as encountering mass deaths. Sad is the plight that even endangered species form part of the casualties.

Lake in a sea of troubles

Further worse is a situation the drying lake bed has presented. It has been found that the dry lakebed which has been rendered coated with salty, toxic water. And this toxic salt water has been transforming itself into dust, which in turn has become a reason for the serious respiratory issues the residents around the lake have been suffering from.

Nothing short of an environmental catastrophe, the phenomenon has attracted the attention of scientists who have initiated studies on this. A study that has looked into this phenomenon has tried to understand the water movement on and below Earth’s surface near the Salton Sea.

Scientists have put the blame on climate change and heat for causing the lake to dry up so fast. There are also other hypothesis including the impact of agriculture on the condition faced by the lake.  They have found that with irrigation systems getting more efficient and crops being altered to use less water, the amount of water flowing into the Salton Sea has also reduced manifold.

Many reasons for Salton Sea’s suffering

But then, these reasons may not be the biggest causes for the Salton Sea’s suffering. With the water flow from the Colorado River having reduced so much, that could have caused the Salton Sea to dry up, researchers feel. This is the finding that has been published in the Water Resources Research journal.

Research has been now initiated to learn more on the causes of the Salton Sea’s death, and a hydrologic model that takes into account the processes in the surrounding areas that impact the lake’s water balance, including climate, soil types, land slope, and plant growth are being studied threadbare.

It would require more focussed studies to ascertain the exact causes for the decline of the lake. Scientists hope to find solutions so that the Salton Sea and the lives that depend on it would find means to survive.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]

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